Beowulf Painting: Analysis
The epic poem Beowulf includes many horrifying beasts, strong heroes and great battles. This watercolor painting symbolizes traits of the epic poem and of the main character, Beowulf. In the poem, Beowulf experiences many obstacles and by the end faces a tragic death. A tower is built in honor of Beowulf for being a brave warrior and for defending Herot from horrid beasts. The tower on the right of the painting depicts this part of the epic poem. Mountains, water and the sun illustrated in this painting also represent important aspects of the poem. Finally the different colors of the painting can illustrate many things about how brighter colors in the water, sun and bottom of the tower signify happiness.
The tower described at the end of Beowulf was built in honor of Beowulf. In the beginning of the poem, Beowulf is called by Hrothgar to defeat the terrifying beast, Grendel. Through a difficult fight, Beowulf defeats Grendel and Grendel’s mother. Although Beowulf gains great fame and glory through his winning battles against evil, he is no match for a fire breathing dragon and is defeated. A tower is built for him for his glory and fearlessness. Glory in this epic poem is considered a great achievement of warriors also. In this painting I have depicted the tower looking over the sea and glowing in the light of the sun which can signify the greatness of Beowulf’s accomplishments. In Beowulf, the author describes the cremation of Beowulf and the people’s reactions in these words: “The bearers brought/Their belovéd lord, their glorious king,/And weeping laid him high on the wood./Then the warriors began to kindle that greatest/Of funeral fires; smoke rose/Above the flames, black and thick, and while the wind blew and the fire /Roared they wept…” (3140-3148). This quote explains how people thought Beowulf was almost like a hero by weeping over the loss of a great warrior. The epithet, people’s “glorious king” shows how Beowulf was not just a warrior and leader but a king to the people in Geatland and a protector. The tower is built for this purpose and illustrated the way it was described, as tall in this painting. The height of the tower represents how it will always look over the ships lost at sea and guide them through any harsh conditions they will endure. The tower acts as a lighthouse for ships and represents the legacy of Beowulf by how the windows on the tower show how the tower can even look almost like a lighthouse. Rising high above the sea almost matching the height of the mountains, it portrays how much respect and honor people gave Beowulf for giving up his life to defend Herot. The strong building can almost withstand anything which the sea might throw at it. It oversees ships and guides them along the sea so they can reach their destination of reaching Herot. A description of the tower in Beowulf reads: “Then the Geats built the tower, as Beowulf/ Had asked, strong and tall, so sailors/ Could find it from far and wide…treasures they’d taken were left there, too…” (3156-3165). In this quote it is evident that the tower is described as strong and tall, so sailors can find it from far off. For this reason, the tower in my painting is as large and overlooks the sea. Another time: The poet states the glory Beowulf has gotten from his people says, “…twelve of the bravest Geats/Rode their horses around the tower,/Telling their sorrow, telling stories/Of their dead king and his greatness, his glory, Praising him for heroic deeds, for a life/As noble as his name…Beowulf’s followers/Rode, mourning their belovéd leader,/Crying that no better kind had ever/Lived…” (3170-3181). This excerpt from Beowulf again explains how the people of Geatland looked upon Beowulf to protect them and how Beowulf was an important part of Geatland, now gone with people grieving from the loss of a strong man.
The water and sun painted in this watercolor illustrate many ideas from the epic poem Beowulf. The sun implies the notion that when the tower looks out over the sea, the sun shines above the tower as if protecting it with its vibrant beams of light similar to the glory of Beowulf gleaming across the land. The sun can also give the sense of power. The great rays shining over the terrain make the surroundings seem to flourish. Water in the painted image can explain the end of Beowulf’s legacy, gently flowing across the shoreline like Beowulf dying peacefully and being remembered for his great accomplishments. Since Beowulf by the end of this epic poem has gotten rid of the beasts terrorizing Herot and Geatland, the water can resemble peace and harmony across the land of Herot. The water also suggests a second mention of the tower, reminding one of the influence or determination of Beowulf.
The mountains in this watercolor piece reflect a landscape around Beowulf’s tower almost as if blocking any harmful things from getting to the tower. The beasts try to surpass the strength of Beowulf but do not succeed. Those beasts include Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon trying to defeat Beowulf in the epic poem but are not successful. Although Beowulf himself is defeated by the dragon, Wiglaf, one of Beowulf’s men defeats the dragon for Beowulf. From the tower looking over the sea, grass grows up towards the mountains. One can view green grass as thriving and living and the mountains representing the beasts in Beowulf. Therefore, these two interpretations put together mean the grass around the tower extends over onto the mountains like the strength of Beowulf extending over the dark and vicious beasts. In addition to this, the mountains can give the positive example of Beowulf’s glory reaching higher and higher, guarding the land of Herot from any harmful beings.
The tall tower overlooking the sea, the powerful sun, the dark, rising mountains and the flowing water all represent important aspects of the poem Beowulf. Beowulf leaves a lasting mark on the people of Herot and of Geatland. Hrothgar looked to him first to defeat the monsters terrorizing the people. Beowulf never hesitated nor thought to back down from the challenge of defending the people. This great tower will stand to guide sailors, to make to make people remember who Beowulf was, and to show how brave and strong a warrior Beowulf was with his lasting courage.
Beowulf. New York: Signet, 1999.
Thanks to Ms. Dodge for giving me the opportunity to make a Beowulf Project for the Beowulf unit and write this analysis.
Thanks to my parents for giving me the chance to come to Ellis, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to make a Beowulf project and write this analysis.