Beowulf is an epic poem dating from between 8th to 11th century as recorded in Nowell Codex manuscript (Heaney, Niles, 2008). Beowulf poem deals mainly with the underwater world. This poem features a hero who would do anything including traveling great distances to prove his strength against supernatural power of demons and beasts. It has been used in theory, disclosure and in much scholarly work. Seamus Heaney in his book “Beowulf” translates this old English poem. He uses art like stunning photographs of artifacts and scenery to make the story lively. This essay will focus mainly on his story after Grendel to the early days of his kingdom.
After Beowulf defeats Grendel and Grendel’s mother, he returned to Geatland after being bestowed with gifts and treasures by king Hrothgar. After these fierce battles, he had transformed from the brave but reckless worrier in to a leader who was steadfast and wise. Hrothgar who had adopted him as a son after his victory had advised him how to handle himself as a man and as a ruler. Beowulf was back to his society to show his characteristics as a successful warrior of the wellbeing of the community. Beowulf and his men were joyfully welcomed back home by the king of Geatland Hygelac and his wife Hygd. The king who was also his uncle was anxious of the happenings of the battle and requested Beowulf to describe the fairing of the battle, which he had initially refused him to go. Upon the king’s request, he told tales of his adventure with his victory over the Grendel and his mother. He descried the polite and courteous treatment they received from King of Denmark Hrothgar and his wife. He foretold that Ingeld of Heathobards was due to marry Freawaru; Hrothgar’s daughter (Heaney, Niles, 2008).The marriage that would be seen as the end of the conflict that was there between Heathobards and Scyldings. Beowulf was not happy about this marriage because he did not believe that it would bring healing to hatred and anger between the blood enemies. Beowulf displayed the gifts he was been given by Hrothgar to the king. The gifts included four great horses and suits of armor; he also presented a priceless necklace to his auntie Hygd that he was given by Hrothgar’s wife, Wealhtheow.
Beowulf was from royal house of Geatland through her mother’s side. He belonged to the Southern Sweden kingdom (Heaney, Niles, 2008).His mother was the daughter of King Hrethel and King Hygelac was his brother. Beowulf also belonged to a noble house of warriors called Wægundings through his father’s lineage. Due to his pleasing performance; Hygelac gave Beowulf a precious sword and also allocated him a lot of land to govern. Hygelac was killed in Juteland while he was fighting the Franks, Beowulf survived after his strength and swimming skills saved him. For this reason Hygd, the wife of his uncle Hygelac, wanted Beowulf to be the King after the death of her husband.. The kinship of Geatland was supposed to be inherited by Heardred, Hygelac’s son after his father’s death but his mother thought that he was not brave enough and because of her fears of attack from Swedes and Frisians, she decided to offer it to Beowulf. Beowulf did not accept the offer but allowed his cousin to rule with a promise that he would support him. However, after sometime in a war against the Swedes, Heardred was killed.
This left Beowulf to become a king of Geatland where he ruled for fifty years. Beowulf became a king at a time when he was furious about the death of his uncle Hygelac and his cousin Heardred in the hands of the Swedes. Swedes and Geats were known to have enmity and it was worsened by the murder of Beowulf’s relatives. Beowulf was in the battle with his uncle against the Frisians before he was killed where he was forced to escape by swimming to escape their wrath. When his uncle died and Heardred with the help of Beowulf took over as the King of Geats, Eadgils and Eanmund sons of Ohthere the King of Swedes took shelter in Geats after their uncle Onela took over the throne. Onela took over the kingship of Swedes after Ohthere, his brother. Onela was known to be a violent king who enjoyed battles and would kill anyone who was not in support of his rule. For this reason Eanmund and Eadgils visited Geats to free from his wrath. When Onela discovered that his nephews were hiding in Geats, he decided to attack king Heardred. He killed Heardred as well as one of his brother’s sons, Eanmund. Beowulf was very angry about the Swedes action and decided to attack them in a revenge mission. He knew that the only way to reach Swedes was using their close ally. He therefore befriended Eadgils and told him of his mission. Since Eadgils was also angry with his Uncle for killing his brother he did not hesitate to take on the offer. Beowulf therefore gathered his army and set off for the attack. It did not take them long to defeat the Swedes since Beowulf was feared that if he would kill two monsters on his own, human beings were not a struggle to him.
This time he did not want to fight on his own since the Swedes had numerous men. He gathered a group of his brave men and armed them with powerful swords and corselets. They set out for battle that lasted a number of days after which the Swedes surrendered after most of their men were killed. Onela’s horse known as Raven was severely injured in the attack that he was forced to use a second one. The second horse was wounded by spears by Eadgils and Beowulf. In this battle, Onela and many of his great people died while Eadgils inherited his horse Raven and his helmet Battle-boar. Beowulf made sure that he was the one to kill Onela so that he would feel relieved. After he killed Onela, he gave Eadgils the authority over Swedes and crowned him to lead the Swedes throne. After the Swedes attack, he was left with his uncle’s death revenge against the Frisians.
