Why does Beowulf want to fight Grendel?

Beowulf wants to fight Grendel in order to win treasure and, more importantly, fame (which he calls a warrior’s “best bulwark” [l.1389]). Under the ancient Northern European warrior code, a warrior should seek out the most challenging opponents he can find, in order to enhance his own reputation. Hrothgar suggests that Beowulf may have chosen to fight Grendel in order to discharge a debt to him, when he tells the story of paying a large sum of money on Beowulf’s father’s behalf. However, Hrothgar may simply be trying to save face: it is embarrassing for him to depend on Beowulf’s help.

What warning does Hrothgar give Beowulf?

In lines 1700-84, Hrothgar warns Beowulf about the dangers of kingship. He tells Beowulf that he should “not give way to pride” (l.1760), which makes great leaders complacent when they should be watchful for new dangers. On the other hand, Hrothgar goes on to suggest that death and defeat are inevitable, pride or no pride: “death will arrive, / dear warrior, to sweep you away” (ll.1767-8).

Why does Unferth question Beowulf’s ability?

Unferth is “sick with envy” (l.502) of Beowulf’s reputation and courage. From a dramatic point of view, Unferth’s challenge gives Beowulf a chance to demonstrate his skill at boasting. Boasting was considered a legitimate way for a warrior to enhance his reputation, and as Beowulf tells the story of his swimming race we learn that the hero is as good at boasting as he is at fighting.

What is Grendel?

Grendel’s exact nature is left mysterious. We know that he is shaped like a man (“weres wæstmum,” [l.1352]), but so large that it takes four warriors to carry his head. He is a descendant of Cain, the Biblical figure cursed by God for the murder of his brother, and he is also a “mearc-stapa” (l.103), a “border-stepper.” Some readers have argued that Grendel symbolically represents the people displaced—exiled beyond the borders—by the violent crimes of Hrothgar and of Northern warrior society generally. Other readers have suggested that Grendel represents the unknowable threats that lie beyond the borders of human knowledge.

Why does Beowulf want to see the treasure?

As he lies dying, Beowulf demands to see the treasure he has won from the dragon. He may hope that the wealth he has captured will guarantee his lasting fame. He certainly hopes that this wealth will compensate his people for their loss of their king. However, the poem makes it clear that this hope is ill-founded. The treasure is “tarnished and corroding” (ll.2761-2), and much of it is re-buried with Beowulf.

Who does Beowulf fight?

The poem features three primary antagonists for Beowulf. First, he fights Grendel when he attacks the hall of Heorot. After defeating the monster, Grendel’s mother attacks the hall, causing Beowulf and his band of warriors to hunt her down; he ultimately kills her in her lake lair. Fifty years later, during which Beowulf has ruled nobly, a treasure-guarding dragon is awakened. As Beowulf and Wiglaf hunt and defeat the dragon, Beowulf is fatally wounded and dies.

What feats has Beowulf already accomplished [when he is introduced]?

Beowulf claims that he has avenged and defended his people against formidable foes, and captured and killed monsters on land and in the sea. Despite Unferth’s claims that Beowulf had lost a swimming match against Breca, Beowulf asserts that he and Breca had engaged in a battle in the water for five days and nights. There, he was pulled underwater by creatures, and killed nine of them. He boasts of returning from battle covered in the blood of his enemies.

What is Beowulf's dying wish?

As Beowulf dies, he asks Wiglaf to build a barrow in his name. A tall and ornate pyre is built, adorned with armor, per Beowulf’s request. After his body is burned, his remains are placed in the barrow, and the Geats speak highly of their just and noble king.

What makes Hrothgar a good king?

Not only has Hrothgar led stably for many years, but he possesses the wisdom and reflections of his accomplishments and experience. Though he finds himself in a position of privilege, Hrothgar has taken to heart just how swiftly the wheel of fortune can bring about change, and warns Beowulf of such shifting tides. He also remains morally grounded, aware of humanity’s wavering temperaments, and maintains a quality of level-headedness throughout his leadership.

What gifts does Wealhtheow give Beowulf?

After the feast in celebration of Grendel’s defeat, Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a golden torque and a suit of chain mail armor. With such gifts, she is expressing a hope that Beowulf will look after her sons with kindness and serve as a role model or mentor to them after she and Hrothgar die.

Why does the dragon attack Beowulf's kingdom?

A thief enters the dragon’s barrow, intent on stealing his treasure. As the thief steals a goblet, he inadvertently awakens the dragon, who is filled with fury. The dragon leaves his keep, driven to find the thief and the stolen goblet. In his search, the dragon brings about fiery wrath upon any homes or villages it passes.

How does the dragon kill Beowulf?

As Beowulf fights the dragon, he realizes that he does not possess the same strength that he had fifty years earlier. All of his companions flee except for Wiglaf, who remains to help Beowulf in his fight. Though Beowulf manages to land a blow to the dragon’s head, his sword breaks as he does so, and the dragon bites Beowulf’s neck. After Wiglaf and Beowulf deliver the killing blows, poison from the dragon’s bite causes Beowulf’s wound to burn and swell, thus sealing his fate.

What qualities characterize Beowulf as a hero?

Beowulf is focused on protecting his people and land, and is always willing to engage in battle, even later in his life. The two primary timelines of the poem portray different forms of the ideal hero: a young warrior who is eager to fight, and a just and noble king possessing the wisdom of experience, one who follows the advice of those who came before him and ultimately engages in battle with a dragon even while knowing or suspecting that it will bring about his own death.

Why does Grendel’s mother take back Grendel’s arm?

Beowulf was able to kill Grendel by tearing his arm from his body. After Grendel flees and dies in his home swamp, Beowulf hangs the arm as a bloodied trophy for all in Heorot to see. When Grendel’s mother raids the hall, she takes the arm not only so she can have the body of her son fully intact, but also to send a message. Gone is the trophy of their victory, allowing for the promise of Grendel’s mother’s retaliation.

What is the meaning of the Anglo-Saxon term “wyrd”?

"Wyrd" speaks to fate or destiny, but in a way that differs from that of fate from an ancient Greek perspective. Wyrd is a more active form of fate, where the emphasis dwells less on the inevitability of the gods’ decree, and more on the understanding that individuals are compelled to act in certain ways by necessity and heroic code.