Beowulf is the classic tale of a mighty and heroic Geat leader who comes to an unpleasant and seemingly early end. Throughout his life, Beowulf had been an excellent leader and had led his army to many victories over many foes, of his land and of many others as well. At his peak, Beowulf was the mightiest warrior on all the earth: There was no one else like him alive. In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth, high-born and powerful.
Eventually, Beowulf would come to be ruler over many people. During this time he would defeat many enemies, two of which being Grendel and his mother. After their defeat, Beowulf and his people experienced a time of peace and prosperity which was enjoyed by all. He remained undefeated until the bitter end when he was defeated by the dragon in the underwater hell-like grave. Beowulfs death marked the end of not only his reign, but also of the safety know by his people, and also the end of his kingdom.
The reasons for his abandonment of his people and his insistence to fight alone are not clear, although many have theories as to why the great warrior chose the fate he did. The first topic at hand is why Beowulf chose to fight by himself, especially in the case of the dragon. Beowulf was a very valiant warrior who fought his greatest battles alone, or at least single-handedly. First of all, his battle against Grendel was brilliantly maneuvered in that he awakened from a complete slumber to slay the mighty Grendel and mutilate his body.
Secondly, Beowulf battled against Grendels mother (who was excessively disturbed about the death of her beloved son) and won a triumphant battle. In both battles, Beowulf won by his own means and was very victorious in each occasion. The question could be raised as to why he chose to fight alone as opposed to having many skilled warriors to help him in his plight to defeat the evil in the world. One possible theory is that it is much more valiant to be the victor of a battle which you yourself have fought and won.
This way, there is only one person who is capable of receiving credit for the battle which could help in later times as to the correctness of the tale. Perhaps Beowulf did not wish for people to wonder as to who the true hero was, so he simply resolved the issue by fighting alone. Also, if a battle is fought and won by a single person, they are automatically more glorified than if a whole army was to have won. This may be because it is simply easier to maintain records of one person as opposed to a whole army or group of people.
The winner in this case is able to receive all the glory which is due them and not have to worry about someone horning in on their moment of well-earned fame. By being more glorious and not having to share their fame, a leaders position of authority (whatever it may be) is less likely to be challenged than if many people were involved in the victory.
In this case, the leader receives a little more cushing in their position, which is generally a very positive thing for any ruler to experience. After all, no one would like to be overthrown because of their weakness and inability to perform under pressure in a battle. Now the question as to why Beowulf abandoned his people is at hand. He most likely did not do this on purpose and had no intent to destroy his kingdom which he had worked so hard to create. A possible theory as to why this happened could be that he simply did not think about the void he would leave if he was to leave his throne for some reason.
One point that must be observed here is that Beowulf had to blood relatives which could succeed him on the throne, so he would of had to hand picked one of his subjects to follow after him, and only hope that his choice of leadership would not be undermined by those who wished to be rulers but in reality were not capable of a leadership position which involved so much responsibility and integrity.
Of course, there is also the possibility that Beowulf was aware that if he died his kingdom would crumble, so he did the valiant thing and ended the kingdom at the same time its king ended. This way, the kingdom would have a rather subtle end instead of a violent one in which many people fought over the rights to the kingdom. This also prevented corruption of the kingdom and the throne by the rulership of a bad or unjust king. There remains only one question now, which is Beowulfs reasoning for fighting the dragon alone. Surely he was aware of the dangers involved with fighting a ferocious creature that late in his life, especially when one considers that Beowulf was not only aging, but also that he was fighting on uncommon ground and all the odds were against him.
Perhaps he did this because he wanted to prove to his people that he was still a mighty and heroic leader, even though it put him in a compromising situation. If he did not go to battle, then he would be viewed as a weakening and a fallen king by his people, but then again, if he did fight, but lost he would not be any better off than if he were to not fight at all.
The most he could hope for would either be victory or death if he chose to fight. And, withe being the heroic warrior he was, and with wanting to protect his people from harm, he decided to fight against the dragon in his underwater hell-like lair. Maybe Beowulf wished to be extra victorious in his waning years by defeat the great dragon alone, or he may have realized that a good way to live on (in spirit) among his people would be to exit the world in a heroic battle. Regardless of victory of defeat, Beowulf would be honored for being a victorious and heroic warrior and a good leader for his people.
In a way, Beowulf ended his reign at a peak, even though he had already experienced many high points along the way. One can theorize all they would like, but the only person to really know the motives of Beowulf is Beowulf, and since there is no way of truly finding out, the only thing left to do is to guess the best we can and hope that possible somebody somewhere will create a believable theory which all people can believe and end the wondering. Until then, all are free to wonder and theorize and attempt to make sense of all the wonderment and complexities of the allusive Beowulf.