Authors often use events and things to symbolize stages in someone’s life. Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing meaning of significance to objects, events, or relationships. In Beowulf, Beowulf fights Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a fire-breathing dragon. In the anonymous epic Beowulf, Beowulf’s battles symbolize the youth, adulthood, and old age of Beowulf’s life.
First, the battle with Grendel represents the youth of Beowulf’s life. The typical youth is very brave and fights for fame. Beowulf shows how the battle with Grendel is a representation of the youth of Beowulf’s life by going to Hrothgar and asking him if he can fight Grendel for himself and his people. Beowulf shows this trait when he says, Grant me, then, lord and protector of this noble place, a single request! I have come so far, oh shelter of warriors and your people’s loved friend, that this one favor you should not refuse me. That I, alone and with the help of my men, may purge all evil from this Hell. Second, another trait that a typical youth has is that they don’t want to be outwitted. They also don’t want people to think poorly of them. Beowulf shows this when he hears that Grendel does not use any weapons to fight and so Beowulf says that he will not use any weapons because he wants Higlac to think worthy of him.
Beowulf shows this trait when he says, I have heard, too, that the monster’s scorn of men is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none. Now, will My lord Higlac might think less of me if I let my sword go where my feet were afraid to if I hid behind some broad linden shield: my hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life against the monster. Third, the typical youth likes to brag about what they have done. Beowulf shows this third trait when he brags to Hrothgar about how he swam all the way over and killed all the monsters in the ocean.
This is seen when Beowulf says, I swam in the Blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the fate they had earned. I have shown you how the battle with Grendel represents the youth of Beowulf’s life. First, the battle with Grendel’s mother represents the adult stage of Beowulf’s life. As adults get older they are less daring and more defensive. Beowulf shows this trait when he fights mail armor and a sword. This is seen when he goes to the lake where the monster’s mother has her underwater lair. Then fully armored, he makes a heroic dive to the depth of the watery Hell. Second, as adults get older they are less daring and wait for the ball to come to them. Instead of going to Hrothgar and asking to fight for him he waits and lets Hrothgar ask him. This is seen when Beowulf is awakened and called for again. I have shown you how the battle with Grendel s mother represents the adult stage of Beowulf’s life.