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A Comparison of Fierceness in Beowulf and in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Fierceness in Beowulf and in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Is fierceness mentioned only in Beowulf or is it an element common also to this famous Icelandic saga? Is fierceness described the same way as in Beowulf?

The Anglo-Saxons prior to 1000AD were as a race fierce. They possessed great courage. Beowulf reflects their fierceness and courage in a variety of ways. Beowulf complains to Unferth in the Danish court: “Grendel would never have done such horrors … if you were so fierce as you suppose.” The hero, who had earlier killed nine sea monsters, opted to face Grendel in mortal combat WITHOUT sword or shield or the assistance of others: “but I shall seize my enemy in my hand grip and fight.” Later when the hero’s sword failed against Grendel’s Mother, he remained “resolute” and seized her by the shoulder and fought till victory came. Thus “Beowulf, fierce in war, received the cup from Wealhtheow.” Later, the hero went up against and killed Daghrefin, the Huga champion, without weapons: “Nor was my sword his death, but my hand grasp broke his bone-house, tore out his surging heart.” After fifty years of kingship, when the fire dragon molested his people, Beowulf, the old man, did not lose his fierceness; he was “ready to die … life from body parted … I am brave in mind.” In the final battle brave Wiglaf showed his own fierceness and advanced to help his lord who was englulfed in flames: “With him I will embrace the fire … he doesn’t deserve to suffer alone.”

The Anglo-Saxons were also fierce in the sense that they delighted in slaughter. George Clark in Beowulf states regarding the epic: “Swords, shields, coats of ring-mail, helmets with sourmounted boar figures . . . all furnish the poem and are …

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… husband King Hjorvard to rebel against King Hrolf. With her magic King Hrolf was killed along with his forces. So the story ends on a sad note due to the fierceness of a diabolical queen.

In conclusion, the type of fierceness mentioned in Beowulf is common also to this famous Icelandic saga, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. Additionally, there are other types of fierceness in the latter associated with maiden-warriors and with the use of magic.


Alexander, Michael, translator. The Earliest English Poems. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, translated by Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

Daniel Defoe and Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe was an extraordinary man. Although he never had the benefit of a university education, he spoke six languages and was able to read even more. His curriculum included having been a government spy, a shopkeeper, and a journalist. As the latter, he was employed by both major parties. Of course, serving two lord is impossible, so after he got into trouble with both of these parties, he turned to writing as another means of living. The first major difference between Defoe’s work and most other books dating from this time is that Robinson Crusoe is really entertaining, quite exhilarating and at times even amusing to read. This is in sharp contrast to most contemporary novels which stuck to a Spartan diet of unreality and dullness, their only charm lying in the complete strangeness to anything human. Basically, most stories at the time were chronicles of wonderful, magical events, not even attempting to resemble human life at all. Robinson Crusoe was one of the first few books to have characters with whom a reader could actually identify. Therefore, it was very popular and this idea of recognition of oneself in a character in a book is nowadays only discussed when it fails, implying that it now has become a natural ‘recipe’ for writing any book.

Most of today’s popsongs become ‘hits’ due to a hook; a melodic chorus or instrumental piece which basically does not need to convey any meaning whatsoever. Its only function is to keep the listener listening. Defoe also had grasped the idea of a hook. Only his is fairly bigger, namely about 10 pages, than your average popsong-hook, which contains 4-5 words, if any… For sometimes the lyrics are degraded to a repeated monosyllabic sound. Defoe put this theory into practice in Robinson Crusoe. First, he has Robinson’s father lecture him on `the middle station’ which is apparently `the best state in the world.’ Of course, this little section is only needed to charm his middle-class audience. By refusing his father’s ideas, Robinson already seems like an ungrateful son in the eyes of the reader.

Defoe adds more Christian morals as Robinson sinks deeper into sin. He drinks his repentance away after his first encounter with a storm, he refuses to listen to the captain who tells him ‘you ought to take this for a plain and visible token that you are not to be a seafaring man.

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