Beowulf and the Monomyth
As a poem, Beowulf illustrates the concept of the Monomyth structure perfectly. According to the Monomyth structure, a story must have several components, or stages, in order to be considered an epic. These stages are: the call to adventure, leaving the homeland, descent into hell, the return with gifts and finally, death. As expected, Beowulf experiences all of these stages throughout his adventures. In the land of the Danes, a monster named Grendel has been terrorizing and murdering the people and the king’s finest soldiers for about ten years.
It is around this time when Beowulf hears “in his home, Hygelac’s thane…of Grendel’s doings”. This is when Beowulf receives his “call to adventure”. After receiving it, he must gather his men and travel from his home to the land of the Danes. This element of the adventure requiring the “leaving his homeland” is yet another characteristic of the Monomyth. When Beowulf arrives in the land of the Danes, he enters a world rife with monsters, initiating his “descent into hell”.
As he descends further into this hell, he not only has to defeat Grendel, he must also face Grendel’s mother afterwards. As he progresses through these tasks, his reputation is cemented as a great hero among not only the Geats, but among the Danes as well. Not only has he faced the perils of hell, he has returned virtually unscathed. In reward for undertaking these tasks, he is rewarded with glory and gratitude from the Danes and several gifts that they bestow upon him.
Not only that, he is made king when he returns home, fulfilling the Monomyth requirement of “returning home with gifts”. However, a character cannot become a true hero until his death. At some point during Beowulf’s reign, his kingdom is attacked by a dragon. Being the hero that he is, Beowulf must stand to defeat the menace to his homeland. During the struggle between Beowulf and the dragon, however, the two bring each other down to death. With his heroic death, Beowulf becomes a true hero as decreed through the Monomyth structure.