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Compare and contrast the role of women in Beowulf and Grendel

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As an epic tale of battle and heroic, the poem Beowulf and its spin-off novel Grendel are both literatures that detail characters and their deeds. Throughout the poem Beowulf, the author talks about men and their physical strength and appearances. On the other hand however, women are barely mentioned at all and are portrayed as weak and have none of the qualities that the men have. This paper will mainly focus on two of the most important female figures in Beowulf and Grendel-Wealtheow and Grendels mother. Theses two characters have many similarities and differences between and in some way is a foil or an alter-ego of each other.

From the poem Beowulf, the readers are able to gains a clear insight into the Anglo-Saxon view of women and what their role in society is. Back in the 11th centuries when Beowulf was first written, it was not unusual for kings to marry their daughter off as a token of peace and submission. In the novel Grendel, we learn that Wealhtheow’s brother, the King of Helmings had married her off to King Hrothgar in order to promote peace and stability between the two nations. Furthermore, in her very first appearance in the poem, the readers were able to get a clear demonstration of what her duties as the queen is. As a queen, Wealhtheow has a role to fulfill and she was able to do it with grace and dignity.

She welcomes the guests, offers food and drinks and creates a peaceful harmony in the mead-hall, which was evident when Unferth was been scorned by other for killing his brothers and the queen was able to calm him down with just words. In many ways, Wealhtheow, the queen of the Danes, represents what a perfect hostess and devoted wife should be like. However, it was in the novel Grendel that Queen Wealththeow is described in much greater detail and serves a further purpose. In the novel, we learn that she was very beautiful The queen smiled. Impossibly, like roses blooming in the heart of December (104). Because of her, we were able to gain insight to a part Grendel that is not present in Beowulf, his desire for human emotions such as lust. My chest was full of painbring down the night with my howl of rage, but I kept still. She was beautiful, as innocent as dawn on winter hills. She tore me apart as once the shapers song had done. (100).

Just as Wealhtheow is beautiful, kind and gracious, Grendels mother is quite the opposite. As an alter-ego to Wealhtheow, Grendels mother is an anti-hostess, far from graceful, ugly and bent on vengeance. She does not greet guests, but kill them instead. In the novel Grendel, we learn that she has a body full of fur and odor, My mothers fur is bristly, her flesh is loose and smells of wild pig and fish (29). Her main role in the story was to be a strong monster whom Beowulf must slay. However, that being said, there is strong evidence that she has a few human characteristics that mirrors Wealhtheow. She cares deeply about her son and must have cried after his death.

As a foil to Wealhtheow, Grendel’s mother is portrayed as nothing but a combative monster with little human characteristics that the beautiful and graceful Wealhtheow have. In a society dominated by male superiority, these two female characters played a minor role, but are nevertheless important to the storyline

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