18 thoughts on “Jan 14: Beowulf question

  1. Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf and his men into his great hall because he is in a state of desperation. Grendel has wreaked havoc upon his great hall killing his loyal thanes which is to Hrothgar a great source of grief and misery. For twelve years Hrothgar “suffered his grief, every sort of woe, great sorrow” (148-149) because Grendel regularly made a feast of his warriors, and Hrothgar had no means of stopping him. Beowulf arrives and offers Hrothgar hope. For the first time in twelve years, Hrothgar sees an opportunity to put an end to his suffering. He gladly welcomes Beowulf for he is in desperate need of a deliverer. Hrothgar sees and accepts Beowulf as this deliverer.

    • Also to add onto this, Hrothgar could have easily told Beowulf and his men to leave, but he did not because the risk of them being a threat to his people was less, in his mind, than the risk of his people being slaughtered by Grendel. Another reason that Hrothgar allows these people to come into his city is because of the reputation of Beowulf, as he is the son of Ecgtheow, owes his loyalty to Hygelac, and is proclaimed as a noble hero (262-266). I believe that if Beowulf did not have this reputation, he might not have been let in as easily.

  2. Hrothgar accepts Beowulf and his men because Beowulf has already proved himself to be worthy. Hrothgar fondly remembers Beowulf’s father and recognizes that Beowulf has been said to have “thirty men’s strengths” (379-380). Also, Beowulf has received approval from the watchman at the sea and from Wulfgar, who is a wise man and advises Hrothgar to accept Beowulf’s help. Both Wulfgar and the watchman notice Beowulf and his crew’s “fearless and bold” arrival, making it unlikely that they are going to furtively attempt to harm anyone (337). Everyone, Hrothgar especially, is aware that Grendel’s attacks have made them vulnerable to more hostile forces. I suspect that Hrothgar takes Beowulf’s confident yet nonviolent arrival as a definite sign to trust him to defeat Grendel.

    • Hrothgar’s almost immediate trust in Beowulf and his men clearly does come in great part from Beowulf’s own reputation proceeding him. But Beowulf’s lineage isn’t the only historical piece of evidence supporting that he is trustworthy and strong. The mention of the name “Beowulf” at the beginning that, according to footnote 5 on page 65, scholars believe was a different Beowulf shows that just that name alone carries some weight. The mention of the first Beowulf would be almost obsolete if not for the fact that it establishes that name as one that stands for good. The first Beowulf is described triumphantly, and it is after mentioning him that the author considers how “should a young man bring about good with pious gifts… later in life loyal comrades will stand beside him when war comes” (20-22). Hrothgar may see this presence of a man named Beowulf coming to him in his time of need as a repetition of history and a symbol of hope.

      • Are you saying that Hrothgar believes Beowulf to be fated in some way by prophecy? That has interesting implications for Christian readers, who might have otherwise uncomfortable feelings about a tale of pagan kings and monsters. “A boy was later born to him,
        young in the courts, whom God sent
        as a solace to the people—He saw their need,
        15 the dire distress they had endured, lordless,
        for such a long time. The Lord of Life,
        Wielder of Glory, gave him worldly honor… (12-17)
        I believe such Nativity imagery could have helped bridge the cultural gap for both newly converted heathens and devout Christians. In other words, the ease with which Hrothgar accepts Beowulf reflects the ease of conversion that the audience was already familiar with.

      • Not only do the boldness of Beowulf’s arrival and his reputation as a warrior endear him to Hrothgar, but the idea of such a warrior impresses the watchman and Wulfgar. Hrothgar was in need of a great warrior, and Beowulf appears like a shining beacon of hope in his time of need, bolstering the spirits of his men. His prowess aside, the appearance of Beowulf as a man of status and wealth would automatically mean that a certain amount of courtesy and hospitality is due him. Without knowing anything about him, including his name, reputation, or lineage, the watchman is already curious about him. The watchman says that “I have never seen a greater earl than that one among you, a man in war-gear; that is no mere courtier, honored only in weapons – unless his looks belie him, his noble appearance” (247-251)! In the eyes of Hrothgar and his men, Beowulf was an image of perfection; gifted in battle, coming from an impressive lineage, and apparently one of the wealthy upper class. His perfection makes him almost otherworldly and Christlike as he shows up out of the blue on Hrothgar’s shores, offering to save him and his people.

