Beowulf Characters

Schyld Scefing: He is the first great kings of the Danes, and upon his death he is given a remarkable burial at sea. He eventually becomes the great-grandfather of Hrothgar who is king during Grendel's attacks upon the Danes.

Beowulf: A thane of the Geat king Hygelac and eventually becomes King of the Geats.

Hrothgar: King of the Danes at the time of Grendel's constant attacks. During is reign as king he builds the hall (Heorot) as a tribute to his people and his peaceful reign.

Heorot: The great hall that Hrothgar builds in celebration of his reign.

Grendel: A descendant of Cain and a man/monster, Grendel attacks Heorot after Beowulf's arrival. Beowulf eventually kills him, with his severed arm hung as a trophy in Heorot.

Wulfgar: A loyal thans of Hrothgar, Wiglaf is a watchman for the Danes and the first to greet Beowulf and his men to the land of the Danes. He also deems the Geat visitors as people worthy enough to meet with Hrothgar.

Ecgtheow: He is Beowulf's father. He is a Waegmunding by birth and a Geat by marriage. When he was younger.

Unferth: Unferth's name means "discord". He is a thane of Hrothgar's who taunts Beowulf in the hall about his swimming contest with Breca. However, Beowulf shames him in the boasting match.

Wealhtheow: She is Hrothgar's queen and the mother of his two sons. Her name comes from the Anglo-Saxon words for "treasure bearer." She actually has the duty of presenting necklaces and mead-cups at court.

Sigemund: Known as a famous dragon slayer, he is an ancient Germanic hero whose story is recounted after the fight with Grendel.

Heremond: An ancient Danish king who fell from grace and became ruthlessly evil king. He is used by Hrothgar as a bad example of bad kingship for Beowulf.

Hildeburh: She is an ancient Danish princess who was married into the Frisian royalty. Her story is recounted during the second feast for Beowulf at Heorot. Her brother and her son were both killed in a war with the Frisians at Finnesburh.

Hrothulf: Hrothulf is Hrothgar's younger brother. Wealhtheow calls upon him to protect her young sons if it necessary to do so.

Grendel's Mother: The of the man/monster Grendel she comes to Heorot seeking vengeance for the death of her son, and is killed by Beowulf.

Aeschere: He is one of Hrothgar's important officials and trusted thanes. Grendel's mother kills him, and Hrothgar is inconsolable.

Hrunting: Unferth gives this sword to Beowulf to use in killing Grendel's mother. It is unable to cut her; therefore, Beowulf discards it. Later he returns it to Unferth with his thanks.

Hygela:c This King of the Geats is also Beowulf's uncle. Upon hearing Beowulf's courageous exploits, he gives Beowulf nearly half his kingdom.

Freawaru: She is the daughter of Hrothgar who is unmentioned until Beowulf tells Hygelac about her. Beowulf believes that her marriage to a Heathobard prince will do more harm than good for the Danes.

The Dragon: This is the third and last monster that Beowulf must defeat. After a Geat slave steals from his treasure, he goes on a rampage. Beowulf defeats him, but not before the dragon mortally wounds him.

Naegling: Beowulf won this sword in a fight between the Geats and the Frisians. He uses it in the battle with the dragon.

Wiglaf: This is Beowulf's kinsman through Ecgtheow's family, the Waegmundings. He is the only thane of Beowulf's that stays with him during the battle with the dragon.

Beow (Beowulf): He is the son of Scyld Shefing. He is often confused with the hero of the poem.

The opening lines of Beowulf

Beowulf Slays the Dragon [pg ]

The Fire Worm Falls

Beowulf battles the Fire Worm and is confident that he as king of his people will be victorious:

"I would not bear sword, weapon, to the worm, if I knew how else according to my boast I might grapple with the monster, as I did of old with Grendel. But I expect here hot battle-fire, steam and poison. Therefore I have on my shield and mail-shirt. I will not flee a footstep from the barrow-ward, but it shall be with heart, so I forgo help against the war-flier. Wait on the barrow, safe in your mai-shirts, men in armor - which of two may better bear wounds after out bloody meeting. This is not your venture, nor is it right for any man except me alone that they should spend his strength against the monster, do this man's deed. By my courage I shall get gold, or war will take your king, dire life-evil." (page )

Beowulf then draws his sword and swings it at the beast to initiate the battle for his kingdom's freedom.

The battle with the dragon is described as fierce and at one point the lord of the Geats is not too confident about being victorious in battle with the dragon. His sword has failed to pierce its tough skin and his shield has failed him. During this battle all his men but one break their comitatus with him and flee to the woods, leaving Beowulf and Wiglaf to battle the dragon alone. This is a parallel to the bible when Jesus is betrayed by Judas to the Romans leaving him to a fate of death. So too have Beowulf's warriors abandoned him to face death at the hands of the Fire Worm which they swore to kill. The two warriors then reminisce about drinking mead with their lord and receiving their rings, Beowulf also remembers his childhood. The passage also makes reference to their lord as their liege lord and gold giver that conveys to the reader that a debt is owed to their lord/king. He is the one who bestows titles onto them and gives them gold and other gifts for their service as his warriors. They are also bound to their liege lord by their comitatus that is a promise/oath that they swear.

The dragon now approaches Beowulf after a speech is made and is described as a "malice filled foe, shinning with surging flames, to seek for the second time his enemies, hated men." (page ) The dragon advances and breathing fire in waves and the war-king charges the dragon plunging his sword into its head, but this does not seem to do much damage and in-fact breaks the king's sword. This sword has endured many battles but has served its final purpose in this battle and fails. The war-king is now defenseless as the dragon comes around for a third attack. This shows that the dragon is not totally monstrous and invincible and can be defeated, Wiglaf now makes his presence felt and stands by Beowulf's side to combat the dragon by driving his sword into the abdomen of the fire worm; thus, extinguishing its flames and ferocity. Beowulf then draws the sword from the dragon and splits it down the middle.

After the dragon dies Beowulf acknowledges his wounds and proceeds to a seat near the wall where he will die:

"Now I would wish to give my son my war-clothing, if any their heir after me, part of my flesh, were granted. ....." (page )

He then recalls the fifty years that he has served as a ruler and protector of his people and leaves his final orders to Wiglaf. He wants to be buried with his treasures and that of the dragon.

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