One of the great mysteries surrounding the history of Western Europe is how, exactly, Christianity first co-existed with pagan traditions and ultimately took root, influencing virtually every facet of life. Mythology was not immune to this influence, as the traditional legends and stories that had been told for centuries eventually died out and in their place arose new legendary forms and new heroes. This Blog post is designed to have you explore some of the key changes that occurred during this broad transition. Our last four classes have covered a wide variety of medieval tales, including the Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf, Viking myths, the real-life legend of Joan of Arc, and stories about the famous warriors Roland and King Arthur. In order to examine these legends and the medieval period from which they arose, I want you to do three things:
1) Compare/contrast one of the stories you have read to an ancient myth we read over the first few weeks of the semester. Or, compare a medieval hero-figure with an ancient hero (or maybe even another hero from the Middle Ages) and see what there is to see.
2) Pick out a key theme that you find is powerfully resonating in these sources, and consider how two medieval stories recently assigned for class engage with and articulate ideas about that theme.
3) Identify a meaningful quotation from the story that you have enjoyed the most in our recent class forays. What does your chosen quote emphasize in terms of the story in which it is found, and what does it say about the trials and tribulations of the hero at the center of that story? Just as importantly, how does it highlight and raise questions about the transitional era known as the Middle Ages?
Each of these three parts should be at least one thoughtful paragraph in length. By completing these three tasks, my hope is that you identify some meaningful ideas, complexities, and connections that are found in the various legends written in medieval Europe, and come to a better understanding and appreciation for the “realities” of myth during the so-called Middle Ages.
One of the ancient myths we have studied was the creation of the sun and moon, day and night with Hati and Sköll. I personally love this story and I think it is an interesting comparison to a midieval myth or legend. When you think about it, the midieval myth Ian’s legend of Joan of Arc has many many many strong themes that are right in our face. The Norse myth about the sun and the moon is more subtle with its meanings and messages. The gender role is more prominent in the story of Joan of Arc, telling us how odd and rare this little blip in history is. It’s interesting to me that with this myth, it isn’t all about the power. Hati and Sköll aren’t necessarily worshipped hardcore or praised the way Joan of Arc is. The midieval story is very much more adapted to different minds than the more primitive stories of creation. The myths are more to answer a question or show a moral and the midieval is to prove something or teach, sometimes maybe to entertain.
One of the bigger themes in the midieval stories is power. The lust for power is the biggest list there was it almost seems. The power to prove to yourself and others like Beowolf, the power to be victorious in battle like the Saint. This hunger for power seems so consuming! It isn’t so much about the divine, thought it tried to convince us these humanly people are divine.
“A dwarf stood at four corners of the sky…. The gods allowed two wolves, Sköll and Hati, to chase the sun and moon to keep them going.” This quotation speaks about the tribulations of the gods (honestly, more humbly than the midieval stories!). We can pretend the gods are heroes of these stories to compare with the midieval ones for the moment. If you think about the attitude and voice of the stories, it seems as though answering the creation questions were not important or entertaining anymore. They were not questions asked anymore, and the Middle Ages ones raised more social issues than logical issues. The social aspects of the stories change entirely. It makes me wonder what changed and why the social norms altered.
The two stories I will be discussing are Beowulf and the Odyssey. The Odyssey is an ancient tale that took place in Ithaca and Beowulf is a medieval tale that took place in Scandinavia. The two tales are similar because they both revolve around a main character that is seen as a hero. The heroes both followed the same hero’s journey. Although quite similar, they are also seen as really different. A common thing found in ancient tales such as the Odyssey are gods. The gods would come in whenever the heroes needed help. In medieval tales such as Beowulf, the hero was on his own and had to complete his mission without any outside help. The elimination of gods makes the medieval myths more realistic in a way.
A key theme in many of the myths read is arrogance. Many of the heroes’ tragic fall was due to their arrogance. For example, in the Odyssey, Odysseus taunts the cyclops, Polyphemus and as he leaves she tells the cyclops his name. This leads to him getting punished by Polyphemus’s dad, Poseidon. Another example would be in the myth Beowulf. In this myth, Beowulf decides to fight the beast, Grendal, with his bare hands. Although his strength beat Beowulf out, this could have easily led to his downfall. Overall, although the myths are written in a different time period, they still share common themes.
In Beowulf, it was said “To salute him and show Grendal’s head. He carried that terrible trophy by the hair, Brought it straight to where the Danes sat, Drinking, the queen among them,” (lines 600-604). This quote shows that Beowulf did this for the sole purpose of fame. He didn’t care about saving the people, he only cared about making a name for himself. He killed not only Grendal, but also Grendal’s mother just so that he would be known and also to receive gifts. I think these intentions make him less of a hero. This makes you think what the people’s goal in the Middle Ages was. I wonder if they wanted to be like Beowulf and just go after fame.
