Beowulf's Fighting Motivation
In Beowulf, the hero from which this poem takes its name fights battle after battle; proving his heroism and ridding his people of the evil which disrupts their lives by physically battling it. Three specific encounters of this sort occur in the poem: Beowulf's battle with Grendel, with Grendel's mother, and with the dragon. In each battle, it seems as if Beowulf has a slightly different motivation for fighting, although the reasons why this change of motivation happens are left somewhat unclear. There are several possible reasons: perhaps Beowulf's hubris is a part of it, or maybe material rewards such as treasure affect his motivations. It may be that the cause for which he fights changes. Also, it is possible that Beowulf begins to realize his impact when he fights, and, in this way, gains a perspective on the situation. It appears that Beowulf's motivation for being a hero and battling evil are a combination of both selfish and selfless reasons.
In Beowulf's first confrontation, which is against Grendel, it appears that Grendel is challenge to face both physically and as a way of proving Beowulf's heroism to Hrothgar and his kingdom. It is very essential that Beowulf proves himself to Hrothgar. This is because previously, Beowulf's father had done a great deal of fighting for the people. Now, Beowulf's proving himself is almost a test, which he must pass so that the honor that was afforded his family in his father's time may be continued. In his initial boast, Beowulf speaks a great deal of his fame and status among other kingdoms so that Hrothgar might gain more trust in him.
"So, Lord Hrothgar, men known by my people to be noble and wise
advised me to visit you because they knew of my great strength: they
saw me themselves when, stained by my enemies' blood, I returned
from the fight when I destroyed five, a family of giants, and by night
slew monsters on the waves…" (ll. 413-19).