Frisian fall was said to have come too easily, where Beowulf men defeated them and escaped with thirty suits of armor. Beowulf and his hostile army attacked Frisians fully armored with battle gear one night. They were armored with swords and filled the land with fear and death. They attacked the Frisian warriors and seized their weapons in a battle that lasted for five days and five nights. The Geats warriors were fierce and powerful, they never receded even after the Frisians attacked them. The Geats slain sixty of Frisian warriors in a battle that made them to retreat and surrender. On top of killing most of the Frisian warriors they stole their weapons and left them for the dead. They went back home with numerous treasures and weapons after avenging their King Hygelac’s death and his son’s too. Beowulf accomplished his mission of revenge and took over the kingdom of Geats without any fear of attacks from other territories. The other territories were afraid that he would finish their kingdoms if they attacked his kingdom. After this attacks Beowulf did not get involved with any other attacks except with the fierce dragon in his reign. The neighboring tribes did not even dare attack his territory again.
Beowulf was a great leader and hero who in his years of reign, his people were not attacked by the enemies. In the poem, he was described as the Anglo-Saxon’s noblest king. He was a great king and very powerful such that he never allowed any war over wealth, land, resources and honor attack Geatland as was the norm of many small societies in that era. Beowulf was a king who had accomplished a lot and had fought a lot of battles for his people demonstrating good qualities of a king. The poem portrays him as being charitable, loyal and powerful. He was loyal in that he never backed down in what he set his mind to accomplish. He killed Grendel and Grendel’s mother for the Danes despite the stories he heard.
He was loyal to his land, he vowed to return after the battles and even after the courteous treatment, he got from King Hrothgar, even being crowned his adopted son title he still agreed to go back to his land. Beowulf transforms from being a warrior to a king. His battle with the dragon when he was still reigning demonstrates his double life as he performs the duties of being both a heroic warrior and a heroic king (Heaney, Niles, 2008). Many of his people (the Geats) took his encounter with the dragon to be hazy because he left their state kingless and in doom of being attacked by the enemies. Beowulf also demonstrated loyalty to his culture when he became restraint to be a king after Hygelac’s death choosing to follow the line of succession therefore honoring his cousin to his position. His roles as a king and a warrior were inevitable and irreconcilable as most of the pagan’s kings were great warriors in their youth just like him. He also took revenge to everyone who attacked his people and made sure they were dead, this was an act that made his people confidence that they would never be afraid of anyone.
In Anglo-Saxon culture, a good King or Lord was to protect his people and give them treasures. Beowulf proved to be a wise king by fighting foes for his territory with strength and courage. He made sure that his land was not attacked by other territories when under reign. He was loyal to both his people Geats and to the Danes. He brought his people treasures from all the battles he won and treated them with dignity. He followed the rules of the Anglo-Saxon culture by leaving them a gold treasure as a surrogate son after his death since he did not have a natural son to succeed him.
He performed his duties as Hygelac’s kinsmen by leading his men to expeditions and battles against enemies and protected his tribe by acquiring treasures for them. He in return got the obedience and honor from his people and warriors who followed him to battles. Kingship was highly treasured in Anglo-Saxon culture, any warrior who portrayed signs of being a good king was given blessings, and treasures just as Hrothgar did to Beowulf after the Heorot’s battles victory. From all the above qualities, Beowulf has been portrayed as a warrior who had the qualities of an ideal king.
Beowulf left a legacy of bravery, courage and patriotism. He also left his people knowing a great king who was skillful, courageous, one who showed royal responsibility and endured fame. He was regarded a man of superficial skill who developed a sense of security to his people who did not fear attacks from other territories, beast and monsters. He fought all his battles with victory and was a source of fear to all the enemies because he could fight his battles without armory. There is no history of any attacks to Geatland after he became a king but before he became a king he went to battles with King Hygelac and managed to come back home safe and sound. He was also requested by other states to fight for them battles whereby he was bestowed with treasures after he emerged victorious. Beowulf won enough treasures for his people and his people were proud of having a great warrior of all times. Kings of the other kingdoms were afraid of his supernatural powers and skills to lead and were envious of his kingdom. They were happy when he died since they knew they had the opportunity to invade Geatland and take over their resources. Thus, after his death his kingdom was left with fear of attacks by their foes and worried whether they would ever find a strong leader like him.
