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Tolkien believes that Beowulf does not exactly fall into a category.
“The general structure of the poem, so viewed, is not really difficult to perceive, if we look to the main points, the strategy, and neglect the many points of minor tactics. The balance that is given to us in this poem is that the stories about Grendel and his mother are lengthier than the battle with the dragon.
The poem must be written this way to show us the importance in the character of whom Beowulf is.
Tolkien was the first critic to draw attention to the poem as a poem and to point out that the central literary structure of the tale revolves around the hero's battles with them monsters, which previous critics had dismissed as mere fabulous emendations to a tale whose primary value was historical.
Editions: Originally published by Oxford University Press in 1937 (2nd ed. 1969) and by Folcort Press in 1969, Norwood Editions in 1975, R.
In the speech that Tolkien gives, he is able to show how the critics are wrong, how the structure impacts the storyline, and why this poem does not qualify as an epic. Tolkien states that a man uses old stones to build a tower in a field, and generations later, there are people who come to examine it and knock it down without even climbing the steps to it.
In the sense of the allegory, the people who come to examine the tower are the critics, and the tower itself is the poem of Beowulf.
In its simplest terms it is a contrasted description of two moments in a great life, rising and setting; an elaboration of the ancient and intensely moving contrast between your and age, first achievement and final death. This summarizes the structure of how the poem works, and how it so effectively captures the reader in the poem.
The largest and most controversial part in the speech that Tolkien gives is where he says, “Beowulf is not an ‘epic,’ not even a magnified ‘lay’” (111).
Short Description: Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics can be called the most important article on Beowulf of the 20th century.
Incredible as it may now seem, prior to Tolkien, Beowulf had been seen primarily as a curious linguistic-literary artifact, useful as a source of information about the early Germanic past (customs, language, laws, toponymy, etc.).