The Old English epic Beowulf depicts Anglo-Saxon warrior culture where fate (wyrd) governs the actions of the hero. Beowulf, now over seventy years old and king of the Geats, has earned his respect and glory on the battlefields as a great warrior. The honorable old king has ruled for fifty years, and according to the author, "he was a wise king, an old guardian of the land" (Norton, 55), when the dragon attacks Beowulf's Hall, assaulting Geats at night.

The dragon - "the worm" - as he is referred to sometimes by the poet, while guarding the treasure in the depth of his cave, is awakened by a slave who steals the cup from his hoard. The dragon, being greedy, is infuriated: "the hoard-guard waited restless until evening came; then the barrow keeper was in rage: he would requite that precious drinking cup with vengeful fire."(Norton, 56)

The treasure, that is now guarded by the worm, once (over three hundred years ago) belonged to a tribe of great warriors. Many have died over the years on the battlefields; only one, the Last Survivor, has escaped the terrible fate, and so he speaks:

" War-death has taken each man
of my people, evil, dreadful and deadly,
each of those who has given up this life,
the hall-joy of men. I have none
who wears sword or cleans the plated cup,
rich drinking vessel.
The company of retainers has gone elsewhere…
There is no harp-delight,
no mirth of the singing wood,
no good hawk flies through the hall,
no swift horse stamps in the castle court.
Baleful death has sent away
many races of men." (Norton, 56)

Parallel to this speech is the ubi sunt passage from Old English poem "The Wanderer." The old warrior, the wanderer or, as the poet calls him, "the earth-walker," who has lost his comrades in the battles, talks about the loneliness of exile and the aimlessness of war:

"Where has the horse gone?
Where the young warrior?
Where is the giver of treasure?
What has become of the feasting seats?
Where are the joys of the hall? …" (Norton, 70)

The Last Survivor's Speech has ideas similar to those found in the ubi sunt passage in "The Wanderer": life is short; it will end in the endless winter; joy and pleasure are impermanent; fate rules all things; and in the end, the warrior is left alone to await his death.

The same mood can be felt in the final scenes of Beowulf that portray the king preparing to fight the dragon. Beowulf goes to the dragon's barrow with his men, but he fights alone and faces his enormous final challenge while the reader suspects that this battle is going to be the hero's last one: "The beginning was terrible to the folk on the land, as the ending was soon to be sore to their giver of treasure." (Norton, 57) Nevertheless, the king of the Geats goes out to punish the worm. Being aware of the dragon's strength and knowing that a wooden shield is not going to protect him, Beowulf has a shield of steel made for him. He is ready to die, but he acts according to the heroic code: it is better to die on a battlefield than live in shame: "Thus he had survived every combat, every dangerous battle, every deed of courage, the son of the Ecgtheow, until that one day when he should fight with the worm" (Norton, 58).

Beowulf's speech before the battle reflects the ideas previously expressed in the ubi sunt passage in "The Wanderer" and The Last Survivor's Speech. He recalls past actions and wonders about the great times of battles and celebrations, but now "shall the sword's edge, the hand and hard blade, fight for the hoard."(Norton, 59)

Later, Beowulf does defeat the dragon after the long exhausting battle, but the hero is mortally wounded himself. Dying, he gives a speech which "consists of a disappointed hope about the future, a statement of past achievement, and a last dying act in the present"(Irving, 231). Beowulf is happy to die if his death brings peace to his people. Yet he leaves them a treasure that now belongs to the Geats, hoping that it will help them prosper in the future, but the Geats bury the treasure with their king.

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