Beowulf, an Epic Story of a Leader in Early English Literature
by Mike Copper
Beowulf displays the qualities of a good leader that were mentioned in the speech given by Hrothgar. The speech speaking of the vices and virtues of great political leaders contains many of the same qualities that Beowulf embodies. His boastfulness, generosity and kindness are evidence that he is a good leader and provides for his people. Although the qualities he posses may not be the best-fit qualities of a common man, they are admirable qualities of a strong leader.
Beowulf’s high self-regard acts as a promise to his people. It is a promise saying that he will provide for them and he can keep his country in order and away from harm. Because Beowulf speaks very highly of himself he is required to support his claims and give to the people. Hrothgar claims that flaunting is a way to keep the Geats happy because they believe what he says. “I will stand by my word make good my promises. To your Geat-friends now will make you come with counsel courage for their hearts through long comfort years”(1706). The Geats need someone to believe in and who would believe in someone with low self-esteem or someone who didn’t believe in themselves. The people need assurance and they found that assurance in Beowulf. Beowulf reassures his people that the Dragon will be dealt with and gives them courage to withstand this threat. “ I lived in my youth through hard war-moments--- now here I am ready battle weary king battered with winters for final glory-time if that grim hall burner will come to meet me from his mound of gold” (pg. 81). Beowulf wants to reassure his people that he can once again succeed in defeating his enemies. The people believe that Beowulf will succeed again. Beowulf’s obligations to the people require him to slay the dragon. Beowulf’s self centeredness is what makes him an ideal leader in the eyes of Hrothgar.
Another reason Beowulf is seen as a good leader is because he does not share the characteristics that were spoken of Heremod. Heremod was portrayed as a bad leader due to his murderous attitude and actions. The vices of Heremod characterize a bad leader and Hrothgar points them out like in his treatment of the Danes.
Not so kind was Heremod to the kin of Ecwela care heavy Shield Danes—he brought them no joy but baleful murder dark death sorrows to his Danish followers. With hot rage-thought she ravaged his people hearth-companions til hate severed him, jealous slaughter-king, from the joys of men though the great Measurer marked him for honor of a towering meadhall (pg. 55).
Heremod pays no attention to the needs of his people. He inflicts pain and suffering upon them. The darkness and gloom are associating Heremod to the Misery of the people. The Danes suffering falls upon the hands of Heremod. But Beowulf is nothing like this evil leader. The Geats are content with his leadership and feel no need to rebel. They even grieve the death of Beowulf and mourn him. The Geats praise him at his funeral showing that they valued his leadership.
Hearth companions praised there lost one name him the ablest of all world kings mildest of men and most compassionate most lithe to his people most loving of praise. (Pg. 100)
The Geats preferred Beowulf to any other King so therefore revered him and praised him for his strong leadership. His strong foundation created stability within the Kingdom and that was all the people needed in a time of chaos. This is in direct opposition to what Heremod created and what he stood for.
Heremod’s greediness is also an inappropriate quality to have among so many other whom required it. The Anglo Saxons are typically rewarded for their duties in the field and their treasures help the morale of the country and unify the people more. Heremods lack of wealth distribution breaks up his country and builds low morale for the people. “To his mind came rushing blood hungry thoughts- no bracelets or rings he gave to his warriors” (pg. 55). Heremod only takes from the people and does not give back. His warriors are not rewarded and therefore do not give full effort when fighting.
Beowulf wants to create a sense of morale among his people and the only way to do it is to give monetary rewards back to the people. Even when Beowulf is injured he gives Wiglaf a gold necklace from around his neck for slaying the dragon that had been destroying the town. “ He removed from his throat a marvelous neck-ring gold gleaming collar gave it to his thane” (pg. 89). Beowulf’s generosity and benevolence are prime examples of his ability to reward his people. Beowulf continues to be a glorious leader even in times of distress.
Even though Beowulf’s demise was in search of materialistic goods the people still praised him and his deeds. This could be construed as greediness and compared to Heremods deeds but Beowulf intents are completely different even though they seem to be similar. Beowulf intends to give back to the people while Heremod plans to keep all for himself. It may seem Beowulf is materialistic but he only has the welfare of his country in mind. He has a responsibility to the Geats to keep them prosperous even when he is gone. Beowulf thanks the heavens and claims he will leave all the treasure for his people: “thanks to the Wielder Wonder-King of all our glorious Shaper for such gold and gemstones that I now may leave to my beloved Geatfolk” (pg. 89). Beowulf wants to die knowing that his people will be well cared for and continue to prosper even in his absence. He wants to die knowing the Geats will be wealthy.
Hrothgar warns Beowulf that he is not a god and can be killed and just because he hasn’t suffered defeat doesn’t mean he won’t. Hrothgar warns him not to care for pride meaning that he will not always be this strong:
The Glory of your strength lasts for a while but not long after Sickness or spear point will sever you from life. (1762-64) …or bane-bearing age – the brightness of your eye will dim and darken. (1767-68)
Hrothgar predicts that Beowulf’s pride would be his demise and he was correct because Beowulf chooses to fight the dragon alone in his older years. Beowulf is no longer in his prime and he knows he will not be around forever and hopes to make a final “score” and let the people live out the rest of their days wealthy and without worry. But Beowulf still wants to fight the beast alone. “Our old gift lord meant to manage this monster hot battle alone once again with his great wonder strength armed with a war name earned through a lifetime forged now with deeds” (2642-46). Beowulf is not fighting these monsters because he believes he is a god but because he wishes to carry out a promise he gave long ago to his people. His only desire is to make the Geats happy.
Beowulf risks his life for his people. He was the apitamy of great kings and was dedicated to his country and people. His promise to the people and his devotion, generosity and kindness are the reasons he is Hrothgar’s ideal leader.
Dr. M. Cooper provides research and term paper assistance at http://www.TermPaperAdvisor and http://www.TermPapersMadeEasy.com on the world-wide web. Dr. Copper has a M.S. degree in data communications and a Ph.D in Computer Information Systems. He is a retired Army officer and a Vietnam veteran.
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