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Who is Beowulf's father?I thought that Beowulf's father was Ecgtheow, but I got the...

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bnbn1382a | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 5, 2012 at 4:02 AM via web

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Who is Beowulf's father?

I thought that Beowulf's father was Ecgtheow, but I got the answer wrong on my quiz, and it said the answer was Hygelac.
Am I mistaken or do I need to contact my teacher?

Tagged with beowulf, literature

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 5, 2012 at 4:26 AM (Answer #1)

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You are correct. Beowulf's father was indeed Ecgtheow, and his mother was the daughter of Hrethel, king of the Geats. Beowulf introduces himself as the son of Ecgtheow in Chapter IV:

My father was known to far-off folk: Ecgtheow was his name. A man of many winters, he departed as an aged man from the earth and is honored even today by sage men throughout the world's width. 

When Hrothgar hears that Beowulf has arrived, he remembers him as the son of Ecgtheow and an unnamed daughter of Hrethel:

...his aged father was named Ecgtheow, to whom Hrethel the Geat gave his only daughter.

Later Hrothgar describes a bit of Ecgtheow's history, telling Beowulf that his father had kindled a blood-feud by killing one "Heatholoaf of the Wylfings," and that he had been given shelter among the Danes. Hrothgar even settled the feud for Ecgtheow, and Beowulf's father swore fealty to him in return. So Ecgtheow is, definitively, Beowulf's father. Hygelac, incidentally, was a son of Hrethel, the Geatish king who raised Beowulf. He would have been Beowulf's uncle on his mother's side, not his father.

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