Monsters who show our flaws
The English word “monster” is ultimately derived from the old French word (monster) from the Latin word monstrum which can mean portend, sign, or omen.
The word monstrum in turn derives from the root word monere which means “warn”. It also gives us our word “monitor” one who reminds and guides. These monsters can serve as a kind of mirror reflecting back to us important insights to the human condition.
After knowing this, it might mean that the monsters in Beowulf could serve the purpose as the mirror of humanity. There are three main monsters in Beowulf: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon. All three of these monsters had very different reasons for why they attacked the humans. It was not that they were necessarily provoked but they were. The reasons they were provoked are the distinctions between humans and monsters. The monsters brought to life a greater fear and a more significant story a bitter neighbor, angry mother filled with revenge, and a greedy person. Because they were more lethal, they were dangerous monsters.
This is when the hero walks in. The little human race. The human race is not technically the best at anything: physically, athletically, emotionally. But they are pretty good with their brains. While emotions can run high with humans, they are still analytical. The only real thing the humans have on their side is determination and being proud of being human unlike hell beasts which only care about their feelings.
This brings us to Grendel. Grendel was a hell beast who loved to sleep in his cave. But what disturbs him was the sound of celebration in Heorot. The humans feasting and just celebrating life bothered him heavily. It bothered him so much that he started attacking the Mead Hall and killing people. This caused a great stir among the nations surrounding the Mead Hall. This is when Beowulf enters in. What the story about Grendel tells us is that sometimes humans act before they think or do not think about the consequences of their actions. An example of this is after killing Grendel the hell beast, his mother comes to seek revenge. Beowulf was always lead by something such as fate or God etc. Beowulf was led to fight Grendel without weapons and it just so happens that Grendel is immune to weapons. What would have been maybe just an idiotic decision for Beowulf to not use weapons ended up turning into his favor since Grendel was immune to weapons.
Now comes Grendel’s mother. When Grendel’s arm gets ripped off by Beowulf, he runs back home and dies. Then Grendel’s mother is revenge stricken, full of grief, and angry at the puny human who killed her son. This is odd because they are monsters. She seeks revenge and she just wants to kill humans after Beowulf killed Grendel. This brings us to revenge. Revenge is not the best idea in any circumstance. It is actually always a bad idea. Why? Because she ends up getting killed by Beowulf. Even humans go after revenge a lot and nobody ever learns that killing the person who killed somebody close to you is never going to bring them back or make you happy. It will not. People who are revenge stricken are trying to fill the hole in their heart that has been left by the person who has passed. But revenge will not fill that hole, it will probably just make the hole grow. I speak about Grendel’s mother having a heart, which I highly doubt was the case, because she is evil and ruthless and now dead because of Beowulf.
Lastly, the greedy old dragon who lay asleep surrounded by treasure. He was not doing anything with the treasure. He just loved being around the gold. So, when a slave steals a golden cup, the dragon literally freaks out. He starts burning towns, killing people, going crazy for one small golden chalice. After thinking about it, he probably has another of the same chalice. When Beowulf, at the end, fights the dragon he is an old man. But, he was prideful and did not think that he needed an army and things might have turned out different for him if he had brought an army. Nobody knows what could have been though. This time God is not on his side and he fails and dies. He gets abandoned by his companions after he was struck down. But there is only one person who stays with him to fight. That person is Wiglaf. He realizes what a good king Beowulf has been and he would rather die with him then live as a coward. Before Beowulf dies, he slays the dragon but loses his life. A long life lived by serving his people and defeating monsters. One of the flaws they encounter with the dragon shows that man is mortal and because of man’s mortality people seek self-preservation above all else. This is caused by the fear and anxiety of imminent death.
In conclusion, everybody has flaws. But in Beowulf we are showed the fatal flaws of everyone. The flaws that cause the monsters doom and eventually Beowulf’s death. Do I think that literary monsters can show us our weaknesses? Yes. I think they can and I believe we can grow and learn from it.