The Heroic Battle for Immortality

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In order to understand the intense elements of heroism in Old English poetic texts, we must first understand the Anglo-Saxon culture. People in this “warrior-society” (where warriors fought to defend their homes, kinsfolk, and to gain the approval of their lord), placed great value on the ‘heroic code’ and simultaneously on the give and take relationship between a warrior and his lord. This reciprocated love derives from an emotional bond built by the shared dangers of battle, and the rewards in the mead hall. This intense bond gives warriors a sense of identity within the group, and his necessary for their society to function effectively. Within this “warrior-society” the goal is ultimately immortality of ones name, established by gaining power through displays of courageous acts. We can scrutinize these elements of this foreign society by examining Old English poetic texts such as “Beowulf”, and “The Battle of Maldon”, and get a glimpse into what the Anglo-Saxons held sacred. A hero portrayed in these poems is often classified as someone who performs acts of valor in life-threatening battles, out of the loyalty to their lord. Beowulf, for example, is glorified and explicitly referred to as a ‘brave her’ throughout the text. The first time readers get a taste of Beowulf’s heroism he is preparing to fight Grendal, in order to protect a hall, lord, and people that are not his own. This reflects that Beowulf is not motivated by personal gain (considered heroic), but instead by a lingering luster for immortality. This appears prominent as name and fame often dominate his thoughts before battle, such as during the speech he gives before facing Grendal’s mother, “I shall gain glory or die”, suggesting that his prestige is worth more than his life. This courage and bravery in the face of death was not only an admirable trait of an Anglo-Saxon warrior, but it was

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