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Beowulf, best of men, and choose better-eternal
gains. Have no care for pride, great warrior. Now
for a time there is glory in your might: yet soon it
shall be that sickness or sword will diminish your
strength, or fire's fangs, or flood's surge, or sword's
swing, or spear's flight, or appalling age; brightness
of eyes will fail and glow dark; then it shall be that
death will overcome you, warrior."
Hrothgar is a wise and noble king. He is much older
than Beowulf and sees much of his former self in the young
warrior. Having lived and learned many lessons from the
thousands of experiences that Beowulf has yet to face, with
great affection for Hygelac's thane, Hrothgar tries to use
his wisdom to help and Beowulf on the difficult road ahead.
To illustrate his point, Hrothgar recounts the story of Heremod,
a miserably notorious king, who stayed from the codes and
procedures of that warrior caste. The evil one's main failure
was a lack of respect for his people. As Hrothgar explains,
"He grew great, not for their joy, but for their slaughter."
Not only did Heremod fail to share a portion of the wealth
and power that God has given him with his loyal retainers. he
performed the most heinous of crimes, the killing of his own
clansman. In the end, this king, having failed to live a just life,
had few friends and died unhappy. Then his people, without
longing for their departed king, advanced someone else to the office.
Beowulf does not have any fear that Hrothgar's vision
is in his future. He is confident of his amazing courage.
His states, "Sometimes fate can save the undoomed man
if his courage is good." He is impervious to the mortal vices, which
would certainly have harmed a lesser man, and he quickly comes to
the bright light of such fame and glory. His fate (wyrd) is to remain
forever true to the path of his warrior code.
If Beowulf represents the heroic light,
the monsters Grendel and his mother are
compelled to darkness. The misunderstood
Grendel is angry, because he does not look like everyone else. He is
shunned by the people and cursed by God. Grendel does not have the
same privilege the warriors do. He can not enter the mead hall and
partake of the feasting and drinking that often occurs in Heorot Hall.
In time he learns to take his ostracism out on the others who are not
related to his fate.
During the poem many different swords were used.
The swords represent special roles. Just as the
legendary King Arthur has his sword Excalibur,
with its unique abilities, so too do many of the
characters in Beowulf. The older the weapon,
the more esteemed it is. Even the number of battles that swords had been
in and the amount of blood that they had shed had a symbolic value to their
God also plays an important role in this chapter.
He is constantly being preyed to and thanked.
The older (Pagan) gods are referred to as Giants, who were killed
by the true God with "water's welling," a reference to the
Christian biblical flood concerning the story of Noah, his family
and the animals saved in Noah's Ark.
Beowulf stands in this chapter as a champion amongst the
other warriors, and he is honored and well received at the
newly renovated (sans monsters) Great Hall. God is thanked
and everyone drinks. They await the further adventures of Beowulf.
If you have comments or suggestions, please email at:
Keith Leon Richard
Last revised: October 14, 1996