Genuinely admired men of great courage lived by four core Anglo-Saxon values: courage, loyalty, generosity, and courtesy. These four important values were the foundation of their culture. They also had an eminent affect on the integrity of warriors of this time period. Scops told tales of these values, giving the warriors the ability to go on to the battlefield with no fear of dying; to hold nothing back as they fought. It made them feel perpetual, and if they were to die then it was a sacrifice to their country. A warrior, who displayed astounding adherence to these values in the epic poem, is Beowulf. The title character demonstrated courage, loyalty, generosity, and courtesy thoroughly.
Loyalty formed the backbone of Anglo-Saxon society and was the only way in which law and order could be maintained and people protected. When a man’s oath of loyalty is broken, it is a betrayal to the highest value of the society. Beowulf adheres to loyalty by not assuming the throne until after Herdred’s death.
Their king – then, when Higd’s one son
Was gone, Beowulf ruled in Geatland,
Took the throne he’d refused, once,
And held it long and well.(92)
Loyalty is clearly illustrated through Beowulf’s character from knowing it is not the right and respectful action to take because he is not the direct royal bloodline. He knew when to accept his fate as becoming ruler of the Geats. Certain aspects of his persona combined to construct a consummate king.
Courage was a piece of Beowulf’s persona. True courage is the ability to stand up to overwhelming odds with perseverance and determination. A phenomenal example of this is during the fight with the dragon.
And for the first time in his life that famous prince
Fought with fate against him, with glory
Denied him. He knew it but he raised his sword
And struck at the dragon’s scaly hide.(104)
The dragon renewed Beowulf’s courage from when he was a warrior; as he was a king then. The determination he shows is outstanding as he goes up against near-impossible odds of surviving to protect his people. This brings in the generosity Beowulf possesses.
Beowulf wants to create a sense of morale among his people and the only way to do it is to give monetary rewards back to the people. Even when Beowulf is injured he gives Wiglaf his personal, valuable accouterments for slaying the dragon that had been an immense threat to everyone.
Then that brave king gave the golden
Necklace from around his throat to Wiglaf,
Gave him his gold-covered helmet, and his rings,
And his mail shirt, and ordered him to use them well.(113-114)
Beowulf’s generosity and benevolence are prime examples of his ability to reward his people. Beowulf continues to be a glorious leader even in times of distress. Through all the marvelous heroic credentials Beowulf exhibits, he still maintains one the most respected ones.
Courtesy is all about being polite and having good manners. Beowulf exemplifies this supremely. The difference between courtesy and generosity is that his generosity is for all of his people, whereas courtesy is a gesture of recognizing someone being of worth to receive a valuable gift.
Hrothgar’s, and now theirs.
Beowulf rewarded that boats’ watchman,
Who had stayed behind, with a sword that had hammered
Gold wound on its handle: the weapons
Brought him honor.(80)
Beowulf proves his courtesy here because he rewarded the watchman that stayed with the boat alone. It allowed the watchman to return home with dignity and nobility. Beowulf acknowledged that he was praiseworthy of the sword he gave him.
Beowulf was looked up to as the greatest warrior of his time. He represented the stereotypical “perfect” warrior. By having near perfection in all of the four values, he inspired warriors of this time period to follow his courageous, generosity, loyalty, and courtesy.