Beowulf is a beautiful tale of heroism that inspires the audience to live a heroic life without holding onto illusions and false hopes. No mortal is strong enough to win against death itself, but Beowulf has depicted how the human will can transcend and fight the battle against the worst of human fears. There are three evils that Beowulf personified: Physical, moral and metaphysical.
A descendant of Cain, Grendel is the most frightening personification of physical Evil. As the author put it, Grendel lives “in a hell not hell but Earth”. There is no actual description of Grendel and it invokes the darkness and the fear of that which is unknown to humans. Grendel is a hybrid of the worst kind. He is part human and part beast- living in the darkness- evil misfit, vicious and cruel, cannibalistic and vengeful. He has no morals and poses a physical threat to mankind. One man’s self-defense is destined in a fight against Grendel. He depicts evil as an omnipresent being and stalks all men by following them- unseen, hiding in the dark, never visible but always there. Evil is always insatiable, and there is no sin big enough. Beowulf represents all that is good in mankind, the strength and courage needed to involve Grendel in a one-to-one fight with his bare hands. Beowulf stands firm and Grendel pushes away from his powerful embrace and ultimately destroys himself.
Evil knows no end and Grendel’s mother; Heorot is the moral evil, and she attacks Beowulf the very next day. The Mosaic code, “an eye for an eye” has been depicted to perfection in this tale. Moral vengeance, the need to quench the thirst for revenge is what drives Grendel’s mother to fight. She only takes one life and then runs for her life from the hallways. There are the slight perverse twists of events, Beowulf bursts into her home, and she is waiting for him with a warm embrace. Now Beowulf is consumed with self-doubt and most of his men give up on his cause too. Now, he uses Grendel’s magic sword doused in his blood and is ultimately victorious. This victory is, in essence, Beowulf’s entry into adulthood. He now faces complex choices and decisions. The war wounds and the fact that Beowulf is a mere mortal have awakened a deep sense of righteousness in the king.
Finally, Beowulf faces the ultimate challenge and goes into battle against the dragon. It is a monster of epic proportions- one who is not a humanoid and is vicious and fearsome. The dragon personifies metaphysical evil. The physical power of this evil lies in the ability to set things on fire and to take flight at his will. It is the evil that men arouse by theft. Beowulf is no thief and has to protect and fight for the honor of his people. Old age knowledge has made him tired and slow and walked with his head held high into the last battle with knowledge that this will be his last. The rising and setting of the great human spirit, the contrast of age and the amalgam of wisdom and pride are what this tale hints at.