Describe Beowulf's boasts upon meeting Hrothgar, king of the Danes.

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shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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When Beowulf enters Hrothgar's Herot, he wants to present himself as the warrior who is going to free the Danes from Grendel's terror. Never one to be timid, Beowulf touts his own accomplishments with as much enthusiasm as he fights monsters. At first this boasting is relatively innocuous—Beowulf just wants to make his case as a great warrior, but when Unferth challenges his honor with the story about his legendary swimming match with Brecca, which he lost, Beowulf gets angry and goes after the Danes by questioning their fighting ability and courage. The following verses present the situation, as Beowulf imagines it, from Grendel's point of view:

But he's learned that terror is his alone,

Discovered that he can come for your people with no fear

of reprisal; he's found no fighting, here,

But only food, only delight.

Beowulf is saying that the Danes have not been able to fight Grendel. Then he indirectly accuses the Danes of cowardice:

Now the Geats will show him courage, soon

He can test his strength in battle.

By saying that the Geats will demonstrate courage, Beowulf is insinuating that Grendel has yet to face courageous warriors because the Danes are not brave in battle.

So, while stopping short of directly calling the Danes cowards, Beowulf has implied that the Geats possess the battle skill and bravery that the Danes do not.

luannw's profile pic

luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

When Beowulf first speaks to Hrothgar upon arriving in the land of the Danes, he tells Hrothgar that he is qualified to fight their monster, Grendel.  He says that his people, the Geats, have seen his strength in war where he's proven himself a good fighter.  He tells of how he chased the race of giants from the earth and how he swam in the blackness of night, hunting down sea monsters and killing them one by one.  When Unferth then challenges Beowulf's abilities by asking about a swimming match with Brecca in which Beowulf supposedly lost, Beowulf answers with more tales of his abilities.  Beowulf says that no one can match his swimming abilities and during this swimming match, he kept close to Brecca until a flood forced them apart, then Beowulf was attacked by sea creatures and he had to fight them off.  One monster in particular grabbed Beowulf but he was able to kill it. Then more monsters attacked him and he had to battle and kill them.  He concludes by saying he killed nine in total.  He goes on to brag that he won't fight Grendel using any weapons since Grendel uses no weapon when he attacks. He tells Hrothgar that he will emerge victorious or die trying.


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