The Significance of “The Wanderer”

June 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

The Wanderer is a staple of Anglo-Saxon storytelling and has been recited over countless centuries to new audiences. The poem follows the story of a former warrior who is currently living a life of solitude. After the loss of his lord and kinsmen, the warrior (the titular “wanderer”) sets out to sea in an attempt to find some sense of spirituality and understanding after all the tragedy he has endured. The actual protagonist in the poem is a very fascinating, in-depth character who many have surely studied. During the Middle Ages, protagonists of Anglo-Saxon works would often reflect the ideal qualities of a heroic man in society. The Wanderer provides a quintessential example of this aforementioned archetype. The protagonist of The Wanderer is an example of an ideal Anglo-Saxon man because of his honor in regards to nobility, as well as his feelings of religious questioning. These two aspects act as umbrellas and ultimately group together many perfect traits of an ideal Anglo-Saxon, displaying the concept in a more refreshing way than many epic poems of the time.

One of the foundational traits of the Middle Ages was honor, particularly as it pertained to nobility. The relationship between the noble and the thane was an extremely important one. Not to mention, the connections formed among the men in a king’s band were brotherhoods not broken for a lifetime. When The Wanderer opens, the eponymous hero is living alone. The members of his noble company have all perished in battle, the same battle that forced the warrior into exile. Though gone, the hero refuses to let the memories of his comrades go down in vain. The first part of the poem, especially, is spent paying respect to the brave men who died in battle. The hero remembers the treasures that he shared with all of them, in addition to the various feasts that the group partook in. Such a large majority of the poem is spent discussing loss of friends and the tightness of Anglo-Saxon bonds that the reader is truly introduced to a hero who has an emotional core to him. All the while, the hero is living in isolation, which reflects the Anglo-Saxon ideal of self-importance and self-discovery. The importance of honor towards nobility demonstrates a staple of the Middle Ages while simultaneously building a deeper character of the warrior, even over-selling this message at times.

The Middle Ages encompassed a time of Crusades and witnessed an era of religious significance to a radical degree. The Anglo-Saxons strongly believed in a center of religious and philosophical significance in everyday life. However, most were fascinated in fatalism. Fatalism, sometimes referred to as “the wyrd,” is what defined Anglo-Saxon culture and made everything the way it was supposed to be. The Wanderer almost entirely rejects fatalism, yet still clearly retains its religious undertones. The hero of the story discusses faith as one of the most important qualities a person can have, and how brighter days are still ahead. Beliefs like these reflect Christian thinking at the time, which suggested that heaven was open to all because Jesus died for our sins. In some ways, the warrior in this story is having a spiritual breakthrough (even if not entirely Christian) and seeing a side of optimism, even given past tragedy. Going along with these religious undertones, the story is set at sea, and one of the other important Anglo-Saxon qualities is a great reverence for the sea. While religious importance is one of the most important qualities of an Anglo-Saxon, having an equally important background clearly highlights the care that the original writer of this poem had in its crafting. The Wanderer shows its titular character as being an ideal Anglo-Saxon once again in his regard for spirituality and the entire plot of the novel being centered on his quest for religious enlightenment, which every man of the time strived for.

Honor towards nobility and reverence for religion are among two of the most important qualities that highlight the wanderer from The Wanderer as an ideal Anglo-Saxon man. Though there were plenty of men during the Middle Ages who were everymen, this particular warrior truly was an ideal yet average protagonist. He embodied everything that a person should strive to have, yet none of his characteristics are mystical, or otherworldly. In fact, these characteristics represent the beauty and perfection of very ordinary things, and how a hero is often more someone whom we can relate to on a personal level than a on a level that is larger than life.

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