Beowulf Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Seamus Heaney's Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
"At seven, I was fostered out by my father,
left in the charge of my people's lord.
King Hrethel kept me and took care of me,
was open-handed, behaved like a kinsman.
While I was his ward, he treated me no worse
as a wean about the place than one of his own boys." (2428-2433)
It's interesting to notice that we don't hear about Beowulf's childhood until the very end of the epic. For modern readers, the fact that Beowulf was raised as a foster son by King Hrethel probably seems really important; but for medieval audiences, Beowulf's deeds as an adult are more important than his princely youth.
"The treasures that Hygelac lavished on me
I paid for when I fought, as fortune allowed me,
with my glittering sword. He gave me land
and the security land brings, so he had no call
to go looking for some lesser champion." (2490-2494)
Beowulf explains his relationship to King Hygelac as a straightforward exchange: Hygelac gives him land and wealth, and Beowulf gives Hygelac his loyalty and service in battle in return. Of course, they're also foster brothers. Yet, somehow, the almost economic money-and-land-for-fighting relationship is more important to who Beowulf is than the family ties.
Beowulf spoke, made a formal boast
for the last time: "I risked my life
often when I was young. Now I am old,
but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight
for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only
abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open." (2510-2515)
Even at the end of his life, Beowulf makes sure that he's continuing to add to his reputation and fame by his brave deeds. As he faces death, he sustains himself by continuing to think about the name that he's made for himself.