    • While Hrothgar is clearly aware of the legacy of Beowulf’s father as well as Beowulf’s own heroic accomplishments, the fact that Beowulf makes his arrival so blatant and announced seems to be the deciding factor in Hrothgar placing his trust in him. It should be noted that Hrothgar doesn’t trust Beowulf enough to allow him to enter his chamber with weapons, his servant asking that “your battle-shields and deadly spears await here the result of your words” (397-398). This seems to be performed as a test of Beowulf’s motives, proof that while Hrothgar is desperate, he isn’t reckless.

  3. Although the men arrived armed, I believe “their bright gear, fine polished armor” (214-215) was at once exciting and intriguing to the Scyldings’ watchman, who then eagerly takes the men to Hrothgar’s closest “herald and servant” (335). I think it is because of these encounters that so thoroughly impress the watchman and friend that Hrothgar, having trust in his own men, is willing to accept Beowulf and his men so quickly. They have obviously come with the purpose of defeating Grendel, and Beowulf does not waste time explaining the purpose of their arrival. And like the first commenter mentioned, Hrothgar is desperate; once he hears of Beowulf’s strength and determination, it seems unlikely he would turn them away.

    • Hrothgar claims to have known Beowulf as a boy, and his grandfather to be a noble man who did good trade with his ancestors (p 69). Whether Hrothgar is being totally truthful or not could be seems as unclear due to his aforementioned desperation. Hrothgar is also described as grey haired, in addition he is not on the battle front- his servant was the one who spotted Beowulf and his army. It seems that Hrothgar could be a waning greatness, at least in his own mind. As mentioned before, Beowulf, with his shining group of loyal followers could perhaps provide Hrothgar with a vision to a past, not only where his kingdom was not in need, but where he himself was a noble leader an warrior worth accepting.
      To extend this point there is arguably a religious mythos surrounding Beowulf. From the shininess of his armor to the ridiculous degree of bravery and success he has with, well, everything, Beowulf seems to be exemplary of the Anglo-saxon values, not just on a religious level, but on a cultural one. It would make sense that Hrothgar (and the anglo-saxons) would want to accept and admire Beowulf, as he is a shining, god-like, ideal of the roots of the anglo-saxons, aquatic warriors who bring greatness to new lands.

  4. Although the men are armed, they arrive in “bright gear, fine polished armor” (214-215) and their clear boldness and vivaciousness seem to immediately excite and intrigue the Scyldwings’ watchmen. He hastily takes the men to Hrothgar’s close “herald and servent” (335) who seems immediately impressed by Beowulf’s story, eager to pass it along to his lord. I think it is because of Hrothgar’s trust in his own men that he is so willing to take in Beowulf and his crew, as well as his knowledge of Beowulf’s father. And like the first commenter said, Hrothgar is desperate; he recognizes Beowulf’s strength and confidence and Beowulf wastes no time announcing his plan to defeat Grendel.

  5. I think they welcomed them with open arms because Hrothgar was indeed in a place of desperation. I think that he saw their arrival as some kind of glimpse of hope because if they were there to destroy them I don’t think they would request to speak, Beowulf and his men would of just barged in guns blazing, (better yet swords). Some logic was possibly used when allowing them in.

    The bright shining armor scene gives me idea that they looked like heroes coming to the save the day. I can imagine that they were a bit scared yet excited to see someone had come.

