I got off the phone with a close friend a question popped into my head.…
Beowulf’s External Strength vs. Internal Strength
External Strength vs… Inner Strength Arm can be defined as “power, might, strength, and authority. ” However, It can also be defined as “a weapon” or “to provide whatever will add strength, force, or security. ” The epic poem Beowulf explores several Interpretations of arms by tracing this motif and Juxtaposing it against the motif of swords, to reveal that while power helps one achieve his goal; power Is useful only when the beholder trusts his Inner strength. The motif of swords symbolizes fallible power. In some battles, the sword produces victory and In others, It falls.
On the other hand, the arm motif symbolizes Inner strength. In each battle Beowulf fights, he Is victorious only after relying on the strength of arms. Through these motifs, Beowulf challenges the reader to question If material objects possess power. Or Is It Inner strength that generates power? Initially, the sword motif appears almost too obvious in symbolizing courage and power. When Beowulf arrives in Denmark to aide the Danes in fighting the terrible monster, Greened, he discovers several men determined to “stem that horror with a sweep of their swords” (217).
In this instance, the sword symbolizes courage. The sword gives them a sense of power that boosts their willingness to feud with Greened. The way the poet uses alliteration with the words “stem, sweep, and swords” illuminates this idea. Repeating the first letter in these one-syllable words gives the reader the impression that the soldiers will sweep through quickly with their swords. However, those determined soldiers return to bloody mead-halls marked with Grenade’s damage. Thus, the sword fails to pierce Grenade’s core, suggesting that a sword’s power is fallible.
This idea echoes through the battle twine Greened and Beowulf when the sword fails Beowulf and his followers: “All of Beowulf band had Jumped from their beds, ancestral swords raised and ready, determined to protect their prince if they could. Their courage was great but all wasted their points could not hurt him” (475-482). Beowulf men possess superficial courage; the sword instills them with a sense of power. They rely on that strength to empower them with courage. Thus, the courage of Beowulf band wanes when the sword becomes powerless because Greened fears no weapons.
However, Beowulf remains fearless by Grenade’s resilience to weapons. Instead of relying solely on his sword, Beowulf trusts the power of his arm. When Greened strikes, Beowulf “leans up on one arm” (431 Then, Beowulf tears at Greened using his hands, Instead of a sword, This raises the question of how Beowulf rips the monster’s arm off at the shoulder with his bare hands. Yet he Is Just a human being. Where does he get the power? Beowulf draws his leverage from his body power. When his sword blunts, he bravely continues on, leaning on his arm for strength. Here, the arm represents Beowulf inner courage.
The poet uses this motif to demonstrate that his courage moms from within himself, not from the edge of a sword. Therefore, when weapons fail, Beowulf depends on it to defeat Greened. By illustrating the triumph of the arm over the sword, Beowulf portrays the uncertain nature of the sword. Initially, the whereas the arm perseveres as a foundation of strength, suggesting that one should favor his inner strength over placing faith in external objects. The poet demonstrates through Beowulf that few trust their internal power, but that it is necessary to obtain victory.
Whereas the perseverance of arm strength through sword failure directly relates to Beowulf victory in his battle with Greened, in the battle between Beowulf and Grenade’s mother, the poet integrates the arm and sword motifs to reexamine the definition of arm strength. At first, Beowulf attempts to use Hurting, a prized sword, to attack Grenade’s mother. However, he soon discovers that sword could slice her evil Skin, that Hurting could not hurt her, was useless now when he needed it” (599-601). Again, the sword flounders in the midst of a beastly monster.
Despite Writing’s history of victorious battles, its strength cannot meddle tit Grenade’s mother, demonstrating the limit of the sword’s power. Although the sword falters, Beowulf proceeds in his relentless pursuit of Grenade’s mother. Instead of abandoning his quest, he “leaped back into battle. He tossed his sword aside; angry if weapons were useless he’d use his hands, the strength in his fingers. So he raised his arms and seized her by the shoulder; anger doubled his strength”(606-614). This passage illuminates how Beowulf anger ignites his determination.
The poet’s repetition of “anger” emphasizes how Beowulf immense anger gives him power to set aside his sword and depend upon his body power. Also, the poet’s word choice emphasizes Beowulf power. The verbs “leaped,” “raised,” and “seized” describe Beowulf as a fighter. They illustrate Beowulf attacking back, instead of backing out. On the other hand, “useless” and “tossed” assert Beowulf confidence in relinquishing Hurting. In this passage, the arm motif reappears, symbolizing Beowulf heroic strength.
However, in this battle, relying solely on arm strength becomes more of a challenge. After Beowulf attacks Grenade’s mother with his body, she tears back at him. When he notices another sword hanging on her wall, e seizes it and “lifts it high over his head and strikes with all the strength he has” (640-641). However, this sword is not an ordinary sword; it is not one an ordinary man can simply clutch onto for protection. In this instance, the sword echoes Beowulf arm strength. In order to lift the sword, he must rely on his inner strength to exert force into his arm.
