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A Comparison of Beowulf and The Seafarer
Beowulf and The Seafarer In a comparison between “Beowulf” and “The Seafarer” one finds two contrasting beliefs in fate and the sea from the story’s main characters. Beowulf is resigned to fate and is humble before the force of the sea, while The Seafarer is fearful of the powers of fate and the sea and is unwilling to accept them.
Though the actions and thoughts of Beowulf give him a god-like appearance in the story he believes that God and fate work together. He boasts of his encounters with devilish sea creatures saying, “I treated them politely,/ Offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword.” This strong statement reveals Beowulf’s divine and invulnerable self-confidence. To Beowulf, “Fate saves/ The living when they drive away death by themselves.” Beowulf is compelled to observe fate but does not feel it should completely rule him. He allows fate to direct his life, but not govern his actions. A display of Beowulf’s belief in fate is evident when he says, “Fate will unwind as it must.” Meaning, there is a master plan to the world with which he must live. When Unferth taunts him, Beowulf replies by questioning Unferth’s manhood and makes a fool of him in front of everyone. Boasting, “Neither he nor you can match me.” Though he tests fate, he has a more fearful respect for the sea. He knows its power from his race with Brecca. The seas were dark and harsh, but he remained humble and ventured through the murky waters because of this respect.
As a contrast to Beowulf’s beliefs, the Seafarer feels that fate destroys all and takes everything away. Fate is an all mighty power to him and no man can control it, no matter what he does. “”Fate is stronger/ And God mightier than any man’s mind.” This shows the Seafarers fearful surrender to these unearthly powers. “Wondering what fate has willed and will do.” Yet with all this fear and sorrow he does not accept it, but rather wills it away. He is afraid of its power and ability to be stronger than any man. Though he fears fate he is ambivalent toward the sea. This indecisiveness is so overpowering it has taken over his life. While ashore, safe and secure visiting his favorite mead hall, he longs for the embrace of the sea.
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Beowulf believed that fate was a path through life and the Seafarer believed it was a path to death. Whether we support the beliefs of Beowulf or the Seafarer, we can agree on one thing; if there is such a thing as fate we probably aren’t going to be able to control it as we would like. To me fate is something like death, everyone experiences it and it is unavoidable, so we can only try to make the best of things. We gather knowledge through our own experience and beliefs. “Our thoughts should turn to where our home is/ Consider the ways of coming there.” Follow your heart and you will not be led astray.