Beowulf was the first literary super hero. Like the common day superman, Beowulf has ordinary human characteristics, as well as superhuman powers. Like the Anglo-Saxons of Beowulf’s time, he is boastful, manly, and willing to outdo his fellow neighbor. The only difference between him and the rest of the Anglo- Saxons is that he possesses extreme amounts of physical power. Grendel, the antagonist of the story, was feared by all men. He ate humans and attacked them in their sleep. Many men had attempted to kill Grendel, ut until Beowulf, no man had ever succeeded. … so Grendel ruled, fought with the righteous, One against many and won… (line 81,82).
Despite the probability of Beowulf’s death against Grendel, he still insists on attacking him and defeating him. Beowulf kills Grendel in an unusual way. Rather than attacking him with a sword like every other Geat, he grabs onto Grendel’s arm and squeezes until the torture is unbearable. Grendel loses his strength, his body parts, and his blood in this violent scene. He later bleeds to death.
Saw that his strength was deserting him, his claws Bound fast, Higlac’s brave follower tearing at his hands. (line 464-466) Beowulf’s unusual and courageous method of killing Grendel demonstrates his bravery and physical strength. Before, Unferth had taunted Beowulf about his foolish bravery but when he and all the rest of the Geats saw that Beowulf’s strength and power were worth boasting about, they were humbled. To prove Beowulf was powerful, he hung Grendel’s arm, claw, and shoulders from the rafters of the meeting hall.
No Dane doubted The victory, for the proof, hanging high From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s Arm, claw and shoulder and all. (line 485-488) Had Beowulf attacked Grendel with a sword, the events would not have turned out the same. Many men before Beowulf had attacked Grendel with a sword and all with no effect to Grendel. If Beowulf had used a sword instead of his bare hands to kill Grendel, not only would Grendel have survived but the brawl would not have such a significance in the history of the Geats.
Beowulf would not seem as brave, and even if Beowulf had died, the battle would not have been as legendary. There would be no arm, shoulder, or claw to symbolize Grendel’s death or stunned crowds to admire Beowulf’s courage. Beowulf’s quest to conquer Grendel was successful, not only did he prove to everyone that he was a true man but he conquered one of the most feared creatures of the time. Beowulf’s life after Grendel’s death was blessed and his courageous acts from then and afterwards reached legendary heights.