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 Hrothg
He continues on in this way, talking of his exploits so that Hrothgar and the people of Geatland might see that he truly has the courage to destroy the plague that is Grendel. ""and I shall still fight for as long as I live and this sword lasts, that has often served me early and late," (ll. And let it be known as Beowulf's barrow to all seafarers, to men who steer their ships from far over the swell and the saltspray,'" (ll. We cannot be quite sure why Beowulf chooses to invoke God at this point; perhaps it is merely insurance that Beowulf takes to guarantee he will win this fight. Finally, even though Beowulf could be considered a martyr, he wants to make sure those who live after him remember him as a martyr, and thus extend the fame he has worked so hard to build after his death. This is because previously, Beowulf's father had done a great deal of fighting for the people. Beowulf first implies that God is a motivation to him in this fight. However, Unferth is jealous of Beowulf and his daring exploits and exposes the vanity which is a major factor in Beowulf's fighting. Thus, Beowulf's motivations for fighting evil for the people appear to be a combination of both selfless and selfish reasons. In Beowulf's second conflict, which is with Grendel's mother, more reasons for his fighting are revealed to us. "'Command the battle-warriors, after the funeral fire, to build a fine barrow overlooking the sea; let it tower high on Whaleness as a reminder to my people. Beowulf does fight for the people, but proving his worth to himself is always high on his agenda. One cannot be sure if being compared to Christ by future generations was among Beowulf's hopes, but this does help to improve his status as a hero.