Study Guide

Beowulf Lines 2712-3182 Summary

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Lines 2712-3182

  • The dragon has been defeated, but Beowulf's wound is getting worse—he realizes that it's poisoned. He finds a place to sit on the side of the barrow, looking at the massive structure.
  • Wiglaf washes Beowulf's wounds.
  • Beowulf realizes that he's dying and says the last things he needs to say. He explains to Wiglaf that he would have wanted to bestow his armor on his son, but he doesn't have a son.
  • Beowulf recalls his long reign over the Geats: he's been king for fifty years, and all the neighboring kings were too afraid to attack or challenge him. He also behaved honestly and justly, which makes him feel a little better, because he knows that God won't be angry with him in the afterlife.
  • Beowulf orders Wiglaf to go into the barrow, look at the treasure, and bring back some of it for him to see before he dies.
  • Wiglaf obeys Beowulf's dying wish and goes down into the barrow, where he finds amazing piles of treasure, all of it rusting and decaying. He's able to see everything because of a glowing golden standard high overhead. The dragon is gone, killed by Wiglaf's sword.
  • Wiglaf fills his arms with gold and treasure and takes the standard, too. He hurries back to Beowulf, hoping that the king is still alive.
  • Beowulf is alive but bleeding profusely. Wiglaf begins to clean the king's wounds again as Beowulf gazes on the treasure.
  • Beowulf thanks God for his last glance of the treasure and the fact that he is going to die "well endowed" with gold. He's traded his life for this golden hoard.
  • Beowulf orders Wiglaf to build a barrow for him on the coast after his body has been burned on a funeral pyre. This barrow will be visible to ships and remind people of Beowulf's great deeds.
  • Beowulf takes off his golden collar and gives it to Wiglaf, calling him "the last of the Waegmundings," the last member of his clan now that Beowulf is dying.
  • Beowulf dies.
  • Wiglaf watches Beowulf's death-agonies. Beside them, the dragon lies dead.
  • Ten of the Geat warriors—the ones who abandoned Beowulf and Wiglaf earlier—creep back to the scene of the battle. Silently, they watch Wiglaf try to revive Beowulf with water, but the king is dead.
  • Wiglaf angrily reprimands the other Geats for abandoning Beowulf, their generous and loyal king, in his hour of need.
  • Wiglaf foresees that, with Beowulf dead and his warriors disgraced, the Geats will be attacked by their neighbors and their entire nation will be destroyed.
  • Wiglaf orders that a messenger go to the rest of Beowulf's men, who are camped on the ridge, to tell them what has happened. The messenger tells the people that Beowulf has been destroyed by the dragon, but has managed to kill it before he died.
  • Like Wiglaf, the messenger predicts that, with Beowulf gone, the Geats will be attacked by their neighbors, the Franks and the Frisians.
  • The messenger also predicts that the old feud between the Geats and the Swedes will be revived. He explains some of the history behind the feud:
  • King Hrethel's son, Haethcyn (the one who accidentally killed his brother), was killed in battle by a Swede named Ongentheow.
  • Ongentheow's army surrounded the Geats and shouted threats at them all night. When dawn broke, Hygelac came to their rescue with a group of fresh troops.
  • The battle continued; many Geats and Swedes were slain.
  • Ongentheow withdrew to higher ground. Hygelac attacked and cornered Ongentheow. Ongentheow killed a warrior named Wulf, but was killed in turn by Wulf's brother, Eofor.
  • Ongentheow's armor was presented to King Hygelac as a prize. The Geats, having won the battle, returned home and Eofor married Hygelac's daughter.
  • The messenger explains that, because of this history, he's convinced the Swedes are going to strike back at the Geats. Now that Beowulf is dead, they won't have any fear of doing so.
  • The messenger exhorts everyone to hurry to take one last look at Beowulf before they build a funeral pyre for him. He anticipates an enormous amount of gold and treasures on the pyre, all of it melting as Beowulf's body burns.
  • The messenger also foresees that the Geat people will suffer greatly without the protection of King Beowulf.
  • The Geat warriors rise and go to the place where Beowulf's body lies. They also see the dead dragon, fifty feet long and "scorched all colours" (3041).
  • Beside the dragon lie some of the weapons and golden treasures from his hoard, now rusty and decaying. The narrator explains that this gold was under a spell that prevented anyone from taking it out of the barrow unless they had God's blessing.
  • The man who originally created the hoard of treasure, of course, was slain by the dragon; now Beowulf and Wiglaf have avenged their fellow man against the monster.
  • The narrator reminds us that, no matter how brave or famous a man may be, nobody knows when or how he will die. Beowulf didn't know for certain that he would die while fighting the dragon.
  • The chiefs who originally buried the treasure in the barrow had declared that anyone who robbed from it would be punished in hell, but Beowulf didn't seek the treasure selfishly (so, we assume, he's safe).
  • Wiglaf makes a speech about Beowulf, saying that "when one man follows his own will / many are hurt" (3077-8). This happened to the Geats, because nothing they could say would induce Beowulf to leave the dragon alone; he insisted on fighting it and meeting his destined end at the barrow.
  • Wiglaf describes the inside of the barrow and the treasures, some of which he brought out so that Beowulf could see them. He also tells the other Geats about Beowulf's last wish: a barrow built on top of his funeral pyre that will serve as his memorial.
  • Next, Wiglaf leads the Geats down into the barrow for a tour of the treasure.
  • When the Geats return to the surface, Wiglaf orders the building of a funeral pyre so that they can burn Beowulf's body.
  • Wiglaf selects seven of Beowulf's lords to go with him into the barrow to remove the treasure, which they load onto a cart and take back home for Beowulf's funeral.
  • The Geats build Beowulf's funeral pyre, stacking it high with precious armor and treasures. They light the fire and Beowulf's body burns while his people wail and mourn him.
  • One Geat woman in particular mourns Beowulf's death, singing a lament in which she anticipates the destruction of the Geat nation by invaders.
  • After the pyre burns down, the Geats build a barrow over it. The barrow is an enormous memorial to Beowulf which takes ten days to build, and it can be seen from the sea.
  • The Geats bury jewels, gold, and treasures in the barrow to honor Beowulf.
  • Twelve Geat warriors ride around the tomb singing dirges, honoring Beowulf by describing his heroic deeds.

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