The two heroes that I feel are comparable are Gilgamesh and Roland. They were both seen as very strong beings and used their battle skills against those who threatened them. Roland battled for his uncle Charlemagne (the king) and to spread the faith of Christianity. While Gilgamesh battled mostly for the fun of it. Both were seen as those who loved battle and, in the case of Roland, it was implanted into his culture that battle was important and the noblest way to die. But, opposed to Roland, Gilgamesh was seen as somewhat evil at first and would terrorize his home. He would again, mostly use battle and war as something to do in his past-time which badly affected those around him. In both tales, they must come to terms with death in different ways. Gilgamesh desires to escape the claws of death and tries many things to achieve eternal life. Soon, he comes to realize that every living being must eventually die. While on the other hand, Roland is faced with death after a great battle against those who betrayed them. His death was soon after the death of his friends and the rest of his great Army. Both texts include death, battle, and the loss of those that were close to them.
I feel key themes that resonate with the texts that were read are the themes of battle and power/greed. In both Beowulf and Roland, they are seen to battle those who were inferior to them. The battles would often take place due to both greed, Beowulf being rewarded with money and fame, or for some form of power, Roland wanting to gain more land and convert more people for his uncle. Also in the myths about the Norse gods in the epic of Saguard, there were greed aspects with the mentions of the cursed gold and how many people were killed to get it. The main aspects of these myths were mostly those key themes and would all fall together and end in a great battle and the main protagonist is killed.
I find that key themes that I find to be the most enjoyable can be related to the culture of the Vikings and their feeling of importance through battle. I feel this is most interesting to me because it could have all gone a different way if Roland listened. When Oliver asked Roland to sound the horn for assistance, Roland’s pride made him not want to admit defeat. Roland could be seen as a prideful person who would rather die than call for reinforcements and again admit that he was not strong enough to do this by himself. A quote that well describes this moment reflects the pain and fear that Oliver felt when his dear friend did not call for help, “Frenchmen are dead because of your wildness. And what service will Charles ever have from us? If you had trusted me, my lord would be here, we would have fought this battle through the end, Marsilion would be dead, or our prisoner,” (101). This quote genuinely has the most significance to me because it shows that pride is also a key theme. Roland’s pride ended up getting himself and his friends murdered by the enemy. He was a great warrior and fought to the end but, this could have all been prevented if he called for his uncle.
I will be comparing the ancient myth of Oedipus to the story of king Author in the medieval period. One similarity is that they both have inter-mixed families. In Oedipus, the main character, Oedipus, was married to his mother under a prophecy. In the story of king Author, he was married to his aunt before he had his wife Gwynevere. In the story they explain that sir Modred is the son of king Author of course and queen margawse or Author’s mother’s sister. In these two stories there are a lot of mixed family relationships that would be looked down upon in today’s times. The only difference is that in Oedipus, it was due to prophecy. One difference between the two types of stories is the armies. In Oedipus, there was a messenger and a Shepard. The story did not reference much of an army. In the story of King Author, like many medieval period stories, there was always a loyal army. King author always had back up and so did the opposing side. Lastly. In the story of author, he mentioned God a lot to protect him. A pattern I see in medieval literature compared to ancient stories is that they rely on a higher power and in this case, God, to guide them in their journey. Overall, religion was particularly important in the medieval period.
A theme that is immensely powerful in Medieval literature is loyalty. In the Joan of arc story, she stayed loyal to God and what she believed in. With that, her determination encouraged others to believe in her. Many people still think she had pure luck, but she convinces a lot of people to follow her lead. This same theme is seen in the King Author story. One of the character sir Lancelot would not fight Sir Gawain. For he had loyalty to sir Author. He refused to fight or go against him because he was his liege who is a ruler that someone may owe loyalty to. With that mindset, Lancelot showed King Author and Sir Lancelot that he was really a good knight, not vengeful, and was loyal to the king.
A quote that was notable was, “(Bishop Cauchon strongly protested his guilt.) Joan replied: “If you had placed me in the Church’s prison and gave me into the hands of competent and suitable Church guardians, this would not have happened. That is why I appeal to God for justice against you! “from Joan of arc. This quote emphasizes that sometimes the one that betrays you is the ones you trust the most. In the end Joan was betrayed by the catholic church, something she strongly believed in. This shows that the main character really sticks to her morals and fully committed to her religion compared to others. This question makes people question belief. The quote is Joan saying that if it were a catholic church, she would have to die or even go through a trial period. This shows that even in one religion there can be different beliefs and morals .
