Beowulf @ Ellis
Beowulf Project Analysis
In the epic poem, Beowulf, two of themes are the reoccurring image of hands, and the connection of characters and their fates. A lot of characters have an impact on the story. The project shows an image of hands which are connected together by gold chains. Each hand symbolizes a different character that is connected to Beowulf’s story. The piece shows how all of the characters in Beowulf’s story connect to his fate.
The first part of the piece is the dark, blue background. This background encompasses all of the hands, or all of the characters. The background, which is all dark, symbolizes the darkness that surrounds all of the characters. No matter whether the character is categorized good or evil; they are still surrounded by darkness; otherwise, there would be no use for the heroes. They are all constantly in fear of something, whether it is a monster terrorizing a village or a hero waiting to kill them. This shows relevance to the poem, because it shows that all of the characters are connected because they all fear something.
Some of the hands are surrounded by white specks of light. These specks symbolize the hand of God, which is mentioned several times in the poem. An example of this is in fitt 10: “Let God in His wisdom/Extend His hand where He wills, reward/ Whom He chooses!” (685-687). God is able to reach wherever he wants to and protect those he wants to. The hands that are surrounded by the white stars are the characters that are protected by God or fate. Even though all of the characters are surrounded by darkness, some have the light or hand of God leading them in their life’s choices. This shows relevance to the poem, because the hand of God is one of the important players in the poem.
In the center of the picture there is a large, human hand. This hand symbolizes the character of Beowulf. The placement of this hand is directly in the center. The placement symbolizes how Beowulf is in the center of all of the surrounding characters’ fates. The hand is significantly larger than all of the other hands, which shows how he is stronger than the other characters. To fight Grendel, he uses his hands alone. This shows how much faith and strength Grendel has in his hands: “my hands/alone shall fight for me, struggle for life/against the monster” (438-440). The hand of Beowulf also seems to be older and more worn. This symbolizes how he has gone through many trials in his life, and even though they make him tired, he continues to fight. This hand shows relevancy to the poem, Beowulf, because it shows how Beowulf goes through many events that affect and connect him to other characters.
Under the hand of Beowulf, there is a small, feminine looking hand. This hand is the hand of Welthow, Hrothgar’s wife. The hand is small and delicate, yet shows a type of strength that doesn’t come through physically fighting; it is stiff and sure of itself. This hand is cupped as if it were holding something. This symbolizes how Welthow holds all of the men together by peaceful means. During the feast, she carries around a cup for all of the men to drink from: “Accept this cup (1169)”; this unites them even though they are all from different places. Welthow’s hand is under the other good characters’ hands because she is ready to support them when they fall. Welthow’s hand is not particularly muscular, because she does not do any fighting, but is much gentler. This is relevant to the story because Welthow supports the group of men, and her hand is strong even if it is not physically strong.
To the upper-left of Beowulf’s hand there is another male, human hand. This hand signifies Wiglaf, the man who helps Beowulf during his final fight with the dragon. This hand is linked to Beowulf’s because of his connections with Beowulf’s death. Wiglaf’s hand is slightly white and transparent; this signifies how Wiglaf is still trying to find himself. He isn’t quite sure of who he is, and if he is the right person to lead a kingdom. This is relevant to the poem, because by helping Beowulf, Wiglaf secures his fate as the next leader.
To the upper-right of Beowulf there is a green hand, which signifies Unferth. Unferth is connected to Beowulf through his relations with him while Beowulf is present at Hrothgar’s court. The green, symbolizes his jealousy of Beowulf for being able to get rid of Grendel. Unferth admits to being too afraid to go up against Grendel and is annoyed at the fact that Beowulf is so sure that he can kill Grendel. The hand is also not whole; this shows how Unferth is still trying to understand himself and his feelings. He shows this when he forgives Beowulf and changes his opinion by giving Beowulf his sword. This is relevant to the poem, because the hand shows how Unferth was jealous and how his feelings affected how he reacted to other characters.
A gold chain, symbolizes not only the connection that the characters all have in each other’s lives, but the gold rings that the kings give them because of their courage and loyalty. Even though some of them never meet each other, they all play a role in each other’s fate. All of these characters are surrounded by the light of God because they are all favored by God or fate at some time in their life.
The last three hands symbolize the evil characters in Beowulf. They are not connected to the other characters with gold chains because even though they are connected in fate, they are not connected in friendship.
The hand in the lower-left corner, symbolizes the hand of Grendel’s mother, this is the hand of a she-wolf. The she-wolf is a prominent character in the poem, because she is closely tied to the fate of Beowulf and Hrothgar’s people. The hand is a glove, which symbolizes how Grendel’s mother uses her outside to scare and terrorize people. She hides her true inside, which is trying to get revenge for her son. The hand is not surrounded by the light of God because she and her ancestors have not been favored by God for a very long time. This is relevant to the poem because the fate of Grendel’s mother is connected to the fate of the other’s fate, because she starts to attack Hrothgar’s people.
The hand on the bottom-right symbolizes Grendel. This hand is one of a stereotypical monster. This hand and the other hands that are classified evil are all placed on the outside of the ring of hands connected by gold-chains. This is because they constantly assault the characters in the circle. Grendel’s hand is placed directly opposite of Wiglaf’s because even though Grendel has no direct contact with Wiglaf he still affects his fate by affecting Beowulf’s fate. Grendel’s hand is also not surrounded by the dots, which symbolize the hand of God. This is relevant to the poem because Grendel is a huge connection between the characters, without him many of the characters would never have met.
The last hand is that of the dragon. This hand is placed directly above Beowulf’s. This placement signifies how the upcoming fight with the dragon looms over Beowulf’s head until the fight is actually in motion. Beowulf knows that he must fight the dragon, and for the first time fate will be against him. The hand of the dragon is placed in a position so it appears to be ready to snatch Beowulf. The dragon knows that Beowulf will come to fight him and is waiting to kill Beowulf and all that he created. This is important because the dragon seals Beowulf’s destiny.
The project is relevant to the poem, Beowulf, because it shows popular theme of connection. In the project the theme of hands is shown through the many hands that symbolize the different characters that are important in the poem. Some of the characters are evil, while others are blessed by God, but they all have a role in the story. The theme of connection is shown through the gold-chains. This theme shows how all of the characters destinies are intertwined, even if they don’t meet each other. The project uses Adobe Photoshop in order to illustrate two of the reoccurring themes from the poem.
Beowulf.Trans. Burton Raffel. New York: Penguin, 1963.