Through the phrase “strikes with all the strength he has,” the poet indicates that Beowulf strength continues through the sword. The sword serves simply as a helping mechanism; Beowulf does not draw his power from it. In the battle between Grenade’s mother and Beowulf, the sword and arm motifs intertwine more, making the symbolic significance of the arm appear less obvious. Initially, the arm serves as a concrete symbol of Beowulf persistent power, but when Grenade’s mother lashes back, it appears to refute the infallibility of the arm.
However, Beowulf uses his powerful arms to strike with a massive sword, illustrating that while a hero must possess inner strength, swords can also be a source of power. Beowulf uses the battle with Grenade’s mother to illustrate how material objects can river as helping mechanisms if one does not rely on them as a force of power. The sword is powerful only when one’s arm allows it. Thus, the poet suggests that one must acquire power from within himself to use the sword effectively. Material objects that not bolstered by one’s inner strength become useless.
Not only does the final of the sword and the power of the arm, but this battle also introduces another theme highlighted by the arm and sword. This battle suggests that the eventually both the sword and arm both die and hero’s quest must be abandoned or aided by other men. Beowulf elderly presence gives him no shame in using armor and sword. However when he pierces the dragon with his sword, “The ancient blade breaks, bites into the monster’s skin, draws blood, but cracks and fails him” (727-729). In this battle, Beowulf sword stands alone without a fortress of inner strength reinforcing its limited power.
This passage lacks description of Beowulf relentless power that he displays in previous battles. Thus, the poet focuses on the sword, illustrating how isolating it from inner strength results in failure. In order restore power to the sword Beowulf must generate inner courage. However, Beowulf elderliness renders him incapable of reviving that power. Thus, he needs his soldiers to step in for him. However, the only man who has the courage to stand up for Beowulf is Wigwag. Wigwag insists that Beowulf “must lean on younger arms” (776-777).
Here, Wigwag acts as a replacement arm for Beowulf. He must rely on the strength of Wigwam’s arm to display courage through sword. Wigwam’s willingness to slay the dragon on behalf of Beowulf testifies to Wigwam’s inner strength. He does not cower from evil; instead he places his fife on the line, backing his sword with power to assist Beowulf in defeating the dragon. In contrast, the rest of Beowulf men lack the nerve to rescue Beowulf. According to Wigwag, Beowulf “believed his men’s promises, trusted their swords” (770-771).
The failure of the rest of Beowulf men to defend their master indicates that they lack boldness. They cannot bolster the swords Beowulf entrusts them with because they do not possess the courage to battle the dragon on his behalf. They made empty promises to Beowulf because they founded them upon the fallible power vested in their swords and did not back it with manpower. The last battle illustrates the importance of a sword being backed by man’s strength. When Beowulf can no longer back his sword with his own courage, he must rely on his soldiers.
However, only Wigwag responds to Beowulf plea for help. Together, they slay the dragon. Thus, the poet delineates that an infinite number of swords can never be as powerful as a courageous man’s arm. The rest of Beowulf men posses swords, but they are ineffective because they never use them against the dragon. Thus, Beowulf suggests that power should not be wasted, but should be used for helping others. The poet also suggests that eventually one’s strength will decline. Both the arm and sword will eventually fail, thus forcing him to rely on the courage of others.
Beowulf main objective is to slay the dragon and when he exhausts all his own power, he swallows his pride and asks for Wigwam’s assistance. This illustrates his persistence, suggesting that when one lacks the strength to defend himself, one should persevere in his pursuits by entrusting someone powerful to defend him on his behalf. Ultimately, the motif of swords and arms illustrate that inner courage is the greatest weapon to combat evil. The poet emphasizes this by highlighting different sources of power in each battle. In the battle between Greened, Beowulf fights using only his arms.
When using his arms alone no longer works, then, he must use the power of the sword. Finally, when the power of his arm and sword fail him, he pleads for outside help. The sources of power used in each battle are like a the enemy cannot be defeated until arms step in to provide power. Thus, Beowulf emphasizes that one must trust themselves before they rely on a weapon, suggesting that evil in society must be fought by confronting fear. One can supply themselves with weapons as a security blanket, but none of them can be useful unless the user of them is strong, courageous and fearless.
It takes time for a hero to defeat a monster, but the difference between a hero and an ordinary person is their fearlessness, courage and inner strength. The hero is fearless when their sword or arm fails them and will ask for help if necessary to obtain victory. By instilling these characteristics solely in Beowulf, the poet suggests that there are very few people like Beowulf, who generate courage from their inner strength and use the fallible sword s a secondary source of power, and who have the strength to rely on others.
However, it serves as an ideal for mankind to adopt. Beowulf calls everyone to be a hero, to live fearless, to be persistent, and to rely on inner strength or the strength of others. Beowulf highlights that people lack self-confidence and strength to relentlessly defeat the enemies present in their lives. This suggests that many people have lost touch with their inner self as a result of focusing on external objects for protection instead of generating inner strength to face their fears with courage.