The Epic Beowulf is a Story
The epic Beowulf is a story of a supernatural hero purging supernatural enemies from the world. This standard concept alone is simple enough, however, the symbolism is hidden in many ways. One of the major under-the-surface reflections of the story is that Hrothgar and Beowulf are written to be the same person, only as two split personalities that contrast from each other.
Writers and storytellers tend to position themselves within the tales they pass on. As egotistical as it is, there are flaws in this process. The legacy they wish to pass on is imperatively grand or heroic, however, there is always a character that reflects who they actually are. In this epic poem, the storyteller imagined themself as Beowulf, the man who could defeat any beast that harmed any village. This character is brave, heroic, young, and will achieve any goal he puts himself to. Hrothgar, however, is quite the opposite, as he is old, weak, and helpless. The author, while creatively coming up with such a heroic fictional character, positioned his true character within Hrothgar.
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How it works
It is human nature to justify one’s self-concept. The storyteller imagined themself to be as supernatural as Beowulf, because the reality of being Hrothgar was hard for them to be comfortable with. This inner justification is a process of cognitive dissonance, where a reality sets one’s mind into a dissonant state, so they try to find a way to justify it. The writer clearly knew themself, but the idea of being the person that could not protect their own village in their own story is not something they’d want to pass down. The justification here is that the author wanted to be bigger and better than reality, as it is how they wanted to be and imagined themself to be.
Hrothgar is the true form of the writer, and Beowulf is what the storyteller aspires to be. The legacy that Beowulf has passed down is exactly what they wanted to be thought of as. Beowulf is the part of the writer that is the best of the world, and Hrothgar is the reality of weakness and helplessness within the author; the difference between the characters can be seen as a split of the writer’s personality, from imagination to reality.
Although speculation, it is likely that the storyteller is portrayed twice within the story, with the contrasting personalities. Many forms of writers from many forms of literature put themselves into the exact same position in the exact same process. People are not able to completely extrapolate a character without at least implementing some similar idiosyncrasy. In this particular example , aside from the too-many-cooks legion of anonymous authors and translations, the writer gave out a lot of what they wanted to be, and in parallel created the reality of who they are, which soon became the development of Beowulf and Hrothgar. The story is not only a reflection of the author’s aspirations and imagination, but also a derivative of their dim reality.