Beowulf and The Seafarer In a comparison between “Beowulf” and “The Seafarer” one finds two contrasting beliefs in fate and the sea from the story’s main characters. Beowulf is resigned to fate and is humble before the force of the sea, while The Seafarer is fearful of the powers of fate and the sea and is unwilling to accept them.
Though the actions and thoughts of Beowulf give him a god-like appearance in the story he believes that God and fate work together. He boasts of his encounters with devilish sea creatures saying, “I treated them politely,/ Offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword.” This strong statement reveals Beowulf’s divine and invulnerable self-confidence. To Beowulf, “Fate saves/ The living when they drive away death by themselves.” Beowulf is compelled to observe fate but does not feel it should completely rule him. He allows fate to direct his life, but not govern his actions. A display of Beowulf’s belief in fate is evident when he says, “Fate will unwind as it must.” Meaning, there is a master plan to the world with which he must live. When Unferth taunts him, Beowulf replies by questioning Unferth’s manhood and makes a fool of him in front of everyone. Boasting, “Neither he nor you can match me.” Though he tests fate, he has a more fearful respect for the sea. He knows its power from his race with Brecca. The seas were dark and harsh, but he remained humble and ventured through the murky waters because of this respect.
As a contrast to Beowulf’s beliefs, the Seafarer feels that fate destroys all and takes everything away. Fate is an all mighty power to him and no man can control it, no matter what he does. “”Fate is stronger/ And God mightier than any man’s mind.” This shows the Seafarers fearful surrender to these unearthly powers. “Wondering what fate has willed and will do.” Yet with all this fear and sorrow he does not accept it, but rather wills it away. He is afraid of its power and ability to be stronger than any man. Though he fears fate he is ambivalent toward the sea. This indecisiveness is so overpowering it has taken over his life. While ashore, safe and secure visiting his favorite mead hall, he longs for the embrace of the sea.
A Comparison of Runes and Magic in Beowulf and in Anglo-Saxon England
Runes and Magic in Beowulf and in Anglo-Saxon England
In the Old English poem Beowulf we see the mention of runes, which were used with connotations of magic or charms. Examining evidence from historic times, we find that early Englishmen were fully conversant with the Germanic runic alphabet and that runes did have special connotations.
In Beowulf the hero is in deadly combat with Grendel’s mother in the mere. He is at the point of being killed by the monster when suddenly God shows to him the presence of a special sword nearby on the wall. Beowulf seizes the giant weapon and kills the monster. Then:
had begun to melt in battle-bloody icicles;
that it melted away was as much a marvel
as ice itself when the Father unwinds
the bonds of frost, loosens the freezing
chains of water, Who keeps the power
of times and seasons; He is the true God. . . .
Already the sword had melted away,
its blade had burned up; too hot the blood
of the poisonous spirit who had died within. . . .
the wave-sword burned up, quenched in that blood. . . .
then the strange gold hilt was placed in the hand
of the gray-bearded king, wise war-leader
old work of giants; after the fall of devils
it came into the hands of the lord of the Dane-men,
from magic smithies; once the fierce spirit,
long God’s opponent, guilty creature,
and his murderous mother had quitted this world,
it came to the power of the best overlord
between the two seas, of all world-rulers
in Scandanavia who gave good treasures.
Hrothgar spoke, examined the hilt,
great treasure of old. There was engraved
the origin of past strife, when the flood drowned,
the pouring ocean killed the race of giants. . . .
On its bright gold facings there were also runes
set down in order, engraved, inlaid,
which told for whom the sword was first worked,
its hair-keen edges, twisted gold
scrolled in the hilt, the woven snake-blade(1605ff).
Chickering in his “Commentary” would have us believe that the melting sword is a reference to patristic theology, to St.