Beowulf As An Allegory To Help People Build An Ideal Civilization
An allegory is a piece of art that conveys hidden messages such as morals or values. In this case, Beowulf conveys the elements that we need to build an ideal civilization and the whole story compares the forces that help build a civilization and those forces that want to tear it down. For instance, King Hrothgar and Beowulf represent the forces that are necessary to maintain civilization, they are the forces that build and defend civilization. While on the other hand, the great mead hall symbolizes civilization itself and the unity of the ideal community. Heorot is the meaning of civilization in the book, in other words, it’s the foundation of brotherhood and unity of the Danish people. All these three significant figures in the book combine the idea that Beowulf is an allegory that is intended to instruct us on the forces necessary to maintain a civilization versus those that tear at the fabric of civilization.
Heorot, the great mead hall is a symbol of society and civilization that was built and established by King Hrothgar. This hall was the mightiest and wealthiest hall that was ever seen under heaven, it was lavishly decorated with gold to show the power and wealth of the Danish King. However, the motive of king Hrothgar when he was building the hall was to create brotherhood, friendship and unity among his people. The hall was the foundation of civilization in his society and it brought everyone together so that they could socialize and make their relationship better. “Inside Heorot there was nothing but friendship” this quote shows how the Danish people respected and loved each other inside the hall. There was nothing known other than brotherhood and friendship, they respected each other, partied together and shared everything in that hall. In our modern-day society, Heorot is similar to religious institutes, like mosques, churches e.t.c. Inside those buildings, there is nothing known other than the devotion to God and brotherhood. People respect and show kindness to each other in those buildings.
However, Heorot is a double-edged sword meaning that its both a powerful civilization yet vulnerable to the evil of humanity, vulnerable to those who can’t stand to see the happiness of others. For example, Heorot symbolizes community and civilization yet it also symbolizes the vulnerability of the society to the forces that want to tear the civilization apart. Heorot as the strong building as it is, was yet “awaiting a barbarous burning” this quote shows that Heorot will be destroyed by the burning fire of revenge and jealousy and with it, will be lost all the civilization and the community that Heorot established. The hall of the halls has the imagery of power and mightiness, however, all that would be lost to jealousy and revenge which will consume each legacy of King Hrothgar. It takes a lot of effort to build a civilization, it takes bravery and wisdom to lead people the way King Hrothgar did and to unify a whole community and make that foundation stand for a long time, however, it also takes a spark of jealousy, revenge, and greed to tear it down into nothing.
King Hrothgar represents the forces that defend and maintain society. As a youth, King Hrothgar was a great warrior of his time who would protect his people and society from raiders and the evil of other tribes. It was said that the “fortunes of war favored Hrothgar. Friends and Kinsmen flocked to his ranks, young followers, a force that grew to be a mighty army.” meaning that his bravery helped him possess the strength and military power that led to his success in every battle. Young followers came to his aid and provided him with the strength to defeat his enemies and with these warriors, he created the strongest army that would help him establish a civilization among his people. Before he turned to hall building, King Hrothgar made sure the safety of his people and led them to a long time of peace. It’s his historical bravery that helped him establish the strongest civilization that was ever seen in his time and the courage and willingness to protect his people contributed to his good leadership.
Furthermore, King Hrothgar represents unity and a force of solidity in the social realm. He provided safety in Heorot which is shown by how the Danes find solace and comfort under the roof of Heorot. King Hrothgar provides a range of calmness to his people that they could fell “asleep from their feasting” in the hall. This shows how the Danish people feel safe and secured inside the hall until the cursed Grendel begins to roam at night. People only sleep carelessly in a place that they could trust and a place that they know they are secured from any harm. This symbolizes the successful leadership that king Hrothgar was able to achieve.
One of the greatest qualities of Hrothgar that contributed to his good leadership was that he was a generous and selfless person. He shared his prosperity with his people and often rewarded them for what they accomplished. For this reason, they called him “the giver of the rings” which shows how his generosity extends not only to the Danes but also to the other warriors who pledged their loyalty to him. The word “giver” means someone who gives something and in this case, King Hrothgar gives gold and jewels. However, it is important to notice that the definition of the word does not limit to one person, it refers to a wide range of people which defines the good king’s selflessness and generosity. Hrothgar was able to create loyalty and respect for himself and also among his people, not through force but friendship and generosity. The warriors show him a lot of respect and admiration, they also protect him and his people and in return, he rewards them with gold and jewels that they could enjoy themselves with.
In addition to all these characteristics, King Hrothgar was a wise man and despite his old age, he often takes good decisions on behalf of his people. Hrothgar knew that pride and selfishness would tear down civilizations and it wouldn’t benefit him which is why the mighty King accepts Beowulf’s help when Grendel attacks his people. “The havoc he (Grendel) has wreaked upon us in Heorot, our humiliation” this quote shows how king Hrothgar recognizes the fact that protecting Heorot was his responsibility and not Beowulf’s, but since he was old and did not have the same strength that he had as a young man, he accepted Beowulf’s help without being held back by his pride and self-worthiness. Hrothgar knew that if his pride gets in the way, his people will perish in the hand of the cursed Grendel. This is an example of the sacrifices that a good leader should make for his people. It takes courage to hold back your pride to save your nation.
After Beowulf killed Grendel’s mother, King Hrothgar addresses him wisely and says that “ a protector of his people, pledged to uphold truth and justice and to respect tradition,” this quote is specifically reflecting King Hrothgar or maybe the characteristics of a good king. The quote says that a leader is someone who vows to protect his people from anything and respect their values and customs. It also shows us the qualities that are necessary to create a good civilization and social realm. I believe that this quote is a hidden message for the young hero, Beowulf, that if you ever become a King considers this advice which will help you establish a good civilization and kingdom.
We might believe that the anglo-Saxon values are not found in our society today. However, we have similarities in our values and customs. One of these is how we lead our society and establish civilization among our nation. We might not be ruled by a king but we still follow the rules of leadership or maybe it’s something that our leaders should follow. Within the values of our society, a leader must be a brave person who is willing to take measures on any dangers that face our nation. The leader must be a selfless person who puts his nation before himself and must be educated and know how to lead people. All these are qualities that are necessary to maintain a civilization.
In contrast, our president today seems to lack some of the qualities that establish a good leader. Albert Hunt a journalist of the Hills says that “ the only loyalty that matters to him is not to truth or the country but to him” this quote says that our president today is more focused on securing his position in the office than he is concerned about our country and establishing an ideal civilization. He is neither concerned with creating loyalty and friendship between him and his people nor is he striving to establish a strong community in our nation. A good civilization is built when you earn respect and loyalty from your people and those who will help you maintain civilization such as the military. I believe that instead of the president bringing us together like Heorot, he is dividing us and turning us into individuals that want to create their civilization but crumbles every time it reaches the top.
Beowulf teaches us the qualities of a good king and the forces necessary to build a civilization. It teaches us that being a leader does not just mean wearing fancy suits and driving the best cars, but rather understanding the needs of your people and making sure that it’s available to them. After all, civilization is made through the progress and the improvement of social relationships.
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