1) I think the story of Beowulf and Oedipus have some similarities and differences. For starters I feel like the general plot line can show some similarities. I feel like the real connection however is with the two characters themselves. Both are very determined and have a set goal in mind. While they are different, and their approaches are different in the end the both figure out the truth and achieve the goal they were after. While with Beowulf his end goal or mission was to kill the dragon and other creatures that were affecting his community. However, with Oedipus he was focused on saving the city from the curse and finding out the king’s killer. Although their goals were different they both had a hard journey when it came to keeping the people happy. In the end they are both heroes of some sort, and suffer similar fates. While beowulf ends up dying, Oedipus rips his eyes out. They both in a way take action though and accept their fates. While Oedipus didn’t want to die, because he felt like it was taking ht easy way out for what he had done. Both did what they had to do, and took responsible action in Oedipus’ case.
2) I think a common theme could be loyalty. Oedipus seems to be very loyal to his people, and finding out the truth for them. He wants the curse to be lifted, and everything to go back to normal. He shows his loyalty by assuring them he will find out the truth, even it it meant him facing his fate. Not only is Beowulf loyal to his people, however they are loyal to him. In the end, with the battle with the dragon we see this. It shows one of his people, stepping in and helping him defeat the dragon. We know that Beowulf could not have done it by himself, as he is older, and doesn’t have the skills he once did. However due to the loyalty of his people, he is able to defeat the dragon with his help. If it weren’t for this the dragon wouldn’t have been defeated and Beowulf would have been killed earlier one.
3) One quote that I find meaningful in Beowulf is when he says, “Fate will unwind as it must!” I think this quote hold great power in and out of the story. This is just showing us how the life is shaped by destiny and fate. Without it, it’s almost like there isn’t a purpose in living and going on every day. We can still see this is today’s day and age. When people don’t have a purpose in life, they are almost left behind, or even out. For example right not my purpose is to get my degree and eventually get a job. While it may differ from person to person we all have this purpose that keeps us going. We can see that Beowulf’s purpose was to protect his people and destroy all evil pretty much. This is more realistic than the myths we have previously read where super natural beings are usually involved. While we are going out fighting creatures, we are fighting out own battles, that I believe our fate has decided for us.
1) Medieval heroes like Joan of Arc, Roland, and King Arthur differ from ancient myth in their origin stories, or lack thereof. Ancient heroes tend to be the children of (and primarily sons of) an ancient god or goddess associated with their culture, for example Hercules is the son of Zeus and a mortal, possessing demi-god powers and abilities. Medieval heroes are often regular people whose heroism is less connected to the divine, for example Joan of Arc is claimed to be a messenger, not a descendant of God. The similarity of Viking mythology and ancient Greek and Roman mythology can be seen in their shared system of polytheism. Viking mythology though, does not have immortal deities like those belonging to ancient Greece and Rome.
2) Tribute and service are central to most medieval myth. In Beowulf this can be observed when Beowulf cuts off Grendel’s head as a trophy, and his arm to hang from the rafters as a tribute to symbolize the towns freedom from the monsters terror. Joan of Arc and Roland are both soldiers, and their service to god and country makes them heroes.
3) “A Prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people By a bloodthirsty fiend. No Dane doubted he victory, for the proof, hanging high From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s Arm, claw, shoulder and all.” . The hanging of Grendel’s arm is a symbol of victory to the Danes. In modern times an act like this one can be interpreted as gruesome but in the Middle Ages when war and violence was more frequent, spoils of war were very important in culture. More importantly though, Beowulf is displaying his loyalty to Hrothgar. In the transitional period of the Middle Ages, some people remained almost godless. So, and act like this is not done in the honor of faith in any god, but instead in the faith of a king.
1) The stories of Oedipus Rex and Beowulf are similar as well as different. They are both very courageous men; they both want to save those who are in danger of dark forces. Although they have no power over their fate, they both try to do anything they can to make sure things are okay. They both meet negative ends even after trying to save people’s lives. They differ in the sense that their ending is completely different, yes Beowulf dies but he dies after years of ruling and saving people multiple times. However, Oedipus’ story ends exactly the way he did not want it to, he finds out he married his mother and killed his father, and then his wife kills herself, so his end is a lot more tragic and damaging than Beowulf’s is. They are also quite different people, Beowulf is more driven to prove himself and live up to his father, while Oedipus is trying to save his family and his fate from becoming a tragedy.
