Beowulf Meeting The Shadow Essay Research Paper

Beowulf Meeting The Shadow Essay, Research Paper

The epic poem, Beowulf, depicts the battles and victories of the Anglo-Saxon warrior Beowulf, over man-eating monsters. The noble defender, Beowulf, constantly fought monsters and beasts to rid the land of evil. The most significant of these monsters, Grendel, represents Beowulf’s shadow, the Jungian archetype explored in the essay collection, Meeting the Shadow. The character Grendel portrays the fallen self, which will assert itself violently if neglected, and must be overcome throughout life.

The monster Grendel mirrors the part of our fallen state. Grendel’s ancestry leads to the biblical figure Cain, to which all evil can be attributed. Grendel represents the hidden evil of Beowulf. Rollo May describes this in his metaphor “the dragon or the Sphinx in me will often be clamoring and will sometimes be expressed”(174). Grendel represents Beowulf’s Sphinx, that lashes out on others. The name Grendel can be roughly translated to mean “grinder,” and “storm” (Raffel Burton 152). These terms come to life when he invades the Mead Hall. Grendel “Rushed angrily across the inlaid floor, snarling and fierce: his eyes gleamed in the darkness, burned with a gruesome light. Then he stopped, seeing the hall crowded with sleeping warriors, stuffed with rows of young soldiers resting together. And his heart laughed, he relished the sight, intended to tear the life from those bodies by morning”(46). Grendel and the other monsters that represent Beowulf shadow “project their own evil onto the world” (Peck 178). Grendel the “Shepherd of evil, guardian of crime” represents the inherent evil that the shadow embodies (Burton 46).

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Beowulf fought off Grendel like we must fight our shadow. We cannot rid ourselves from our evil potential; the shadow represents a lifelong endeavor. Beowulf never finished fighting his demons. He defeated beasts in the sea, Grendel, Grendel’s mother, battled with the Swedes, and finally fought the dragon until his death. To defeat evil we must shed the grip that it has over us. Grendel’s “hatred rose higher, but his power had gone. He twisted in pain, and the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder snapped, muscle and bone split and broke” (Burton 48). Beowulf disempowered Grendel by ripping of his arm. To rid ourselves from evil we must loosen its grip over us by eliminating its power.

Grendel represents Beowulf’s shadow. The suppressed shadow will surface to restore the imbalance in personality, like Grendel often surfaced from the swamp. Grendel is a symbol of the suppressed and unloved shadow, and he reeks terror on Herot to make his presence known. He represents the hidden neglected part of us. “Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us”(Bly 8). By storming into the mead hall and tearing the soldiers up before consuming them he represents this suppressed personality surfacing. Grendel is motivated by jealousy and anger. He is very envious and resentful towards the innocent people of the kingdom. He vents, and projects his anger onto society to restore a balance to Beowulf’s personality.

Grendel represents Beowulf’s shadow. He is driven and motivated by the same things as Jung’s description of the shadow. First of all, he represents the reaction of our shadow when it is neglected or suppressed. Second, he is an example of pure evil, a direct descendent from the source. Lastly he represents the inherent evil that is inside all of us. The potential for evil is always trying to show itself, and a continuous battle must be fought in order to rid ourselves from it. May writes, “If evil weren’t their as a potentiality, the good would not be either” (175). Life will always be full of temptations that must be fought off daily. Grendel is an example of

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the shadow fighting against oppression. When a particular emotion or thought is suppressed it is sometimes projected onto others. Anger at oneself can be transformed into anger towards others

and the denial of ones evil. The neglected shadow if not projected in another’s direction, will surface in oneself to restore the imbalance personality. Evil presents us with a daily struggle between temptations and justice. Like Beowulf, we must battle the evils of our shadow until it has been recognized and defeated.

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Works Sited

Bly, Robert. “The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us.”Meeting the Shadow.

Ed Connie Zwieg and Jeremiah Abrams. Los Angeles: Jeremy Teacher, Inc. 1991.

May, Rollo. “The Dangers of Innocence.” Meeting the Shadow.

Ed Connie Zwieg and Jeremiah Abrams. Los Angeles: Jeremy Teacher, Inc. 1991.

Peck, Scott, M. “Healing Human Evil.” Meeting the Shadow.

Ed Connie Zwieg and Jeremiah Abrams. Los Angeles: Jeremy Teacher, Inc. 1991.

Raffel, Burton, trns. Beowulf. New York: Penguin, 1963

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