    When someone is that desperate they can only hope for help or death to end the suffering, I kind of got that vibe as I read along.
    As previously stated above in those times your word is your rep and that’s pretty much all they had to go off of when his name was mentioned.
    Though I do believe that even if a stranger had come to help they would of accepted it if they looked fit for the job. Beowulf being known was just a plus and intertwined into their faith that God would send someone worthy to help.
    Many of the descriptions of who was speaking and what was thought of each person was very confusing to me so I won’t pretend to understand everything but I gathered knowledge Beowulf’s story of fighting underwater during the contest was also reenforcement to believe they had a chance
    “Are you Beowulf who strove with Breca in a swimming contest on the open sea..” (505)

  6. Heorot, the great hall of Hrothgar is a splendid seat for the noble Scyldings. This great people however have fell under hard times as for over 12 years Grendel, a wicked man accursed amongst the Danes has forced his will upon Hrothgar. Upon hearing of Beowulf’s arrival in Heorot, Hrothgar the melancholy King permits the warriors’ entrance despite it being unexpected and armed. Despite the apparent danger, Hrothgar cites his ancedotal knowledge of Beowulf and his “thirty men’s strength” (379) as enough proof of good intention. This explanation satisfies why Hrothgar the character may be warm to Beowulf’s appearance however if we peel back the layers of the text and examine the historical background through which this epic was written, we gain an insightful new perspective through which we may examine the authors’ intention in writing such a piece.

    If the predictions of historians which satisfy my own opinion are to be believed, the story of Beowulf was written sometime in the 9th century AD as a means to explain to a group of non-believers, the ways by which the Christian faith and their savior Jesus Christ are capable of defeating any wickedness on God’s earth. The signs are in the text from the exposition of the epic. In Heorot, the hall of the Danes, it is prophesied the hall, “awaited hostile fires, the surges of war” (83) as Hrothgar himself toasts to his new kingship. He is the ruler of a people who follow pagan rituals. The story of Beowulf is a story of conversion framed to the liking of the people Chrirstians were attempting to convert. The protagonist is a chiseled and noble war hero, the son of two great families of different national heritage and he is Harbringer of good who is able to defeat the dragon and live up to all the expectations Hrothgar the unbeliever could not. It is the story of a man who returns to his ancestral home in hopes of saving his true people of impending doom. Beyond the epic depictions, Beowulf carries similar story traits with other religious stories such as Moses and Jesus. With the strength of God behind the English, the Scandinavians have no choice but to let Christianity into their lives.

  7. I feel as if Hrothgar did not have a choice in the matter. Beowulf approaches with armed men, and wishes to see the King. He is fairly easily brought to him. After seeing his massiveness in person, Hrothgar would not want to do anything to make him angry in fear of retaliation. He does not truly have a choice in the matter, especially since his army and warriors as “decimated” (71). Beowulf’s fearless personality probably would have caused him to continue on anyway, with or without permission. Hrothgar probably realizes this, which also makes this a matter of pride. He explains the situation of how he became King– he is not the oldest son– therefore making him feel more of a need to prove himself. He has dealt with Grendel for years, who has “humiliated” him. Agreeing with Beowulf will satisfy his ego, and may offer victory and freedom.

  8. Although the Scyldings were in a state of desperation from the despicable attacks of Grendel, I think it’s important to acknowledge that this would effectively strengthen Hrothgar’s motivations for protecting his city. Therefore, desperation alone would not have caused him to welcome Beowolf and his troops. Beyond desperation, Hrothgar had a sincere trust for Beowolf for several reasons. First, Beowolf and his troops’ appearance, although slightly menacing, was elegant, sporting “bright gear, [and] fine polished armor,” (214-215). Also, the way they approached the Scyldings with confidence rather than aggression proved appealing and brave. Second, Beowolf speaks of his father’s “friendly” and “noble” (263-267) reputation among everyone, which he intends to implicate as characteristics that he also possesses. Lastly, Beowolf offers his expertise and advise as help to the suffering king and his people, vowing to “overcome this fiend,” (279). Considering the events of the time and the honorable way that Beowolf presents himself, it is not too surprising that Hrothgar brings Beowolf and his men in.

