Beowulf Summary and Analysis of Lines 916-1250


In the bright daylight, Hrothgar and Wealhtheow wait for messengers bearing news. Upon hearing the miracle that has occurred, Hrothgar thanks God and praises Beowulf's mother for being "blessed in childbirth." He declares Beowulf to be the child of his hopes, and promises him riches galore. Beowulf tells Hrothgar how his victory came, regretting that he was unable to bring Grendel's dead body to Hrothgar. Unferth stands transfixed by the sight of Grendel's arm. In fact, everyone gazes upon the arm and agrees that no sword could have done such a thing.

While the mead-hall is restored to its former glory, the narrator reminds us that death cannot be avoided. The party begins, and Hrothgar celebrates with his nephew Hrothulf and Beowulf. There was no feud at this time between them. Beowulf receives armor, rings, helmets, horses, and all sorts of gifts. The Geats receive gifts as well, and wergild is paid for the man the Geats lost. God and Beowulf's courage were enough to withstand wyrd.

The minstrel sings another story. This song tells the tragic story of Hildeburh, the ancient Danish princess. She was married to the king of the Frisians to settle a feud. When her brother Hnaef visited her at the Frisian capital, the Frisians attacked the Danes. Eventually Hnaef and Hildeburh's son were killed in this battle. Hengest, the next leader of the Danes, desired vengeance, and in the spring, the Danes attacked the Frisians, killing their leader and taking Hildeburh back to Denmark.

After this story, Wealhtheow comes forth. She presents herself to Hrothgar, and begs that he bequeath his lands to his family. She says she is sure Hrothulf will care for their two young sons when they inherit the kingdom. She also presents a marvelous neck-ring to Beowulf. Beowulf's king Hygelac will eventually wear this necklace when he falls. Soon the party ends, leaving warriors in various states of inebriation as they sleep.


The poem begins its descent into darkness and death with this section. At first it seems that all is well in Denmark. The monster is gone, the hall is built again, and Hrothgar and his brother Hrothulf are celebrating, on good terms with each other. Yet it is an uneasy peace. As Heorot is repaired, the narrator tells us that death cannot be avoided. He feels that we should know that the brothers are not feuding at that time. At the height of the celebration, the minstrel sings a tragic tale that tells of the defeat of the ancient Danes. Wealhtheow gives a necklace that Beowulf's king Hygelac will wear when he falls. The section ends with "one beer drinker / ready and doomed [laying] down on bed." Things will become more and more difficult for the Danes and the Geats, leading to nothing but death. There have already been death-feasts (for Grendel and for the men dead by his hand); now there will be sleep-deaths (in this warrior sleeping and in the warriors before). Everything will eventually lead to ruin and death, despite the continuing parties.

We receive two different visions of women in this portion of Beowulf. Beowulf's mother can be seen as an allegory for the Virgin Mary, who was also "blessed in childbirth." Both women have borne great heroes who will save mankind (by bearing Beowulf and Jesus). Yet Beowulf's mother does not seem to have any other virtues other than being a childbearer.

Compare this to Wealhtheow's role at court. Wealhtheow has already been shown as the model of a good queen. She bears the cup of the mead-hall to serve her husband and guests. She also conforms to her name, which means "treasure-bearer," by assisting in the giving of gifts to Beowulf. She acts as a peace-weaver between her husband and brother-in-law, offering Hrothulf the right to care for her sons in their father's absence. Yet she refrains from saying that Hrothulf will inherit the kingdom, and shows enough courage to ask Hrothgar to protect the kingdom for her own sons. Thus we see her as a free-thinking woman who wants to protect her sons and her kingdom‹more than just a mother.

The story of the fight at Finnesburh is documented in what is known as the Finnesburh fragment, which tells us about one of the battles. Why should the minstrel tell the story at such an inopportune moment? It is his means of educating the people‹if the Danes are not careful, they will fall in such a manner again. As always, the story also foreshadows events that will be recounted in Beowulf's speech to his own lord, Hygelac.