The epic poetry by an unknown author titled “Beowulf” is arguably the oldest writing in the English language, with many still not decided on the exact dates of its creation. First told in 600 AD and later retold in the mid-700s, the poem focuses on the story of legends and major characters who lived in Sweden and Denmark. The poet depicts the main character of the book in a unique fashion that makes him appear to be in control of all the situations and changes presented in the story. In many of the settings where war was about to erupt, Beowulf is presented as a person who could intervene, and the victory would be his. The relevance of the use of this feature is that the poet intended to describe the warrior as a charismatic leader through the capacities and uniqueness of the power that he (Beowulf) was assured to possess. The poet intended for the reader to combine the traits possessed by the main character and enable them to conceive the essentials of being a transformative and charismatic leader. However, charismatic leaders have an exceptional ability to articulate an inspirational vision and behaviors that tend to foster the impression that they are targeting to make an extraordinary mission. The morality characterized by honor, bravery, and a compelling type of leadership by Beowulf is a significant feature that enables the reader to rediscover their inherent heroism (Loughman and Finley 159). Beowulf, thus, embodies a charismatic leader through the manner in which he appears, behaves, and inspires others while remaining loyal to his countrymen and associates.
The great warrior Beowulf learns that the king of Denmark, who had once assisted his father, was having a problem – a monster was terrorizing his people (Arts Out Loud 2). The warrior gathers some of his best men and heads to Denmark, determined to fight the beast. Despite the confrontation and challenge posed by Unferth, Beowulf manages to defeat Grendel and her mother, hence, his name becomes well know and his persona renowned. When he gets back to his homeland, the reigning king and his son later die in war and the throne is bestowed upon him, which he later rules for 50 years. The king deceases in another battle after a thief accidentally frees a dragon that wounds him. The most significant feature that is manifest in the epic poem is the dominance, courage, and determination that the protagonist displays at all levels, regardless of the task before him.
Depiction of Beowulf
The reader epitomizes bravery through the protagonist’s relentless effort and determination when confronted with beasts that were determined to defeat him. One particular instance of bravery is in the manner in which he courageously and recklessly confronted his opponent in the battle and soon emerged victorious.
The author creates suspense for the reader, as they try to understand what the title of the book means. It is after about 200 pages that the poet mentions the protagonist and the work is called in his name. The warrior is first introduced by describing his role in society, and it is not until line 343 that the reader gets to know his name (Thorkelin 30). The poet’s motive to depict the protagonist as a mysterious man who was heroic is a strategy for showing the audience that the titles that one has do not matter, but what they do for the people that they serve is what can really ‘describe’ a person. Even before the reader was familiarized with the warrior’s name, it became apparent that they had already learned about his determination and will to succeed in wars and the effort he placed to save people from slavery. The poet further presents the warrior as a hero when he narrates that Beowulf was “a thane of Hygelac, excellent among the Geats and that he was strongest of mankind in might in this life’s day, noble and stalwar” (Thorkelin 30). It is further demonstrated that Beowulf was ready and willing to showcase his extraordinary skills and strength even when he was confronted with the fiercest enemies. These traits all culminate in the author’s goal of attempting to present the protagonist as a model of a focused and exceptional leader who was more absorbed by the service that he rendered than being centered on the fame.
The element of courage is also depicted in the heroic act of attacking the beast without using any weapon. When Beowulf was confronted by Grendel, he decided to use his bare hands to fight, as he thought that using his helmet and sword would make the battle too easy. He later boasts to his attendant that he is a brave warrior who cannot be defeated when he says, “When it comes to fighting, I count myself / as dangerous any day as Grendel” (Thorkelin 677). The protagonist uses the same attitude in many of the fights he is engaged in and while he does not succeed in some, it remains clear that the author did not intend to make his fighter untouchable, as it would be unrealistic. For example, when he is confronted by the dragon, he uses the same technique to counter it, however, he loses after being bitten by the dragon, leading to his death. After conquering Grendel, the warrior was faced with a harder task, as he realized that Grendel’s mother was even more fearsome. It is apparent that his courage and determination to succeed were the driving force that enabled the warrior to overcome his challengers. Regardless of the outcomes, the poem intended the reader to conceptualize the fact that bravery and trusting in one’s inherent capacities is the key feature that distinguishes a conqueror from a loser. This is also intended to unleash one’s natural belief in themselves and their ability to overcome tasks without having to seek external influences. It can, thus, be used as a method for enabling the reader to be a critical thinker who is able to solve their problems without having to seek any aid.
The other key feature that the poet uses is nurturing leadership in the reader is portraying the protagonist as a loyal servant to those that he was working for at all levels. The idea of helping the Danes is one clear instance of his dedication to service and the political system, as he decided to risk his life to ensure that the people were safe. His father had not repaid the Danes for their assistance, determined to ensure that he remained loyal to them at a time of need (Cory 2). At some point, Beowulf’s father was assisted by Hrothgar, the king of Denmark. Hrothgar recalled his role in helping Ecgtheow when he stated: “Ecgtheow acknowledged me with oaths of allegiance” (Thorkelin 351). Beowulf, therefore, decided that he would only settle the debt by helping Hrothgar in the time of need as he did for his father in a similar state of crisis. Thus, while Beowulf appeared to be motivated by the challenges, the fact that he owed his allegiance to the Danish King was enough to justify his determination to maintain good relations and repay debts. The author’s objective in this depiction of the protagonist is meant to inspire the readers to build good professional relationships that are based on trust and loyalty to the systems that are in power that enable one to overcome their challenges. Therefore, the poet aimed to ensure that the reader is molded into a loyal servant whenever they are required to submit to the authorities.
