Evil is defined as something that causes harm, destruction, suffering, and brings misfortune. Evil is also an adjective as which it is used to describe something wicked or morally wrong. Good is the direct contrast of evil. Good, also used both as a noun and adjective, represents something positive, benevolent, and beneficial. In the English language there are no two words with such great depth in the contrast of their definitions. History has found numerous ways to represent all good and evil. Reading the majority of literature, one almost always finds a contrast of good and evil. The Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, masters the depiction and symbolism of good and evil forces.
Unlike the majority of words that exist today in common language, good and evil have no overlapping qualities or similarities. For this reason there is a constant struggle between what is good, and all that is evil. In Beowulf, the character Grendel represents evil. Grendel brought harm, danger, death, and misfortune to the Danes. Emerging from the shadowy marshes in the darkness of night, Grendel raised havoc in the nearby kingdom of Herot. Grendel set out nightly in a murderous rage! Rampaging through the halls of Herot, Grendel eradicated the lives of the Danes. As Grendel’s merciless nights of slashing, slicing, and terrorizing the people of Herot continued, he ruthlessly tallied his victims, dozens at a time. Herot grew more and more deserted as the amount of homicides increased. Referred to as the shadow of death, Grendel offered neither truce nor any salvation. Hrothgar, king of Herot, remained in grief for twelve mournful years. Bloodthirsty, Grendel ferociously stalked Hrothgar’s warriors, for now Grendel was the villainous ruler of Herot.
The shadow of death, emerging from the darkness of night, relished his salvage war. Grendel was “spawned in slime,” and, “conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain.” Banished by God, Grendel did not dare touch Hrothgar’s blessed throne. God’s protection rested upon his throne, and Grendel could never know the love of God. Grendel is Beowulf’s symbolic figure of all evil.
Upon hearing the news of Herot’s haunted nights came Beowulf, the depiction of good. Traveling from a far away land with his selection of men, Beowulf set out to defeat Grendel. Beowulf allowed the sea to lead him and his men across the ocean to the Danish shore. Upon reaching the Danish shore Beowulf explained his mission to the alter watchman who courteously lead him and his men to Herot. In Herot he was presented to King Hrothgar, to whom he asked for the permission to carry out his mission. Hrothgar granted Beowulf the permission he requested and provided places for his men to stay. Next a celebration took place, in honor of Beowulf’s mission. Laughter and cheer erupted from the Geats and Danes. Right there is an example of Beowulf, the symbol of good, bringing contentment to the lives of many. Following the celebration Hrothgar’s men retired to bed while Beowulf and his many took their place in Herot. Beowulf promised to fight Grendel without the use of weapons and leave fate’s decision of death and defeat up to God. Pretending to be asleep, Beowulf and his men were prepared for the coming of Grendel.
Grendel moved quickly through the night’s mist, ready to bring the essence of death to the still nights air. Unsuspecting of what he would soon face; Grendel entered the halls of Herot. His heart danced with dark pleasure as his eyes peered to the rows of “sleeping” warriors. Snatching the first Geat, Grendel sucked the life out of the soldier with his powerful jaws. Unsuspecting, Grendel moved to his next victim. “Victim” so he thought. Grasping at Beowulf, evil met its greatest force of contrast. Beowulf instantly “awoke”, seizing Grendel. It was at that point when Grendel realized nowhere on earth had he opposed a man of such strength. He attempted to flee to the safety of his haunted, but Beowulf grasped at Grendel preventing the monster’s flight. Grendel fought for his freedom, but freedom he failed to gain. As the enraged battle of good vs. evil erupted, the halls of Herot shook with terror. Evil had met its defeat, as “hell’s captive” remained captured in Beowulf’s arms. Grendel’s monstrous strength was weaker than that of Beowulf’s, just as evil is weaker than good. With his body torn apart and to pieces, Grendel gained freedom from his offender, stumbling to the marsh where he met his dark fate. The sorrow of Herot’s helpless people could then come to an end.
Good betters life by bringing joy, security, and contentment etc. to it. Beowulf is a great depiction and symbol of good because he brought all these qualities to the lives of the Danes. Beowulf is harbinger of all good. Beowulf is a hero of strength, a hero of courage, and a hero of the heart.
In the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, Beowulf, the symbol and depiction of good, conquered Grendel, the monstrous representation of evil. The battle that occurred amongst Grendel and Beowulf is a vivid example of the struggle between good and evil. Good, having defeated evil, brought peace to life. For these reasons, among many, the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, masters the depiction, symbolism, and struggles, of good and evil.
By Stacy Ann Padula 2000