Study Guide

Beowulf Lines 2101-2396

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Lines 2101-2396

  • Beowulf continues telling King Hygelac about everything that happened while he was visiting Hrothgar and fighting Grendel and his mother. He describes the lavish feast Hrothgar gave for the Geats and the treasures that he bestowed on them. He also tells Hygelac about the attack of Grendel's mother and the way that he defeated her, after some hand-to-hand combat, with a mighty sword.
  • Beowulf formally presents all the treasures that Hrothgar gave to him to King Hygelac, explaining that these treasures belonged to Hrothgar's brother Heorogar. The gifts include a boar-framed standard, a helmet, a mail-shirt, a sword, and four horses. Beowulf also gives Queen Hygd a necklace and three horses.
  • The poet praises Beowulf's virtuous behavior and self-control. Apparently, the Geats always thought Beowulf was a weakling, but he's sure proved them wrong now!
  • Because there just hasn't been enough gift-giving yet, King Hygelac presents Beowulf with gifts of his own: a jeweled sword, 7,000 hides, land, a hall, and a throne of his own. Now Beowulf is a land-governing lord in his own right.
  • We go into fast-forward—this is the part of the story that would probably happen in a quick montage if you were watching a film version of Beowulf. Hygelac dies in battle and his successor, Heardred, is killed. Beowulf rules the Geats for fifty years.
  • Then, one day, a sleeping dragon is woken by someone who steals a goblet from his hoard of treasure.
  • Da-dum! It's time for another cr-a-zy battle.
  • The poet explains that the thief wasn't just greedy; he was a poor slave on the run from his cruel master.
  • Were you wondering where the dragon's hoard came from? Well, even if you weren't, the poet is going to explain. Here's the story:
  • Many years ago, a wealthy man from a now-forgotten tribe had an amazing stockpile of treasures in a barrow (hillside), but he didn't have any descendants or relatives to hand them down to.
  • This treasure-owner lamented that his line was going to end and nobody would cherish all the armor and gold that he'd amassed.
  • One day, the dragon happened to find the treasure, and he took up residence in the barrow, jealously guarding the gold.
  • The dragon kept the treasure safe until the slave arrived and stole a goblet. He didn't use the goblet to buy his freedom—he gave it to his old master so that he would be forgiven and reinstated.
  • Then the dragon woke and saw the footprints of the thief. He flew outside the mound, scorching the ground in wider and wider circles, searching for the robber.
  • Each night, the dragon attacks the Geat people, killing them and burning their land. Each day, he goes back to the barrow to hide.
  • Beowulf is told that the throne-room of the Geats has been destroyed by the dragon. He thinks that he must have offended God in some way. This makes him feel depressed and anxious.
  • Beowulf begins to plan his counter-attack on the dragon. He begins by ordering an all-iron shield that the dragon won't be able to burn.
  • The narrator tells us that Beowulf is destined to die in this encounter with the dragon. Apparently suspense wasn't that important to Anglo-Saxon audiences.
  • After all his adventures, Beowulf isn't actually afraid of the dragon itself.
  • The narrator digresses a little bit into a flashback to give an example of Beowulf's prowess and honor:
  • In the battle where Hygelac was killed, Beowulf swam to safety carrying his loot—thirty battle-dresses.
  • Then Queen Hygd offered Beowulf the throne because she didn't have any faith in her young son as a leader.
  • However, Beowulf didn't want to usurp the throne from Heardred, so he just acted as regent until Heardred matured.
  • An exiled group of Swedes came to visit the Heardred's court and rewarded his hospitality by murdering him.
  • With Heardred dead, Beowulf finally became the actual king of the Geats.
  • As king, Beowulf avenges Heardred's death and ends the feud with the Swedes by killing King Onela.

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