Beowulf: Line:1632-1887

The warriors make their way home. It takes four men to hoist the head of Grendels mother on a spear and bear it back to Heorot. At the mead-hall, everyone is shocked by the sight of the head. They stare at it in horror.  Beowulf tells of the battle, and attributes his success to the help God gave him. He pledges that the Danes can now sleep in their hall without fear, and presents the sword-hilt to Hrothgar.  Hrothgar studies the hilt. It is engraved with scenes from the Old Testament. It is also marked with the name of the warrior for whom it was first made. Hrothgar then repeats his promise of friendship to Beowulf, and contrasts the Geat with the bad king Heremod. God had given Heremod power, but he had misused it, killing his own men, ceasing to give gifts, and bringing destruction to his own people.  Hrothgar then goes on to speak of the dangers of power. After God rewards a man with power and happiness, that man sometimes becomes prideful and complacent. He starts to covet what he does not have and becomes resentful. He gives no gifts to his people. Then when he dies the treasure he has hoarded is inherited by someone else who dispenses it more liberally.  Hrothgar warns Beowulf to be wary of this trap and not give way to pride. He must remember that his strength will not last long. Soon illness, old age or the sword will take it from him.  He gives an example from his own life. He ruled for fifty years and believed he had defeated all his enemies. But then came Grendel and his life changed from pleasure to grief. The banquet takes place and then the warriors retire to bed. The following morning, Beowulf and his men are ready to depart. Beowulf expresses his appreciation to Hrothgar for how well they have been treated, and says that if he can ever perform another favor for him, he will do it swiftly. He will be Hrothgars ally in war, and is confident that Hygelac, the Geat king, will support him.  Hrothgar thanks Beowulf and says that if Hygelac should die, Beowulf would make an excellent king of the Geats. Hrothgar promises to preserve the new friendship between Danes and Geats, even though there has been hatred between them in the past.  Beowulf is presented with more gifts, and Hrothgar, realizing that he will never see Beowulf again, is overcome with emotion.  Hrothgar develops in more detail the contrast that was made earlier by the minstrel (lines 900 -914), in which the good warrior Beowulf is favorably compared to the bad warrior/king Heremod. Heremod was blessed with great power, but forgot his side of the bargain, that he must be generous to his nobles and uphold the traditions of his society. His people suffered as a result. The poets purpose in inserting didactic passages such as this was no doubt to impress upon his listeners the contrast between right and wrong action and encourage them to choose the right. The importance of such choices is apparent from Hrothgars story about how during his fifty-year reign he had to defend his tribe against constant assaults by many enemies (lines 1769-72). Since life is so perilous, the tribes best chance of survival lay in each man fulfilling his obligations as tradition dictated.  Throughout this section, and indeed throughout the poem, Beowulf is shown acting in an exemplary fashion. He is beyond reproach, even in the smallest of things. For example, when he returns Unferths sword, which had failed him in the battle, he tells Unferth how useful it had been. He does not blame the sword for failing him. As the poet says, “He was a considerate man.”