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Metaphors in Beowulf

Metaphors are often used in Beowulf to help the reader understand complex ideas.

“Thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws” – Line 35
“Distance was safety…” – Line 57
“…death was my errand…” – Line 158

Twelve winters of grief for Hrothgar, king
Of the Danes, sorrow heaped at his door
By hell-forged hands.
Grendel’s hands are compared to a thing forged in hell
That shepherd of evil, guardian of crime, [Grendel]
Knew at once that nowhere on earth
Had he met a man whose hands were harder…
Grendel is compared to a shepherd
and to a guardian
The brilliant light shone, suddenly,
As though burning in that hall, and as bright as Heaven’s
Own candle, lit in the sky.
The sun is compared to a candle
Edgetho’s
Famous son [Beowulf] stared at death,
Unwilling to leave this world, to exchange it
For a dwelling in some distant placeā€”a journey
Into darkness that all men must make…
Dying is compared to a journey into
darkness; Death is compared to a dwelling
The old man’s mouth was silent, spoke
No more, had said as much as it could;
He would sleep in the fire, soon.
Beowulf’s funeral pyre is compared to sleep in fire