Notes on Beowulf Part 3
Ok, so now we are reading the final third of the epic. We see that Beowulf (strong like bull) is exhibiting all the good qualities of a future leader of his people. He gives a gold hilted sword to the coast guard who watched his boat for him while he took care of Grendle and Mom. Then he and his men board their ship and sail back to Geatland (his country in what is now southern Sweden).
Once home, Beowulf is met by fellow Geats and a big party is given in Beowulf's honor. After all, Beowulf has brought honor and glory to all of the Geats by his feats. Hygelac (Beowulf's king and uncle) is mad proud of Beowulf. Beowulf hooks up Hygelac with some of the bling bling that Hrothgar gave him. Then Hygelac hooks up Beowulf with his (Hrothgar's) father's sword (This would also be Beowulf's grandfather.) and 7 thousand hides of land. (That's a lot of land - somewhere between 300,000 and 700,000 acres.)
Ok, so we skip a bunch of years and we see that Beowulf has been king for 50 years. He is now mad old, at least 70. A slave has accidentally found a dragon's hoard of treasure and has stolen a cup to please his master. This ticks off the dragon, who, of course, is able to fly and breathe fire, which he does. Beowulf, being king, feels it is his duty to snuff the dragon, yo. Remember this is Anglo-Saxon times when men took honor and bravery seriously. He'd rather die fighting. So he gets together a posse of 11 men and has an iron shield made. Now he needs the original slave to help him find his way into the dragon's crib. That make's 13 - like whoa, an unlucky number!
Well, Beowulf and his posse find the dragon's barrow (crib). Since it's daytime, Beowulf has to holla to get the dragon to come out. When he does, he is angry because his nap was disturbed. He came out breathing fire. When Beowulf's men see the dragon, they book to the hills. What happened to comitatus? Wiglaf, who happens to be a cousin of Beowulf, stops to yell at the cowards. Then he helps Beowulf. With the second attack of the dragon, Beowulf snaps his sword in the dragon's head, and Wiglaf's shield burns. The third time the dragon attacks, Beowulf is grabbed by the throat and hauled up in the dragon's mouth. Wiglaf puts his sword into the dragon's belly, while Beowulf takes his dagger and finishes off the dragon.
Now Beowulf is lying on the ground, bleeding all over, burntlike a marshmallow, crisp on the outside and mushy on the inside. Wiglaf cleans off his lord and takes off his helmet. Beowulf wants to see the dragon's stash.
So, Wiglaf brings out as much of the bling bling as he can carry. Beowulf is happy he is leaving the treasure for his people. He gives his armor to Wiglaf, says that he's happy he can die knowing he never swore a false oath (lied) or killed kinsmen and always went for the glory. Then he finally dies! (sniff, sniff)
Wiglaf is upset and begins to yell at the cowards who are just now coming down to see what happened. Wiglaf tells them that they are disgraced in the eyes of the tribe. It was Beowulf who gave them their armor and the honor of accompanying him on this last adventure and they failed him. They will now be exiled along with their families.
People from the tribe are informed about Beowulf's death and they come to see. The dragon is 50 man-foot long. They roll it into the waves. They they bring wagons to take the treasure out of the barrow, and they carry Beowulf's body to the pyre. (That's the mound of sticks, etc. that will be used to burn the body.) They put him on a bier (the platform over the pyre) dressed in his armor. The treasure is put on the pyre with him. Then they send it up in flames. An aged woman sings a dirge (a funeral song) about the horrors that will come now that Beowulf is dead.
When the flames have died down, they take all that is left and bury it in Beowulf's Barrow (monument). It takes ten days to build the barrow. Then twelve warriors sang a dirge and told of the hero's deeds. The final words tell us that Beowulf was "kindest of worldly kings,/Mildest, most gentle, most eager for fame."
These notes are only the plot. There are many things we need to discuss, such as imagery, symbolism, the genre of the epic, the traditions, etc. Be ready with your questions and notes tomorrow.