Beowulf: Major symbols of Beowulf | Learning The Easy Way



Symbol is an important literary term in English literature. Symbol means, a thing which stands for something else. It combines an abstract concept and their literal meaning. It is basically an image. A symbol may be universal or private.

We find, so many symbols in Beowulf. Major symbols of Beowulf are in the following:
  • Heorot
  • The Cave
  • Grendel's Claw and Head
  • The Dragon's Treasure- Trove

Short discussion of Major symbols in Beowulf:

Heorot is Hrothgar's great mead-hall. It is also called "Hall of the Hart". It functions as both setting and symbol in this epic. Generally, it is a big place to drink. But symbolically it represents the achievements of the Scyldings, specifically Hrothgar and their level of civilization. 

Heorot is a home for the warriors. The warriors are sleep there. They functions as a seat of government. It is a place of light, warmth and joy, contrasting with Grendel's sick swamp as well as the dark and cold of winters in Scandinavia. Here, Hrothgar celebrates his victories. 

Heorot looks like a palace. It's towers are high which compared to a cliff.

Heorot is also symbolic because it is the setting of Beowulf's first great battle. Here, the Grendel is defeated by Beowulf.

The Cave:
The cave is a hidden place where Grendel and his mother hide from the world. It is symbolic of their lives as outcasts. 

They are descendants of Cain. As descendants of Cain, the are associated with sorcery, black magic, demons, ancient runes and hell itself. The Cave is the best place to do these works. When Grendels mother is able to fight Beowulf in the Cave, she gets more advantage.

It is a place of dark, evil, beneath, contrasting with Heorot. The cave also represents their heritage. 

Grendel's Claw and Head:
Beowulf had hoped to have an entire Grendel body to present to king Hrothgar after his battle with the ogre in Heorot.

The Dragon's Treasure- Trove:
The dragon's treasure-trove poignantly represents the vanity of human wishes. It also represents the mutability of time. 

The ancient treasures in the hoard once belonged to a regional true of warriors who were killed in battle some 300 years previously. Only one survivor, who is called the keeper of the rings. lived to hide the treasures in the barrow. The dragon's barrow holds wealth in abundance but no one can use those.

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