2) Fate continues to play a crucial theme in all the stories we have read so far. For example, Joan of Arc’s story is driven by fate all through it. The fact that she is a woman who has a “power” of some sort and is put in positions of power tells us that fate is something very present, it leads to what you expect a woman would go through for being in a position of power, especially back then. She tried to defend herself and get out of the trial, but her fate led her to her downfall, her fate was ruined from the beginning because of the simple fact that she was a minority who was put in positions of power. She also believed that things would be okay because of the higher power she believed in, but as a woman who was so into her religion, I believe she would have felt as if that were okay because it was the fate the gods had for her. The Vikings also tie in with fate because they believed in a higher power that would lead them to the new land, and when they battled, they did it without fear because they knew that their gods were there for them, and death was inevitable.
3) Joan of Arc said, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may god so keep me.” I found this quote imperative to her story; it shows how much she believed in her gods and how strong she was because of it. It makes the reader realize how much trust she had in her religion and herself, in a way all of what she believed in came from those voices she heard, and this made her a strong powerful woman. Sometimes religion is tricky, unfair, and violent; we see this in her story, how her own people burned her simply for being a strong woman who was different. It raises questions of how important religion started to become, even more than before, these stories are even more influenced by it. It also makes us wonder if people had begun to try and break the molds society was already enforcing, we see this in Joan’s story but also in the Vikings. We see in stories such as the show, how powerful women were and how differently but also similarly they continue being treated.
1) The medieval hero figure I chose is Thor. Thor is a god of war in Norse mythology, he’s known for being supernaturally strong and his hammer called Mjöllnir. The ancient hero I chose is Joan of Arc. Joan is a real life legend who is known for having visions from god and leading the French army to victory in Orléans in 1429. They are both strong and courageous people, and Thor is a god of war and Joan of Arc won a battle in a war. There are many differences between the two, besides their gender. Thor is known for being loud and arrogant and Joan of Arc is known for being pure, so much so she became a Catholic saint.
2+3) I think the key theme between these two sources is gender and gender roles. In “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer.” Thor dressed up as a bride and it was seen as a humorous story. “Seeing me as a bride will give all of you a mighty laugh!” Thor replied.” Joan of Arc wore men’s garments and it was partly the reason she was killed. Yet despite that Joan of Arc was still strong and determined even during her hearing/trial that accused her of heresy, witchcraft and violating divine law for dressing like a man. She didn’t back down and fought for her innocence till the bitter end. I think this highlights the importance of gender roles and how sexist society was during the Middle Ages.
1.) the story of Oedipus and the story of odysseus are very similar as they both run into problems with their fate.Oedipus is faced with his fate that he will marry his mother and kill his father. While, Odysseus fate is that he is going to suffer and difficult journey home. Both of the characters and myths itself are their journeys and how they deal with what their future is gonna hold. However they defer with the fact that odysseus knows that he has to fight and jump through hoops in order to get home. Oedipus however, thinks he escaped his fate by moving away from his parents to avoid it. they also differ because unlike odysseus fate being a physical challenge oedipus is faced with a fate that he is at fault for.
2.) A reoccurring theme that has recently shown up in the reads is violence. It is shown in Beowulf, as it is the whole plot of the myth. Over time in the story he battle Beowulf with nothing but his hands then he goes on to slay his mother and a dragon. Even though for this myth old age comes in to play and new leadership violence is still connected to both of them. Another myth is oedipus rex, his fate is based off of violence. He kills the king which is his father and his fate.The rest of the myth is surrounded by the violence that was committed by oedipus. Both of these myths contributed to the ongoing theme of violence that is shown in most myths.
3.)”You have called me blind, but you have your eyes but see not where you are in sin.” this quote is from Oedipus Rex. It emphasis the blindness he had to his own fate. this is important because if he would just “open his eyes” and see he is who he blames for all the mayhem that has been caused then there would not be a problem. It shoes that he goes through different trials of his own life. Dealing with his first battle of leaving his home to rule over new land, then he went on to kill a king, he then was accused, his wife killed herself, and finally he ripped his eyes out and went to the woods to die. this raises the question of how it connects to fate especially in the middle ages when fate and power are more known.
The medieval myth I chose to use was the Beowolf, and the ancient myth I decided to use was Opedius Rex. Something similar between the two was brought up in class but there is more behind it and it is archetypes. The one brought up in class was the use of water when someone died, they brought them down to the sea when releasing them into their new life. A major difference between the two texts, is that in Greek myth it focused more on the main character finding themselves and betraying themselves. In medieval myths there tends to be a “bad guy” or monster that the main character must overcome. Such as in Beowulf when he must defeat Grendel and other monsters that bring danger to the community. Medieval myth also is more gruesome since there is fighting context. In Greek myth such as Opedius Rex it was more of harm to himself because he could not live with himself and hurting himself allows the pain to last longer, instead of just killing himself.
