Beowulf Wealth 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.
Then Halfdane's son presented Beowulf
with a gold standard as a victory gift,
an embroidered banner; also breast-mail
and a helmet; and a sword carried high,
that was both precious object and token of honour.
So Beowulf drank his drink, at ease;
it was hardly a shame to be showered with such gifts
in front of the hall-troops. (1019-1026)
In return for Beowulf's service, Hrothgar pays him in treasures, armor, and horses. This isn't a special kindness – it's exactly what Beowulf expects. Medieval tribes like the Danes and Geats insure that warriors will be loyal to kings by constantly rewarding those warriors with gold, jewels, and other loot.
The chieftain went on to reward the others:
Each man on the bench who had sailed with Beowulf
and risked the voyage received a bounty,
some treasured possession. And compensation,
a price in gold, was settled for the Geat
Grendel had cruelly killed earlier. (1049-1054)
Beowulf's men haven't traveled across the sea and braved a confrontation with Grendel just for the glory of the thing – they also want a reward they can measure in gold. In addition, when one of Beowulf's Geat warriors is killed by Grendel, King Hrothgar negotiates a payment of gold to recompense Beowulf and the Geats for their loss. Hrothgar doesn't do this because he feels bad for the man's family; he does it out of self-defense. If he didn't pay, the Geats might have a reason to go to war against him.
The hall ran red
with blood of enemies. Finn was cut down,
the queen brought away and everything
the Shieldings could find inside Finn's walls –
the Frisian king's gold collars and gemstones –
swept off to the ship. (1151-1156)
Looting and pillaging are normal parts of warfare and battle for early medieval warriors. In fact, most warriors are probably only going into battle in order to receive gold, armor, and other precious treasures. That's how they make their living, after all.