  9. The one of the major reasons that Hrothgar accepted Beowulf and his men, as previously stated would be the significance that his name and lineage carry. Hrothgar although previously a warrior is now older and cannot defend his people himself. When Beowulf arrives he is seen as the savior that Hrothgar’s people need. Ecgtheow (Beowulf’s father) was also once a great warrior for Hrothgar and also tended for his family, Beowulf offering to slay Grendal is seen as a payment of that debt (pg 69). Another factor that would cause Hrothgar to accept Beowulf would be his lack of aggression when approaching Hrothgar. Although brightly and impressively adorned, Beowulf presents himself “with a friendly heart” and a presence of honor, vowing to “overcome this fiend” (267-279). Also when Grendel was first attacking Heorot, the counselors found themselves “pray[ing] aloud that [a] soul-slayer” would come a to their aid and save the people (176-177). This made Beowulf’s appearance even more accepted.

  10. Hrothgar and Beowulf’s dual faith in God and wyrd gives them the courage to allow Beowulf’s entry into Heorot and Grendel’s attack, respectively. Beowulf “‘would entirely fulfill the wishes of [Hrothgar’s] people, or fall slain'” (ll. 634-635). Beowulf doesn’t explicitly state his plan to execute Grendel, which may raise some red flags; however, Hrothgar and his people can rest assured knowing that the outcome of the situation (their possible execution by Beowulf, Grendel’s death, etc.) is in the hands of God, their destiny awaiting. Beowulf continues, “‘Let the wise Lord grant the judgement of glory'” (ll. 685-86). The death of Grendel was apparently in his destiny, as Beowulf was able to successfully behead the monster. Moreover, if his sheer trust in God the Almighty and wyrd wasn’t sufficient, it’s possible, although not plausible, that Hrothgar knew of Grendel’s intense hatred for humanity, and that if Beowulf attacked, Grendel would subsequently attack Beowulf. Furthermore, aside from Beowulf’s precedent reputation as a noble warrior, Hrothgar had some of his guards “guard honorably against all enemies your ship,” although, this may be for his own people’s protection, rather than Beowulf and his warriors (ll. 293-95).

  11. Although Beowulf showed up clad in armor and with men by his side similarly dressed, Hrothgar claims to have known him when he was younger. He did not seem to recognize him when he shows up which suggests that he has not been in contact with since Beowulf was a child. It is most likely since Hrothgar had labored through twelve years of Grendel’s torment, a group of men in shiny armor did not seem to be a terrible threat. It is also possible that since Beowulf and his men came ashore so bravely that the watchmen might have figured he was some sort of a hero. Beowulf also tells the watchmen who he was and what his intentions were. Since they believed him, then that could have been reason enough for Hrothgar to trust him and welcome him and his men. Upon hearing Beowulf’s intentions to rid his land of Grendel’s terror, Hrothgar probably didn’t see any harm in allowing him to try.

  12. First off, Hrothgar has been in desperate need of aid for a long time. Not to say that he would have welcomed anybody, but he was known for his honor and success through battle/war and as the son of a strong leader/king; now he finds himself having lost countless men to Grendal and Beowulf becomes a light at the end of the tunnel. The old and renowned Danish king accepts the men not only because he needs them but because they clearly, in Wulfgar’s description, are “worthy of noble esteem” (368-69), and Hrothgar claims that their arrival is an act of God! Hrothgar has heard of Beowulf’s remarkable strength but I think that he is in such a state of desperation that he sees the men coming armed as hope instead of threat. Imagine having been known for your skill in battle, then experience years of defeat and the loss of so many soldiers/fighters. Wulfgar is the first to encounter them, had they been trying to fight anyone but Grendal they would have had a much different entrance, and Beowulf would not have been so courteous and respectful of Hrothgar in his introduction and declaration to speak to the prince. Although the hall is renown for its grandeur, Hrothgar must realize that Grendal is also a part of the hall that is a widely known fact/problem. People have come from all over to try and defeat him because word has spread so far, why would someone think to come in and take a place that is constantly under Grendal’s attack. It’s not like there is a rodent infestation and that it could be something easily handled; its known that so many men have died and that there is hardly any hope that he can be killed. That is far from being a selling point if people are looking to gain a new and fancy hall.

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