A common theme in Beowulf and Song of Roland is bravery. In both myths the characters used their bravery to save the people around them. In Beowulf he used his bravery to rid the townspeople of the monsters that roamed and torchered people through it. In Song of Roland the main character uses his bravery to take on the other armies. Although he failed to take them down and was killed his bravery was shown as he was able to go into the battle.
The story I enjoyed the most was Beowulf as I have used it in each component of this blogpost. I found this story easy to engage in and enjoyed reading it. The first quote I chose was “Standing on that prince’s own hearth, Helmeted, the silvery metal of his mail shirt Gleaming with the smiths high art..” I chose this because it was really descriptive and helped me envision what was happening in the scene. The second quote I chose is “…my hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life, against the monster.” I felt like this quote was powerful in the sense he knew he had God on his side and was going into the battle using only what he was capable of. The third quote I chose was “He strode quickly across the inlaid field floor, snarling and fierce: His eyes gleamed in the darkness, burned with the gruesome light.” I chose this quote because it sets the scene for the fight, and really describes Grendel’s vicious personality. Overall I really enjoyed Beowulf and was really engaged with the text.
1.) As we watch the civilization of the world start to begin and the spread of Christianity the types of myths and overarching themes start to change as well. One of the biggest changes we see is the shift from the influence of the gods in Greek and Roman myths to this one deity or religion such as paganism or Christianity in the Middle Ages. Looking at Gilgamesh versus Song of Roland both focus on the idea of a higher power. Yet these higher powers look completely different. Gilgamesh wrongs the Gods and the Gods interfere. Some of these Gods are disliked by people for their actions in Gilgamesh and they even go against them. In Song of Roland, Roland does everything for the higher power he believes in and even sacrifices himself for it. As times change we also see how people devote themselves to one singular religion and follow it strictly.
2.) A key theme I have seen throughout the recent class readings and specifically in Song of Roland and Gilgamesh is that of sacrifice and sacrificing for what you love or believe in. In Gilgamesh we see Enkidu ultimately sacrifice himself to keep Gilgamesh from being tied to the Gods. This is more of a sacrifice for what he loves which is differing from that of Roland’s sacrifice. Roland sacrifices himself for his religion and his country. In both ways they can be seen as honorable but they are also widely different. It is quite interesting to explore how these myths focus on different type of sacrifices and paint the characters that make this choice.
3.) One of my favorite readings we have done recently is Beowulf. Beowulf is an interesting character because he sacrifices so much for honor and at the end of the day he loses his life by being abandoned by his men and not being as strong as he used to be. This shows a true side of humanity and relatability to this hero because he has struggles like the rest of us. Beowulf is relatable as well because for a while he lived a normal life and did the best for his people. So with his dying words it shows a side of humanity we did not see in a lot of these earlier myths that painted the hero as larger than life. “In the time I was given I lived in my own land, ruling my people well, never turning to treachery, or swearing to oaths contrary to right. In this I take comfort and joy when now I am stricken with death-dealing wounds.” These words show how in the end Beowulf must come to terms with his death and reflect on the good he did have in life. This is a big shift from earlier myth where they saw themselves as invincible and in many stories they had a happy ending. Beowulf transitions us into the real world where death is something that happens and must be accepted. It also shows a lot more true examples of a hero, someone who faces hardship but also can overcome this hardship.
Two myths/stories that share similarities, would be Beowulf and The Odyssey. The main similarities between these two pieces of text would be between the main characters of the story. Beowulf and Odysseus are both arrogant and somewhat prideful characters; they are both also driven by fame and attention. While Odysseus is traveling on his way back home, he loved to recount his stories and garner attention from those who would listen. Beowulf is no different, he travels to Denmark in order to defeat the monster and gain the glory that would come with it. However, there are also many differences in both myths such as in their themes, one of the main themes in The Odyssey is home because throughout his journey he’s always trying to return home to his wife and son, no matter what happens, he still claims to love his wife and return home to her. Whereas in Beowulf, there isn’t this sense of home and belonging but instead a theme of identity and treasure where the men in the story always prioritize or hold their treasure in high regard.
