Fairy Tale vs Epic Poem

Beowulf. By Destini Riley

Fairy Tale elements

Fairy tale elements like magic and mythical creatures also make Beowulf more exciting and appealing. Such as:
  • Beowulf who has extreme and unrealistic strength. ""Well, friend Unferth, you have had your say about Breca and me. But it was mostly beer that was doing the talking. The truth is this: when the going was heavy in those high waves,I was the strongest swimmer of all." (529-534)

  • Dragon. “When he comes to me I mean to stand, not run from his shooting Flames, stand till fate decides Which of us wins. My heart is firm, My hands calm: I need no hot Words.”

  • A man eating beast (Grendel). "Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend Grendel who haunted the moors, the wild Marshes, and made his home in a hell. Not hell but hell on earth. He was spawned in that slime Of Cain, murderous creatures banished By God, punished forever for the crime Of Abel's death."

There are many layers of meaning within Beowulf


  • The Golden Torque

The necklace that Wealhtheow gives Beowulf is a symbol of the bond of loyalty between her people, Beowulf, and the Geats. “Hygelac the Geat, grandson of Swerting, wore this neck-ring on his last raid; at bay under his banner, he defended the booty, treasure he had won. Fate swept him away because of his proud need to provoke a feud with the Frisians. He fell beneath his shield, in the same gem-crusted, kingly gear he had worn when he crossed the frothing wave-vat. So the dead king fell into Frankish hands. They took his breast-mail, also his neck-torque, and punier warriors plundered the slain when the carnage ended; Geat corpses covered the field.” (1202-1214)

  • The Banquet
The great banquet at Heorot after the defeat of Grendel represents the restoration of order and harmony to the Danish people. "Be acclaimed for strength, for kindly guidance to these two boys, and your bounty will be sure." (1219-1220). Heorot, as the largest mead-hall in the world, symbolized the might and power of the Spear-Danes under Hrothgar.

  • Water/ The sea

There are a bunch of important scenes involving bodies of water in Beowulf like the dangerous sea-crossing that Beowulf and his warriors undertake to go from Geatland to Denmark; the swimming contest and the sea monsters they had to fight. "Order my troop to construct a barrow on a headland on the coast, after my pyre has cooled. It will loom on the horizon at Hronesness and be a reminder among my people – so that in coming times crews under sail will call it Beowulf's Barrow, as they steer ships across the wide and shrouded waters." (2802-2808)


1. Sin:

Sin is mentioned numerous times in the story and is the leading factor in evil or troubling times for Beowulf. Grendel commits the most grievous sin of brutally murdering the Danes, but there are other humans who also sin in this epic such as jealousy, and pride.

2. The Mead Hall

Hrothgar’s great hall of Heorot, and Hygelac’s hall in Geatland both oth function as important cultural institutions. They provide light and warmth, food and drink, and celebration to the people. This is a motif because it’s a recurring structure that can help develop and inform the major themes.


  1. There is evidence that Grendel and Beowulf share similar personalities when it approaches to battling. In his battles, Beowulf displays his supernatural strength. In his fight against Grendel, he insists in fighting without the aid of weapons. This can be interpreted that Beowulf can be as monstrous and bestial as Grendel or that he is the “good/moral” character.
  2. Beowulf can be interpreted as being arrogant and extremely boastful or as a polite, loyal, courteous, brave, generous and prideful hero. Beowulf loves to boast to others of his battles against the sea monsters and other harmful monsters and sometimes interpreted negatively for only wanting the glory and riches after defeating them.

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Moral Meaning?

Beowulf was given immense strength and bravery, and he did not use it just to become famous, he did it save the Danes from frightful monsters. Beowulf fought honestly without weapon because Grendel did not have a weapon, therefore, Beowulf would be shamed if he slew Grendel with a sword. Therefore the moral meaning of the poem is not only good vs. evil or good always triumph over evil, but fighting fair.