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What kind of funeral did Beowulf have?

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kalliem20 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted June 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM via web

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What kind of funeral did Beowulf have?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 8, 2012 at 10:01 PM (Answer #1)

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The funeral of Beowulf, as depicted in the epic and anonymously written Beowulf, was conducted as the traditional funerals were at the time. The first part of the funeral mirrors those of the Vikings and the Romans. While Beowulf was not set upon his pyre and set out to sea (like Viking deceased), Beowulf does have a rather large pyre built, upon which he is laid to rest and set ablaze.

The Geatish folk constructed upon the earth a funeral pyre of no small dimensions, and hung it about with helmets, battle shields, and bright breastplates, as he requested. Amidst it they laid the illustrious chieftain, the hero and beloved lord. That hugest of balefires was then awakened on the hill by the warriors. Woodsmoke rose black over the blaze, and the roar of the flame shot upward as it mingled with the sound of weeping.

After, Beowulf's men and followers built a tower upon a cliff for his ashes to be placed. The building of the tower took ten days to complete. Beowulf's followers wanted to be sure that all upon the sea, near Beowulf's lands, could see the monument built to honor him. Not only was the tower built, the people even built a broad wall around the site of Beowulf's pyre and decorated it with gold, jewels and other treasures.

The Geatish folk fashioned a broad and high barrow on the headland, visible to seafarers abroad. In ten days, their toil had raised the beacon for him brave in battle. Around the brands of the pyre they built the worthiest wall that the wisest men could contrive with their wits. They placed in the barrow collars, rings, and such wealth as the stalwart heroes had lately captured in the hoard, trusting the ground with the treasure of princes, and placing the gold in the earth, where it lies, forever useless to men, as it was in days of old.

Lastly, twelve members of royalty rode along the wall chanting and lamenting Beowulf's passing.

They lauded his reign and praised his feats of prowess; it is fitting that men should extol their liege lord with words and cherish him in love when the lord goes hence from life and take his departure from the home of his body.

Overall, Beowulf's funeral was quite extravagant. One can tell from the great detail that much was thought of both Beowulf, the man, and the final place where Beowulf's body would resign.

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