4 Facts about the Super Mario world that prove Mario is Beowulf

So I’m taking a British lit class this semester. Our first assignment? Read Beowulf. I’ve read bits of it in high school, but those snippets revolved around Beowulf ripping Grendel’s arm off and handing it to Hrothgar (who, by the way, shares his name with High Hrothgar, where the Greybeards live at the Throat of the World, AKA the tallest peak in Skyrim). When I was complaining to everyone tweeting about my experiences with the full version, I was listening to the Super Mario Bros. metal cover I previously mentioned here on the blog.

Right when Beowulf was swimming up to the surface after killing Grendel’s mother, the victory music started playing and it was hilarious and somewhat geeky. I tweeted the moment because that’s what Twitter is for, right? Afterward the wonderful Heidi C. Vlach mentioned that, when you think about it, Mario is essentially Beowulf.

When I thought about it the comment made total sense, which could either be because I’m silly or because it’s 5am and I’m tired. Either way, it was an awesome thought and I’m running with it. This is also an exercise in overanalyzing the shit out of everything, which is a fun pass-time for most writers and professors in the English sphere.

But Mario isn’t a badass, you say. He’s a plumber whose girlfriend happens to be a princess that keeps getting kidnapped over and over and over again. Well, you’re right, but this totally proves why the entire Mario world is a kid’s version of the gloomier, gory version of the story. Let’s start with the basics…

1. Mushroom Kingdom is being attacked by an evil, oppressive force

Princess Peach’s world is being attacked by evil turtles and other miscellaneous evil creatures that are under the control of Bowser and his henchmen. They have no real motive other than to steal Peach and destroy the everything because they’re bad, or something. If there was an actual purpose I’ve forgotten it over the years, so feel free to enlighten me.

Anyway, when compared to Grendel’s reign of terror over Hrothgar’s mead-hall, Heorot, the only difference is the number of villains (and the lack of mushrooms and captured princesses BUT YOU KNOW). Grendel is attacking because he can, because he’s the monster child of Cain and an alien creature (no, not from outer space, but of the fantasy variety) and basically sin incarnate, as Beowulf has a lot of God and sin going on.

So basically…

2. Bowser destroys things simply to destroy

This goes back to the there’s no reason for Bowser to want to destroy Mushroom Kingdom (which must be a huge place, by the way).

Bowser is Grendel and Grendel’s mother. I mean, come on, what kind of freaky turtle thing is he, anyway? Spikes all over, red hair, shoots fireballs. Definitely has an alien thing going on. No seriously, he drags people away and casts darkness wherever he goes, just like Grendel. This requires magic and time. Grendel attacked Hrothgar’s home for twelve winters before Beowulf even showed up, and even then, it took a magic sword to kill Grendel’s mother.

Still doesn’t change the fact that his plumber nemesis will always try to stop him. That’s because…

3. Mario does the right thing every time out of kindness and loyalty

He is seriously devoted to either Peach or saving her kingdom (they must have great food or something equally as compelling) to keep doing what he does. OR he could just be doing it out of a sense of kindness and honor, and maybe a little bit because he enjoys the glory and fame — I mean, he IS worshipped, and everyone runs straight to him as the only one who can save the land when shit goes bad again.

This is EXACTLY like Beowulf. Like most stories, the epic character wants glory and fame. He is kind and honorable and loyal, going to aid Hrothgar because of an old allegiance between Hrothgar and Beowulf’s father, and in Beowulf’s youth he is incredibly confident that he can kill Grendel without weaponry, even, and that he’ll live to tell about it.

Tell me how that isn’t like Mario, who is confidently striding from place to place toppling bad guys, dropping flags, and stealing all the coins. Beowulf also does this. When Grendel dies he gets the bling, but then something else attacks (in Mario format this is OH NO BOWSER’S ATTACKED AGAIN HELP MARIO) to get revenge for Grendel and Beowulf is on the damn case right then and there. It’s crazy and awesome.

Also, don’t forget that…

4. Mario has exceptional abilities and sheer luck

We play as Mario, so we’re the good guys, we’re the one person that can save everything from the brink of death and decay in 5 lives or less (well, you know, plus 1ups, 100 coins, and cheat codes but we’re not going there). There’s all sorts of tools Mario uses to do this. Flower power, the cape, Yoshi, star power, the list goes on and on and on throughout the series. Without these things, Mario would be so dead. Without sheer luck sometimes, he would be so dead.

Sure, Beowulf doesn’t use anything but his raw, glorious muscle to rip Grendel’s arm off, but that in itself is exceptional. How many people can swing a sword so hard that the sword can’t handle the force? Yeah, not many. And how many epic warriors go try to fight Grendel’s mom only to find the sword they brought doesn’t do shit, but hey, there’s another sword lying around that happens to be strong enough to kill her so LET’S USE THAT ONE. The poem claims that’s God acting through fate, making sure good wins, but really, isn’t that just sheer luck and coincidence? Not to take the religion out of it. Hell, if you want to use that take on God then God totally wants Mario to win, too, so both arguments work! Haha.

The only difference between Beowulf and Mario is that Nintendo hasn’t created the ending to Mario’s story

Whereas Beowulf goes out like a badass, fighting a dragon. However, Beowulf ends on a gloomy note, since with their exceptional hero gone, new misfortune is sure to come. If Mario ended like that I would be surprised, to say the least.

BONUS: There are even ridiculous water experiences

No seriously, the water levels in Mario defy all logic. He breathes, swims, shoots fireballs and fishes and flash freezes them sometimes (and they flash de-thaw too, little fuckers).

Beowulf has one unique water experience, aside from Beowulf going down into the sea to get to Grendel’s mother’s lair, in the form of a flashback. One of Hrothgar’s guys teases Beowulf and says the epic guy totally lost this swimming race once.

To which Beowulf essentially says, “Well yeah but that’s because we swam for five days then I got sucked under by a monster. Had to chop its head off and the heads of his eight other buddies. While wearing armor, obviously. I mean, who doesn’t do that?”


What do you think of my analysis? It’s perfect, right? If you liked it, please comment and discuss. I’m interested, and this was fun to come up with. Thanks again to Heidi for the thought.

7 thoughts on “4 Facts about the Super Mario world that prove Mario is Beowulf

    • I wish! Having comparisons like this would be pretty thought-provoking, I think. Give students a different way to think about a classic. Not so sure how well Mario would go down with professors though. :)

  1. Ha ha – cool!

    As an aside, if you can find it – check out the J R R Tolkien study of Beowulf – edited version of his 1930s lectures on it published 2002 I think. It was his ‘day job’ as an Oxford don – he was writing ‘The Hobbit’ in around it in the holidays…there are certain similarities…

    • Thanks! Glad it wasn’t lame.

      I didn’t know about the connection between Tolkien and Beowulf at first, but then as I was reading certain things felt strangely familiar. Phrases like ring-bearer and certain things made me go, hmm, that sounds awfully like the Rings of Power.

      Then there was a random side character named Eomer, and that was freaky. Plus the dragon hoarding gold in a barrow. I Googled it and sure enough, Tolkien was largely inspired by Beowulf. I think that’s pretty awesome. Was going to do a separate post on it next week, once I did a little more research (and caught up on my homework). :)

  2. Hahaha this is awesome! I grew up playing Mario, and studied Beowulf in a fair amount of detail at university, and this never occurred to me. But you’re right, it totally works, and you’ve made me laugh a lot!
    Awesome post! :D

  3. Tolkien was an Anglo-Saxon teacher once upon a time. Anglo-Saxon is in Lord of Rings quite a bit and was heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon.

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