Comparison and Contrast of Beowulf's Three Fights
Throughout the epic poem Beowulf, the hero Beowulf fights three main battles. Each of the fights were great tests of his strength. As the poem progresses and as Beowulf experiences different things, his character changes significantly, as does his reason for fighting. His first fight is against the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing Hrothgar's kingdom for a long length of time. He then battles Grendel's mother, who is seeking revenge on Beowulf for him killing her son. His final battle is against a dragon, who is seeking revenge on the town for a man stealing from his treasure horde. Each of these battles is fought for an entirely different reason, and each has an enormous impact on his life and character.
Beowulf first fights the monster Grendel. Grendel is an outcast from society and becomes angry with the singing and celebrating in Heorot.
Grendel kills many of the king's warriors while they sleep. Beowulf learns of the city's troubles and chooses to leave his homeland to help. His primary wants to gain a better reputation by killing the beast and saving the city. While Beowulf and his men are sleeping in Heorot, Grendel enters the hall and eats one of his men. Beowulf rips off one of Grendel's arms. Grendel then runs to his home to die. Beowulf receives the honor, prestige, and riches he had hoped for.
Second, upon winning the fight against Grendel, he must battle Grendel's mother. Grendel's mother killed the king's most trusted warrior in revenge for Grendel's death. Beowulf feels as though he must battle Grendel's mother because it is the honorable thing to do. Unlike when he was battling Grendel, he is unconfident and expects to die in his fight against Grendel's mother. He is at first unsuccessful, because his normal sword is unable to harm his opponent. He then grabs a sword out of Grendel's mother's own armory and beheads her. His motive for fighting is entirely different in this conflict. In his first battle, he wants only prestige honor and riches, but in this battle his goal was to protect the king the land from Grendel's mother.
Beowulf's final battle against the dragon is similar to his battle against Grendel's mother. Beowulf has returned home and eventually becomes king of his own people. He wants to protect the people of his own city, similar to how he wanted to protect the king and his people before. Beowulf has become a kind, humble person instead of the arrogant thrill seeker he was in his first battle. One day, a slave steals a golden cup from a dragon. The dragon, extremely angry, leaves his cave in a fury. Only one of Beowulf's warriors is brave enough to help him. The dragon is slayed, but Beowulf dies from the injuries he has sustained.
Beowulf fights three main battles that prove him to be a terrific hero. Beowulf fights the first battle strictly for wealth and fame, however he fights the later battles for a different reason. He battles strictly to save the city and its people from harm. He feels as though fighting is his duty and responsibility. His battles against Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon are all fantastic examples of his bravery and honor.
Raffel, Burton, and Anonymous . Beowulf. Signet Classics, 1999.