Beowulf’s character that makes him show honor and respect in a professional setting is another way in which the poet wanted to portray the features of the most successful leaders. When he sets out for the journey to meet with Grendel, it is apparent that the warrior already saw the monster as an enemy. However, upon the arrival, he decided that he would engage in a fair battle even though he was fully armed. He thought that it would be right to honor the battle in such a way. Therefore, Beowulf decided to throw his sword and helmet to his servant and explained that the enemy had no idea about the arts of war. The warrior was trying to honor the principle that governed wars and battles at the time because it was thought that a kill would not be defined as heroic and would not bring satisfaction unless it was executed on fair grounds. As he paints the protagonist as a hero who respected the system’s regulation regarding battle, the villain is a sharp contrast to what the reader sees in Beowulf. It is described that Grendel would capture people who were innocent. Grendel is described to have lost his sense of honor when “he grabbed thirty men / from their resting place” (Thorkelin 122-123). The sharp contrast is a technique that the poet uses to ensure that the reader is in a better position to grasp the concept of honor by comparing good and bad examples. The role of this trait in the poet’s mind for the target audience is to use the protagonist to conceptualize the importance of being true to the legal definitions and standards.
Leadership is about charisma and the ability to get people moving even without the need to face them. The poet is aware of the need of grit physical presentation when one is holding an influencing position and presents the protagonist in a similar manner. Beowulf’s appearance would always stand out and he was fond of intimidating his opponents, as it happened when Grendel saw him. The watchman is an example of a character who describes the great physique that Beowulf had, which scared him. It is stated that “Never have I seen a mightier noble upon earth, a warrior in armor, than is one of you; that is no retainer dignified by weapons, unless his countenance, his peerless form belies him” (Saenz 156). It clear that the feeling that the people wanted to make through the presentation of the warrior was that he was not just a hero but already looked like one when somebody met him. He is presented to fight with a monster and possess characteristics that are beyond the typical human limits. Nevertheless, because of the superhuman traits that the protagonist exemplifies, he is able to overcome the tasks that are presented to him. The role of this feature in the understanding the relevance of the poem to the readers is for one to conceptualize the importance of a physical presentation of a leader that proposes a different perspective. Through the extraordinary physical appearance, the perceived message to the target audience is that they need to have extraordinary skills and be in a position to carry out their responsibilities and solve situations that a “normal” employee or worker is unable to solve.
While the warrior is presented as a hero, the poet also makes it appear as if the protagonist lacked the basic reasoning that would enable him to make rational decisions based on common sense rather than entirely being focused on the heroic acts. For example, one questionable factor is that Beowulf blindly contends with the idea of fighting Grendel without doing adequate research regarding the animal’s potential. It is likely that his recklessness caused his downfall after he was stung by the dragon that injected him with poison, leading to his demise. In fact, his lack of common sense is also manifested through his inability to create a potential successor to the throne after his death, “Beowulf dies not because he is old, still less because he is too greedy for gold, but because, now that he is king, no one will fight for him. In all his previous encounters, he is fighting for a lord and the lord’s people: he volunteers to serve” (Saenz 161). The concern in this review is that Beowulf was too greedy and focused on himself and his name, hence, he never cared about the people.
Refutation of the Counterargument
While the counterargument that presents the hero as a greedy and self-centered person holds some elements of truth, it is critical to underscore the fact that it was the primary aspect that the author intended the audience to focus on. While a typical human mind would reason that it was plausible to center on personal safety when encroaching a monster in the caliber of Grendel’s mother, the author intended the reader to reason beyond logic, as that is what is meant to be charismatic and transformative. It is impossible to justify the protagonist’s lack of ability to train a potential suitor for the throne in case he died, which makes it appear that the leader was solely focused on his personal issues and prestige. The counterargument is, however, the description of a warrior who exhibited great skills in his battle activities. Overall, , the positive relations that are drawn from the leadership qualities demonstrated by the protagonist serve the ultimate role of the poet’s manuscript.
In summary, the story depicted in the historical passage Beowulf is a narration that embodies a man with superhuman abilities and determination, characterizing him as a hero. The warrior is made to appear as a courageous, brave, determined, heroic, and physically strong man, and these features enable him to be successful in many of the activities that he engages in throughout his lifetime. It is, however, a concern that the leader is extensively focused on himself. Apart from this flaw, it is imperative to assume that the poet portrays the chief character in a manner that paints him to be the ideal of the traits that humans should poses so as to embody a charismatic leader.
Arts Out Loud. “Beowulf: A Tale of Courage and Honor.” donnawissinger.com, http://donnawissinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Press-Kit-Beowulf-with-ARTZ-OUT-LOUD.pdf. Accesseed 2 Februaty 2017.
Thorkelin, Grímur Jónsson. Beowulf. Regency Bicentennial, 1815
Cory, Eleanor. “Bravery, Honor, and Loyalty as Morals in Beowulf.” digitalcommons.imsa.edu, https://digitalcommons.imsa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=fall2010. Accesssed 2 February 2017.
Loughman, Tom, and John Finley. “Beowulf and the Teaching of Leadership.” Journal of Leadership Education, vol. 9, no.1, 2010, pp.142-163.
Saenz, Francisco Santibanez. “Beowulf’s Weaknesses.” Universidad de La Rioja vol. 4, 2003, pp.155–164.