Beowulf Project: Dragon, Lighthouse, Rings
Beowulf is a great epic poem. There are so many symbols and objects that mean more than what the plain eye can see. The entire epic poem of Beowulf has much imagery and is really well translated and written. For my Beowulf project I choose to do a lighthouse, dragon, and rings which have much symbolism. The lighthouse is taken from the second half of the book along with the dragon. The three rings relate to the entire book.
The lighthouse refers to the death scene of Beowulf. He wants the people to construct this building by the water with a light that will guide sailors, which will make him remember. “Have the brave Geats build me a tomb,/ When the funeral flames have burned me, and build it/ Here, at the water’s edge, high/ On this spit of land, so sailors can see/ This tower, and remember my name, and call it/ Beowulf’s tower, and boats in the darkness/ And mist, crossing the sea will know it/” (2801-2808). Beowulf indirectly asks the Geats to build a lighthouse in his honor. In some ways a reader may perceive him as arrogant for wanting the whole world to know him and for the Geats to build an entire tower for him, but for other readers it is simply the way kings lived back then and it was expected for them to want to be remembered. The white on the lighthouse signifies the purification not only of Hrothgars’ mead hall but also the purging of the lake in which Grendel and his mother lived in. The white symbolizes cleanliness and purity. The black symbolizes the evil from Grendel and his mother, but also the darkness and the contrast of good is light and dark is bad. The yellow represents the sun and its light but also the light that the lighthouse would give off, light is good and dark is bad. The blue indicates the water which the lighthouse is near. This lighthouse ultimately represents Beowulf who will then always be remembered because of its size. The lighthouse will guide sailors just as Beowulf had been guided to the land of the Danes.
The dragon is from the scene where the slaves take the golden cup but also the scene where Beowulf dies. This quote shows the anger and how infuriated the dragon really is: “Vomiting fire and smoke, the dragon/ Burned down their homes…the anger monster/ Meant to leave nothing alive” (2313-2315). The dragon has a great deal of fury and rage in which he is letting himself burn down innocent people’s houses; he does not seem to care. The dragon is angry and is killing everything in the same sense as Grendel. The dragon is also protecting what is his. That is what Hrothgar is doing Hrothgar is protecting his people. The red suggests the blood this is through out the book with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, the Dragon, and Beowulf. The red also represent the anger and hatred that Grendel had for Hrothgar and Grendel’s mother had for Beowulf. The yellow indicates the sun but also the contrast of light is good and dark is evil. The yellow also implies the gold and jewels that were in the tower in which the dragon was guarding. The black symbolizes the hate that the dragon had for people and also the contrast of good and evil.
The three connected rings represent Hrothgar, Beowulf, and Higlac. Beowulf is talking to Hrothgar, “I trust Higlac;/ Our king is young, but if I need his help/ To better help you, to lend you our strength,/ Our battle-sharp spears, to shield you and honor you/ As you deserve, I know his words and his deeds/ Will support me” (1830-1835). This passage definitely shows the friendship and loyalty between these two men. In this Beowulf quote is saying whenever Hrothgar and his kingdom need Higlac’s help Beowulf will ready to give Hrothgar a hand and whatever Hrothgar needs just ask and it will be given to him. This is actually a really big support because sometimes two countries are enemies and this is great bond for two countries. The center ring is Beowulf; he is connected to Hrothgar the king because he helped in a time of need and became friends with Hrothgar. Beowulf is also connected to Higlac, his king who took care of him and sent him to help Hrothgar will with whom he is also friends with. Hrothgar and Higlac are connected through Beowulf and have an alliance through him. This means that Hrothgar and Higlac are friends. This is given if they are friends to make a stronger connection. Also the rings signify ring giving; kings would give his thanes gifts which are represented by rings. Ring giving also symbolizes the friendship between the thanes and the king. The rings also represent friendship and how Beowulf and Hrothgar were connected to each other as well as Beowulf with Higlac.
Loyalty and trust, anger and evil, devotion and hate, purity and good, hate are all words that can describe characters feelings in this epic Beowulf. These words are then used to describe the clay works that represents parts from this epic and describe the symbolism that the colors and shapes have. Beowulf is a very good poem in two ways: first because some scenes are direct, the reader can understand them instantly; second, because other scenes are more complex, the reader can search for their symbolism.
Beowulf. Trans. Burton Raffel. New York: Penguin Group, 1963.