Beowulf Is One of the Most Representative Essay

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Beowulf is one of the most representative written poems in the history of the English literature. At this moment in time there is little doubt of the grandeur of this poem and it is a literary requirement in high school and university curricula. This state of fact is largely due to its complexity and themes. There are several elements to be analyzed in determining the value of the poem Beowulf. These include the structure of the poem, the style, and the image of the woman as presented by the female lead,

One of the most important literary critics that discussed the poem and its value was JRR Tolkien who in the early twentieth century when it was his analysis and interpretation that provided the value of Beowulf. Up until then, precisely due to the structure, style and other elements, the poem was viewed as an invaluable piece of literature, inconsistent in nature, and with clear discrepancies between the actions of the main hero, Beowulf. However, Tolkien's interpretation provided not only a sense of the poem as a literary work of art but also transformed the way in which old English and fantasy literature books were viewed at the time. In this sense, JRR Tolkien's contribution is essential for the way in which Beowulf is analyzed.

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The structure of the poem, according to JRR Tolkien is rather simple, without any particular notes to be made. Indeed, the subject is related to the struggle of one hero with three opponents on the lands that are now the northern countries of Europe. The structure is not very complex because it is a medieval poem, in verse, with approx. 3000 lines.

TOPIC: Essay on Beowulf Is One of the Most Representative Assignment

An important argument to be made in terms of the structure of the poem is that in fact, the poem depicts certain moments in the life of the hero; therefore the structure cannot be complex as there are several culminating moments throughout the poem, in accordance with the plot that is taking place at the time. Therefore, as mentioned by Harold Bloom who presents Tolkien's point-of-view, "in its simplest terms it is a contrasted description of two moments in a great life, rising and setting; an elaboration of the ancient and intensely moving contrast between youth and age, first achievement and final death (Bloom, 2008) Therefore, it is difficult for that time to have a complex structure, especially as the subject is relatively simple.

Tolkien's arguments however go beyond this such a simple consideration of this structure. More precisely, he considers the simplicity of the structure to express the deep complexity of the poem. In this sense, in one of his essays on Beowulf he argues of the existence of a fantasy world that the poet created for Beowulf and his actions. Better said, "Tolkien goes on to explain his theory of sub-creation. Sub-creation, he writes, can only happen when fantasy achieves "the inner consistency of reality." In the most powerful fantastic literature, the author creates a "secondary world." This is different from a "willing suspension of disbelief," for the reader must accept that some of the basic "laws" of the secondary world are different from the "laws" of our world. Inside the secondary world, "what he [the author] relates is "true": it accords with the rules of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are…inside." Therefore, it is critical that sub-creator apply his rules consistently -- otherwise, the reader will be jerked back to this reality. Part of the disdain for fantastic literature comes from the fact that the "secondary world" is so hard to achieve-most fantastic worlds come out half-baked" ( (Milner). Therefore, in terms of structure, the poem is not disorganized but rather it deals with a fantasy world in which Beowulf can fight demons, monsters, and characters that history cannot account.

A major problem when interpreting Beowulf has been for many analysis the consideration of the poem as simply an example of Old English literature. Tolkien presents this aspect as the major inconvenience for actually considering the poem a work of art (Milner). Therefore, it can be argued that, according to Tolkien, Beowulf the poem must be seen as a literary work and not as a historical account of actions that may have taken place centuries ago. The fantasy world created by the anonymous poet represents the environment particularly set up for extraordinary facts and actions that cannot be verified in the real world.

In reference to this point, there are certain analogies that are created in the poem which are not valid in terms of the historical perspective in which the poem is sent. Thus, Christine Rauer argues that there is a "disproportion between the suggested sources and analogues that can certainly be observed in the case of Beowulf where no sources have consensually been established, whereas a vast range of analogues has been linked to the poem" (Rauer, 2000). More over, to this day, the sources of inspiration for Beowulf have not been precisely identified. This is largely due to the fact that the style in which the poem is written does not provide sufficient information on the matter. For instance, on the issue of the monster- fights, such influences can be from Germanic literature, Celtic one, or Christian ones, to mention just a few (Rauer, 2000). This in turn determines a lack of ability to actually identify the origin of the poem.

Another important aspect of the poem is related to the style of the writing. Despite the fact that scholars have been intrigued by the time, period or region of the Beowulf poem, this is not uncommon for this type of writing. It has to be pointed out that Beowulf, even if it is the most important writing of the medieval time, it was one that is not found on paper or other manuscripts to compare the original version with the one translated in English. The transmission of the poem, especially in the Middle Ages was done mostly through word of mouth. Therefore, in general, such poems are obviously influenced by the region through which the poem passed by before reaching the printed version. Therefore, the style surely suffered changes and variations that in turn offer a mixture of both old and new beliefs.

According to most scholars, Beowulf is the exquisite example of oral poetry. (Niles). This assessment is based on the fact that Beowulf was a clear subject of the transmutation phenomenon. More precisely, the variety and somewhat inconsistency of the poem is not necessarily related to the lack of coherent transmission, but rather to several interpretations. The process of transmutation, according to Niles represents a process that refers to "intersemiotic translations from one sign to another. Such text render a stream of syllables into a symbolic script that is meant for the eyes of people with literary training who then do with such texts what they will." (Niles). Thus, the work of Beowulf may seem incoherent at times largely because there have been a series of intersections of cultures, impressions, as well as influences from the places the poem has traveled.

Another important element that defines the style of the writing is related to the actual language. The same controversy arises at this point. It is difficult to assess the predominant tendency. Thus, although the work is written in Old English, there are several scholars that point out Latin influences in the language. More precisely, "Klaeber for example has shown the obligations of Beowulf to the Aeneid and Rankin has convincingly shown that a large portions of the old English kennings are translations or paraphrases of expressions in Scripture or Medieval Latin poetry" (Cook). Therefore, it can be pointed out that indeed there is a clear influence of the time and literary trends Beowulf was created.

The controversy over the influences of the languages and the way in which these mix in the content of Beowulf also provides reason for interpretation in terms of the translation of the poem. Regardless of the influence, origin, and even subject, the lines of the poem can be subject to different interpretation exercises. One example is related to the mere expression that can either mean "to bury" or "to bury one's head." Should the interpretation be for the first option, it would imply in the respective context a certain custom that would afterwards point to a specific cultural influence. However, should the correct option be the second one, there would be a discussion on the burial of simply the head, rather than the entire body (Mezger)

Another example is related to the way in which words are pronounced. Thus, Beowulf represents a clear challenge for English scolars as well as translation. For instance, "In the account of the truce between Finn and Hengest (Beowulf 1080-1106) certain textual difficulties have long been a source of perplexity. Editors and translators agree in taking the term wea-ltafe, which occurs twice in this passage (1084 and 1098), as referring in the first instance to the thanes of Finn and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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