Beowulf and Archetype

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Date Submitted: 03/18/2009 07:41 AM

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An archetype is defined as a constantly repeating character who occurs in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures. Cultures need archetypes to have something to strive for, because people are always looking for examples of how to live around them. Beowulf is one an example of an archetype because he is called to adventure, he encounters tests, and he endures an extremely supreme ordeal.

Beowulf receives his call to adventure in his home, or “ordinary world”, he hears “how Grendel filled nights with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out” (page 42 112-113).This monster, Grendel, terrorized the land of Denmark by savagely dining on men who fall asleep in Heorot Hall. Beowulf feels he must leave his homeland and help the Danes overcome this terrible monster. This example fits directly in with the stereotype of an archetype. It is the beginning or call to adventure.

Beowulf encounters tests in Denmark. His first test is his tiresome fight with Grendel. Grendel enters Heorot hall and begins to devour the men as they sleep, but Beowulf awaits him. Grendel then “cluctched at Beowulf with his claws…and was instantly seized himself” (page 47 269-271). Grendel struggled to free himself but it was in vain soon, his arm was ripped off at the shoulder and hung in the rafters of the hall for all to see. The Danes then feel safe but, the next night as they sleep in Heorot they are again attacked, this time by Grendel’s mother. Beowulf tracks her back to her lair under a lake. He enters the lake, and “all at once the greedy she-wolf… discovered him” (page 53 454-456). After a long fight Beowulf is able to defeat her with a sword from her own armory. These two fights are tests Beowulf was forced to endure. He conquered both monsters and moves on and heads home to the Geats later to become their king.

The final example for Beowulf is his final battle with the Dragon. Beowulf became King of his homeland and now he must protect...