I think an important theme that is well represented in medieval myths is the theme of gender and its roles in society. In the Viking myth “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer”, they play with these themes to create a comedic and interesting story. When we think of Thor we would generally think of a strong and “manly” god but, the creators of this myth flip that idea and have Thor dress as a woman and pretend to be a bride in a wedding in order to retrieve his hammer. Having Thor play this role is not only important for the comedic relief of the myth but also for the impact of gender roles by having this “strong” and “manly” god portray himself as a woman. Another story would be the living legend of Joan of Arc. She is a literal living piece of history that breaks the gender norms and rules of history. Generally in ancient myths and stories, we practically never see women in power or in high-standing positions. But Joan of Arc is different because she breaks those norms by leading a portion of the French army in the 100 Years War. She shows great courage and bravery for someone of her age in a way that is almost never seen in history.
A quote that really resonated with me would be from “Beowulf”, “His spirit was sad, restless and ready for death—his fate drawing near, which would seek out the old warrior to find the hoard of his soul, and to sever the tie of his life with his body.” This quote is said about Beowulf right before he faces the final monster, the dragon. In the quote, there is a theme of death that shows that Beowulf almost knows that this will be his final battle and that he has accepted his fate in his fight against the dragon. It would make sense because in the context of the quote, by this point in the story, Beowulf has grown old and has been king for many years. So he’s not at the same level that he once was making the fight more difficult for him.
1)The personality developed for Thor throughout the Norse myths we explored resembles that of Odysseus. Both are portrayed as powerful leaders in their own right, but also tend to have some issues with their anger and arrogance. Thor is regularly depicted as someone who is very quick to get angry and he feels very entitled. In “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer” he is immediately willing to do whatever it takes to get the hammer back, ultimately killing a lot of Frost Giants at the end in revenge. Odysseus is also extremely arrogant and violent, especially in his encounter with Polyphemus where he unnecessarily taunts, baits, and blinds the cyclops.
2) Not counting the Norse myths, which are actually based exclusively on Scandinavian religion, medieval myths/stories tend to be heavy with religious messages and references. In Joan of Arc, her mission is entirely based on the idea that she is devoutly religious and she has spoken to the Angels of God. Ironically, it is an English church court which is her ultimate undoing as they percieve religion and Joan’s religious experiences entirely different than the French did. Even in Le Morte d’ Arthur, while there is not a lot of direct mentions of Godly power, the characters are very obviously religious when referencing morals and societal norms. There is also an overwhelming sense of loyalty in all of these stories, whether it be to a religion, a government, a singular leader, or friends and family. Joan of Arc was loyal to the angels, God, and France. King Arthur did his best to stay loyal to both of his friends, Sir Gawain spent his time avenging his family, and Sir Lancelot wanted peace for his friends.
3) “‘Today is the tenth of May, and at noon I shall give up the ghost; this letter is written partly with my blood. This morning we fought our way ashore, against the armies of Sir Modred, and that is how my wound came to be reopened. We won the day, but my lord King Arthur needs you, and I too, that on my tomb you may bestow your blessing.’” (235-239)
The end of Sir Gawain’s letter to Lancelot conveys everything happening with Modred and how he knows that Arthur will not be able to succeed without Lancelot’s help, despite their conflicts. As he approaches death, he reaches a kind of clarity regarding his grudge against Lancelot and how there are more important things to worry about than revenge. They still have a mutual friend, and that mutual friend is in grave danger, so Gawain realizes that there is no reason that they should not be able to work together now. He knows that there is little else he can do from his deathbed, but by treating Sir Lancelot with honor and forgiving him for their past conflict, he makes it much easier for Arthur to request the help of him and for Lancelot to respond accordingly. This act highlights the importance of honor and loyalty to one’s leader over all else in this society, prioritizing the needs of the kingdom and Arthur over personal conflicts.
Two Stories that I found somewhat similar were Beowulf and the Odyssey. The two main characters in both stories, Beowulf and Odysseus both have extreme arrogance. In Beowulf we see this through his determination to fight and defeat Grendel with his bare hands. With Odysseus, we can see this when he tells Polyphemus his true name. The hubris from both men ultimately led to the death of their crew/soldiers. A huge difference between the hero figures from Beowulf and The Odyssey, Beowulf died. Odysseus from The Odyssey did not die – he had a happy ending. He was reunited with his son and family and was able to return home to be king again. During Beowulf’s last battle, not only did he need help from another person, but he still died at the end.
A theme that I find powerfully resonating through these sources is justice. Our recent readings of: Joan of Arc and the Viking Stories, do a fine job portraying this theme. In Joan of Arc it is told how Joan was leading and helping France fight during the Hundreds Years’ War because of the messages she received from God. She was burned at the stake for heresy. About 20 years after her death, Joan’s name was cleared in another trial. Not just during the war was justice being shown during France’s attempt to win, but justice can be seen again in the Viking Stories. In the Viking Story: The Theft of Thor’s Hammer, Thor has come to realize his hammer is gone and goes to Loki for help. They discover that Thyrm has stolen it and will only give it bad after Freya marries him, however she refuses. After some talk, Thor has decided to take justice into his own hands and retrieve his hammer himself by tricking Thyrm. The stories explain some sort of wrongdoing and how they were solved or in other words how justice came to be.
