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Beowulf is one of the most important work of Old English literature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who defeats Grendel, a monster and a descendent of Cain, and tells us about his adventures in fighting Grendel's mother and a Dragon. Throughout the story, the Anglo-Saxon story teller uses many elements to build a certain depth to the characters. Just a few of the important character elements in Beowulf are wealth and honor, the biblical and the paganist, and man vs. the wild themes.

Many of the characters in Beowulf are, like in most epics, defined by their status. But, in addition to status, the Anglo-Saxon culture also adds an element of honor. To the Anglo-Saxons, a character's importance, as well as their wealth and status, were measured not only by wealth, but it was also by honor, fame, and accomplishments.

Hrothgar, king of the Danes, is one example of the Anglo-Saxon measurement of importance in Beowulf. In Canto 1 the story teller describes his wealth and importance, not as mounds of gold or jewels, but instead as his ability to lead "the Danes to such glory." and as his tendency to leave "In battle, the common pasture untouched, and taking no lives." Through this display of compassion for the commoner who doesn't fight in battles, Hrothgar proves his honor and therefore the extent of his wealth and status. Beowulf, the hero-prince, also proves his true wealth and status through his deeds as defender of the Danes. As he fights and defeats Grendel, Beowulf earns fame and wealth from his companions and from the Danes, but more importantly, he earns honor. His honor raises him to the level of a hero. Grendel, on the other hand,