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Essay/Term paper: Beowulf and grendel: craving for the queen

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Beowulf

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Beowulf and Grendel: Craving for the Queen

Brittney Turner

In both texts, Beowulf and Grendel, the main purpose of the Queen's are
to serve the courts as "weavers of peace". In Grendel however, Queen
Wealththeow is described in much greater detail and serves a further purpose.
The reader gains insight to a part Grendel that is not present in Beowulf, his
desire for a human.
It was not unusual for women to be offered as tokens of peace within the
noble courts. In the novel Grendel, Wealhtheow's brother, King of the Helmings,
bestowed her to King Hrothgar to promote peace amongst the Helmings and
Scyldings. "She had given, her life for those she loved. So would any
simpering, eyelash batting female in her court, given the proper setup, the
minimal conditions"(Grendel, p.102). It is ironic how she promoted peace from
her arrival because she was an essential part in keeping peace, as the "weaver
of peace" in the later of both texts. Queen Wealhtheow however is not the only
woman in the texts that was forsaken to encourage appeasement amongst feuding
courts. Queen Hygd was offered to Hygelac under very similar circumstances as
told in Beowulf, and portrayed the same role in Hygelac's kingdom. There is
reference in both texts concerning this tradition, and it is evident to the
reader that this is not an unusual Anglo-Saxon custom.
Queen Wealhtheow and Queen Hygd served as excellent role models for the
courts in which they served. They exemplified the mannerisms and etiquette of
the noble people. Queen Wealhtheow showed excellent poise from the very
beginning of both texts. She was admirable as she passed the mead bowl around
Heorot. The offering of the bowl was symbolic, being that the bowl was first
given to Hrothgar and then passed to Beowulf, as if she presented him with her
trust. Beowulf gave Wealhtheow his guarantee that he would be successful or die
in battle. After she presented Hrothgar and Beowulf with the mead bowl she
served the Scyldings, and did so as if they were her own people. She was not a
Scylding, nor did she desire to be one, but she never made her unhappiness known,
as described in Grendel. There is not great detail on Queen Hygd in Grendel,
but from what the reader can gather from Beowulf, she is as much of a female
role model as Queen Wealhtheow. She was young but very intelligent. In fact
King Hygelac felt intimidated by Hygds intelligence. Queen Hygd was unlike
Wealhtheow in the way in which she did not bare many gifts. Hygd was more
concerned about the future of the people of her kingdom succeeding Hygelacs
death than Wealhtheow. Hygd offered Beowulf the kingdom because she believed it
was in the best interest of the people, she loved the warriors and wished peace
amongst all the people. Wealtheow on the other hand felt that the kingdom should
be preserved for her sons.
Wealhtheow spoke after the "fight at Finnsburg" about the importance of
her sons taking over the kingdom in the poem Beowulf, and this reminds Hrothgar
of his age. This same speech affected Hrothgar in both texts. It forced him to
contemplate his worthiness of Wealhtheow. He realized that she was young and
beautiful, and need not be with an old man. Which made his sorrow even worse is
the fact that she knew all this as well.
Queen Wealhtheow put up an excellent disguise when hiding the pain she
experienced from being forced to be Hrothgars wife. Unlike in Beowulf, in
Grendel the reader was given insight into Wealhtheow's sorrow. The only time
she would display her unhappiness was when she would lie in bed at night with
Hrothgar with her eyes full of tears. Sometimes she would leave the kingdom to
dwell in her sorrows but she would be immediately surrounded by guards, and
escorted inside. Wealhtheow was homesick, she missed her land, and her brother.
When her brother visited Heorot she paid no attention to Hrothgar, and Hrothgar
fulfilled passing around the mead bowl. In Grendel, it told of Hrothgar's love
for wealhtheow. He would often stare at her in admiration. Despite her
resentment she treated Hrothgar with much respect, she always looked up at him
and referred to him as "my lord".
Although Wealhtheow has much resentment towards serving the Danes, she
puts all that beside her and fulfilled her duties as an praiseworthy queen. In
Grendel it told how she came between drunken men in the mead hall, as if she was
their mother. Her intervention reminded them of their responsibilities toward
the kingdom. Her presence "brought light and warmth, men began talking, joking
and laughing, both Danes and Geats together"(Grendel, p.163). She created a
positive feeling throughout the kingdom. In her presence the Shaper vocalized
on a positive note about comfort and joy. Wealhtheow gave Beowulf advice about
proper etiquette , how to speak to the Geats with "mild words". She advised him
to make sure he shared his gifts. After all that was a rule by which she lived.
Before Beowulf left the Danes, Queen Wealhtheow gave Beowulf a precious collar ,
the Brosing necklace, in appreciation for his duty. She gave him the gifts so
that he could make known who he was, to be proud of his accomplishments. She
wished him the best of luck and asked him to take care of her sons. There was
much focus on Queen Wealhtheow's outer beauty in the novel Grendel. It went
into much further detail than in the poem, Beowulf. From Wealhtheows entrance
into the novel, the reader was told in great detail of her physical beauty.
Beowulf primarily focused on her inner beauty. She was described as "having
hair red as fire, as soft as the ruddy sheen on dragons gold. Her face was
gentle, mysteriously calm" (Grendel p.100). This combination made her a very
desirable woman. So desirable that Unferth was attracted to her. Unferth
flirted with Wealhtheow often in Grendel. When she would offer him the mead he
would glance at her and look down and smile. Unferth felt embarrassment after
he made a comment about men killing their brothers while they were drunk. Few
people in Heorot found the comment humorous, the queen was caught off guard.
He respected the queen, as did every one throughout the kingdom. He was
humiliated at what he had said, he felt regret and ridicule by his mistake and
glanced at the queen without looking away. Being the kind person that she was
she forgave him, and he was put at ease.
The lust for Wealhtheow did not stop with Unferth. Perhaps the most
significant difference in the two texts is that in Grendel, the monster, was
attracted to Wealhtheow. There is no suggestion in Beowulf that Grendel posses
any feelings toward the humans. This desire for Wealhtheow gives the reader
better insight into Grendels character. Up until this point the reader was
given no hint that Grendel possessed anything except hatred toward the human
race. Grendel was touched the first time he saw Wealhtheow, he was struck by
her innocence and beauty. He wanted to sob at the sight of her; the reader had
never been introduced to this sensitive side of the monster. The reader wasn't
the only one who had a problem understanding Grendels feelings, Grendel couldn't
understand them either. He was "tortured by the red of her hair and the set of
her chin and the white of her shoulders". There is definitely a sexual overtone
in Grendels desire for Wealththeow. Upon his attack of her he ripped her out of
bed by her feet as if he was going to split her in half. He wanted to kill her
but he was torn by his feeling for her, all the pain he wanted to inflict was
sexual. He wanted to "cook the ugly hole between her legs, and squeeze out her
feces with his fists". His motive for killing her was justified by wanting to
teach the Danes reality, but he refrained because it would be "pointless
pleasure". Grendel was clearly unhappy about his desire for Wealtheow, and was
disconcerted. He contemplated killing her because he wanted to get rid of these
feelings, instead he decided to focus on the undesirable side Wealhtheow, "her
unqueenly shrieks" and "the ugliness between her legs(the bright tears of
blood)."
Although the two texts are fundamentally the same, there is a
significant difference in how Queen Wealhtheow is portrayed. In the novel
Grendel, the reader is given not only further insight to the beauty and charm of
Wealhtheow, but the sensitivity and needs of Grendel. Both texts allow the
reader to gain a further understanding to the position of women in the Anglo-
Saxon society by means of the development of the characters, Queen Wealhtheow
and Queen Hygd.

 

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