Though not much is told about Beowulf as a king of Geatland, he is said to have been a powerful king who was full of wisdom. He is said to have battled with a dragon that was found by a slave near the sea in a cave. A treasure was buried in the barrow by the last survivor of an ancient race who according to his believe was destined to die. Because he did not have a son to succeed him, he decided to hide to leave this precious treasure after saying his last wishes. A dragon thereafter found the hoard and had been guarding it for about three hundred years. A slave from Geatland fleeing his master’s wrath invaded a dragon’s nest, tempted by the treasure decided to steal the dragon’s gold cup while it was sleeping. He took the cup and took it to his master who welcomingly took it not knowing it would cause a lot of havoc from the fiery dragon.
Upon awakening, the dragon discovered that his cup was missing and by its sense and tracks, it discovered that the cup was stolen by a human being. Though in the myths dragon are not known to have wings, Heaney in his book Beowulf portrays the dragon as a fire-breathing creature containing powerful wings (Heaney, Niles, 2008). Due to its fury, and need for vengeance, the dragon attacked Geats and its towns by flying through the sky causing destruction to properties, burning people, setting their homes on fire and also destroying their crops and even invading the king’s dynasty. Beowulf who was Geatland’s King at the time, was aggrieved by this monstrous act and wondered what he had done to God to deserve the kind of punishment. Though Beowulf was no longer a young warrior filled with strength and skills like the Grendel’s time, he still felt the urge to hunt down the dragon and destroy it by killing it. He hoped that he would still attack the dragon alone like in the past. He therefore ordered a shield made of iron strong enough to withhold fire to be made .He then carried the bravest thanes with him, eleven of them, to witness his encounter against the dragon and carried his ancient sword called Nægling.
Beowulf though a great warrior had a premonition of his own death. He therefore decided to give a recount of his life to his men. He recounted to them his life as King Hrethel’s court ward, characterized King Hrethel’s grief after his son was killed by another in a battle. He narrated the wars between Swedes and Geats after King Hrethel died. He also recounted his proud days when he was a warrior in Hygelac’s reign and vowed to his warriors that he would fight the dragon and kill it if it surfaced in an open ground. In an act of braveness or in another word foolishness he told his warriors that he did not want their help and was it not that dragon was a fire breathing creature he would have confronted it even without a sword. Beowulf did not succeed in killing the dragon on his own and was rescued by one of his warriors Wiglaf. Wiglaf attacked the dragon by slinging his sword towards the beast’s belly and seriously injuring it. With the little strength still left in him Beowulf, stabbed the dragon with his dagger and killed it. After the fight, he requested Wiglaf to bring the dragon’s treasure so that he could see what he had won after the fight.
Beowulf’s main worry was that after his death Geats would be attacked by his enemies. When Wiglaf obeyed his master’s last wish and brought him the treasure. Many readers often find it puzzling that he would be concerned about the dragon’s treasure. But asking the treasure as his last wish was meant to be a symbol of transmission of values such as loyalty and kinship. Had he borne a son he would have been happy to leave him as an heir of the Geat’s Kingdom but now he was obligated to leave something useful to his people. He was sure that although he was a powerful king and had slain the dragon, his people would not have any impact if he died without a gift-giving and ritual reward. The treasure established a growing bond between Wiglaf and Beowulf. Beowulf gave his gold collar to Wiglaf meaning that he appointed him to become his successor. According to Beowulf Wiglaf was the only warrior who displayed heroic standards of valor and loyalty. After accomplishing these and leaving Geatland in the hands of Wiglaf, Beowulf succumbed to death. Wiglaf as a war survivor was left with the treasure and was given the mandate to survive Beowulf and carry on the great hero’s legacy. on returning from the fight Wiglaf was not happy with the warriors who deserted them at their time of need. He rebuked them and sent one of them as a messenger to relay the sad news to the palace.
In conclusion, Beowulf was a brave warrior who could not believe that anything could defeat him. He was not afraid of the supernatural powers possessed by the monsters and beasts that caused menace in the society. Beowulf is regarded as an epic hero although he also died in the cause of fighting the wild monster the dragon. Not much can be said about him as a social being as much of his time was spent in battles. One of his great accomplishments was killing Grendel the fierce monster who had caused a lot of bloodshed in Heorot. He was known for his great and strengths where he killed Grendel without using any weapon but his bare hands.
Even though Hrothgar had given up on him coming out alive after he took sometime before succeeding, he later defeated the monster and carried the son’s head as an exhibit for his success. These battles made Beowulf to be crowned as a king in his country Geatland. He was crowned as a king after his uncle and cousin’s death leaving him as an heir to the kingdom. Many neighboring enemies were afraid of him and they would not attack his land when he was ruling. He was known to be a great leader and a powerful one too. The battle that is known to end his life was that one of the dragon where he fought so hard but in the end was killed.
Heaney, S., Niles, J.D (2008). Beowulf, NY: W. Norton& Co Inc.