The quotation from Le Morte d’Arthur: “‘My lord King Arthur, it is with a heavy heart that I set forth to do battle with one of your own blood; but now it is incumbent upon my honor to do so. For six months I have suffered your majesty to lay my lands waste and to besiege me in my own city. My courtesy is repaid with insults, so deadly and shameful that now I must by force of arms seek redress.’” is said by Sir Launcelot. I think that this quote is very meaningful towards this story because it shows how integrity and loyalty is very important to society. While Sir Launcelot was being forced to combat, his first thought went back to King Arthur after everything that happened between his own bride.
1.) In my opinion a big difference between Medieval heros against Ancient heros is the historical context in which they are in. While this doesn’t neccesarily apply for Beowulf, although some do debate that, others such as Roland and King Arthur are generally agreed upon to have been real people who did exist at some point in history or another. Medieval myth is also slightly less fantastical, it may be because religion changed so much but rarely if ever does anything supernatural appear unless it is the villian and most of the time we are just told that the hero has the blessing of God and are never shown them recieving that blessing, making it so the fantastical elements of the storys are slightly more believable.
2.) A key theme in Middle Age stories is never giving up until the end. The heros of the Middle Ages such as Roland, Beowulf, and Joan of Arc refused to give up until there deaths, fighting until the very end. This theme of loyalty and fighting until the very end shows how people in the Middle Ages, whether they were noble or poor were taught to fight for King and Country with everything they had and no fear. This theme shows how the Middle Ages focused largely on war and fghting as compared to ancient myth while, where war did apppear in stories like the Illiad, war was not a key theme of most ancient myths are more of an occasional player unlike the stories here where, aside from Beowulf again, the myths laregely take place in a war time setting.
3.) “In time i was given I lived in my own land, ruling my people well, never turning to treachery, or swearing to oaths contrary to right. In this I take comfort and joy when now I am stricken with death-dealing wounds.” This quote is right before Beowulf dies and is him accepting his death as it is inevitable. I think this emphasizes in the story Beowulfs trust in God but also his strive to be a good man and willingness to sacrifice his life for his people. It shows us that despite his untimely demise he is accpetant of his fate and does not attempt to run from it. This is an important point as he essentially knows before the fight that the Dragon will kill him and he accepts this rater quickly and goes to fight the Dragon without running away. I think this shows how the Middle Ages focused on creating good and strong leader figures who made choices to protect their people and were fearless till the very end.
1. An example of a hero from the Middle Ages would be Joan of Arc. She was a virgin who put all her faith in God and let him help her win the war. She did not put up with disrespect and if she was disrespected especially for being a women in war she handled it as she should. However, an ancient hero named Odysseus did not handle situations as easy as Joan of Arc. When he found out his wife was also his mother, he stabed his eyes out. But one thing that is similiar in their stories was that they both were a big role in helping win a war. Their stories are way different but they both share the similarties of being courageous and strong.
2. Strength is a theme that I believe is super imortant in these stories. Joan of Arc was a women in war with so much strength and Odysseus also had so much strength and a big part of winning the Trojan war. Two recent medieval stories we have read that also give the characters so much strength are Beowolf and the story about Aneas. Beowolf has inhuman strengths for example he riped off an arm and Aneas is a strong warrior. He puts his people first and fights for them much like Beowolf, Joan of Arc, and Odysseus in their wars.
3. In the story Beowolf he tears Grendel’s arm off completly with his bare hands. Beowolf promised Hrothgar that he would kill the monster with his bare hands and he kept his promise. He viewed his arm as a trophy because of this and said, “I have traded my life for this treasure, so be sure to use it for the good of our country.” This shows Beowolf’s loyal to his promises. He had courage and pride in his accomplishments and as he said he put his life on the line for that treasure.
Two not so hero-figures I will be comparing is Gilgamesh and Loki. Although they’re both viewed as somewhat the antagonist in the stories, I believe they both have positive traits. For example, Gilgamesh is this overbearing, over confident character who is abusing the women in his town. While Loki, is this trickster who causes the death of Balder. Gilgamesh later meets someone who is equal to him, and throughout the story we see that this overconfidence and arrogance is almost a front for a coward and he shows that he has a loving side to him when the death of his equal happens. Loki shows he has a softer side when Thor’s hammer goes missing. He goes out of his way to help Thor with the elaborate plan and achieving his hammer back while fighting off the giants.
