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Beowulf, slayer of monsters, vanquished Grendel, Grendel's vengeful mother and, later, the "hot and savage" dragon guarding the golden hoard. He brought stability to the people and cultures he touched, but the unintended consequences of his actions increased mistrust between peoples, spawned disruption, and led to war. If one as strong, generous and wise as Beowulf cannot break the cycle of death, even when his major accomplishments led to peace and reconciliation, what hope is there for humankind to reverse its deathly course?

Perhaps this is the point of this epic poem, the hopelessness of noble deeds, the futility of the truly righteous act. Or perhaps that noble deeds, while still noble and necessary, all have an obverse effect, that they serve primarily to maintain a frustrating balance between good and evil, between light and dark. Perhaps, then, the only road to progress on this epic scale, is to make certain the noble deeds are slightly more noble than the evil deeds are evil.

My god...I think I just discovered liberalism.

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Tags: Beowulf, Epic poetry, Evil, Grendel, Unintended consequence


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