A theme I find powerfully resonating in these medieval stories is loyalty. I’m going to be pointing out this theme in the stories of the Vikings and Le Morte d’Authur. With the Vikings, specifically the story of the death of Balder, when Balder is killed everyone mourns his death, except for Loki. His brother, Hermod, proves his loyalty by going all the way to the land of the dead trying to retrieve Balder. After being told what needs to be done in order to get Balder back, each person and thing cries just like they were told, except for Loki. Another example of loyalty, which also coincides with the theme of love, is when Balder’s mother Frigg hears about his dream of dying. Frigg goes to the ends of the earth to every creature to get their word of their love and loyalty for Balder. In the story, Le Morte d’Authur, the theme loyalty is prevalent when Sir Gawain continuously goes back to fight Sir Lanucelot. Even though he is close to death every time, he goes back to fight and prove his loyalty to the king.
A meaningful quotation that stands out to me is in Le Morte d’Authur. During the end of their battle King Arthur sees Sir Modred and says asks his knights for a spear to fight Modred, even though Sir Gawain warns him that fighting Modred will lead to his death. King Arthur states, “My lords, I care nothing for my life now! And while Sir Modred is at large I must kill him: there may not be another chance.” The reason this quote resonates to me is it shows their loyalty and mental strength they had. It also shows how they believed that they would go onto a better place for being courageous in battle, and they didn’t care about dying.
1). One of my favorite myths that we read would have to be the coming of Ragnarok. I think it is really interesting that gods face such a cataclysmic event that it leads to their inevitable deaths. That is incredibly rare to see in mythological texts, since gods and divine figures of the same level are often immortal. It is also has a great message of fate and how it can often be inescapable. Another theme is the concept of rebirth and how even after a disastrous battle like Ragnarok, life starts anew. The event in itself is definitely a message of hope, and that even the most ravaging event in all of Norse text ends with the rebirth of the world and the gods.
The story of Beowulf is similar to Ragnarok in which death by battle is a highly honorable thing. However, the themes in Beowulf tend to relate more to a person as an individual rather than a large group of people. It speaks of identity such as the difference of a good warrior versus a good king, as well as the great importance behind honor.
2). A key theme often resonated in text would be power. The list for infinite power stems from greed, pride, paranoia, and the lust for ultimate control. In Beowulf, the protagonist fights Grendel and his mother because he chose to. It was written in his destiny to be this big hero, but he chose to make it his destiny. As a result of defeating these monsters, Beowulf would be rewarded with celebrations, gold/money, and notoriety. In the myths, this is one of the biggest themes spotted in Greek text.
The patriarch of each generation of gods (Ouranos, Cronus, Zeus) were hell-bent on keeping their status as the most powerful, and went to whatever lengths they could in order to maintain that. Ouranos locked his children in Tartarus where they would be in immeasurable pain; Cronus ate his children in fear of them one day being overthrown; and Zeus tricked and ate his first wife due to a prophecy that the child she would birth would defeat Zeus. All of them committed these atrocities out of paranoia, and their obsession for maintaining power.
3). “The treasures they’d taken were left there, too. Silver and jewels buried in the sandy ground, back in the Earth again, and forever hidden and useless to man (880-884)”. Was a meaningful quote to me since there was such a big emphasis on treasure and rewards in the story, only for it to be deemed useless in the end. It highlights the transitional era through placing value on the hero’s honor and valiant effort to protect the people rather than what they were rewarded with.
1. Over the course of the first few weeks two heroes that I think have similarities and differences are Beuwolf and Odysseus. Both heroes encounter a similar journey with a flood being brought down upon them. Throughout both of these heroes’ journeys, they both have a sense of courage. Both heroes fight against their antagonist without cowardice. Beowulf and Odysseus both were loyal to their people. Beowulf was loyal to his family, paying his dads dept and Odysseus to his men, saving them from the lotus. In the end, both heroes encounter the same fate of losing their battle.
2. I believe that a central theme to medieval stories is the importance of power. In the story “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer,” Thor goes as far as dressing up as a woman to attain his hammer again. Thor is known to be a manly guy who has a big bloodlust yet he dresses as a female.. The hammer symbolizes his power and it shows the things he would do to attain it.
3.In “The Theft of Thor’s Hammer,” it states “hid his legs behind a long dress” This quote implies that the story is somewhat comedic. It also goes to show the extent of what Thor is willing to do for his hammer. In the end he is able to get it back. I believe that it shows the importance of power in society throughout medieval times.