Study Guide

Beowulf

by Anonymous, Unknown

Beowulf Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Beowulf

Beowulf (bay-eh-woolf), the nephew and thane of King Hygelac of the Geats. A warrior who proves his superhuman strength and endurance in his struggle with the monster Grendel, he exemplifies the ideal lord and vassal, rewarding his own men generously and accomplishing glorious deeds to honor his king, while he fulfills all the forms of courtesy at Hrothgar’s court.

Hrothgar

Hrothgar (HROHTH-gahr), the aging lord of the Danes, a good and generous ruler deeply distressed by Grendel’s ravaging visits to Heorot, his great hall. He adopts his savior, Beowulf, as his son and parts with him tearfully in a moving scene; he knows that he will not see the young warrior again.

Wealhtheow

Wealhtheow (WEE-ahl-thay-oh), his queen, a gracious, dignified hostess to the visiting Geats. She, too, grows fond of Beowulf and commends the welfare of her young sons into his hands.

Unferth

Unferth (EWN-fahrth), Hrothgar’s adviser, typical of the wicked counselors of folklore. Envious of Beowulf and heated with wine, he taunts the Geat with his failure to defeat Breca in a youthful swimming match. He is won over by Beowulf’s victory against Grendel and lends the hero his sword, Hrunting, for the undersea battle against Grendel’s mother.

Grendel

Grendel (GREHN-duhl), one of the monstrous descendants of Cain, condemned to wander alone in the wastelands of the world. Given pain by the light and merriment in Hrothgar’s hall, he visits it and regularly carries off warriors to devour until he is mortally maimed in a struggle with Beowulf.

Grendel’s Mother

Grendel’s Mother, another monster. She invades Heorot to avenge her dead son and is herself killed by Beowulf after a long and difficult combat in her underwater cave.

Hygelac

Hygelac (HE-guh-lahk), Beowulf’s lord, the wise ruler of the Geats. He is killed while leading a raid in the Rhineland.

Hygd

Hygd (hihj), his young, accomplished, and intelligent queen. She offers the throne of her young son to Beowulf after Hygelac’s death.

Hrothmund

Hrothmund (HROHTH-mewnd) and

Hrethric

Hrethric (HRAYTH-reek), the sons of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow.

Hrothulf

Hrothulf (HROHTH-oolf), Hrothgar’s nephew and ward. Although Wealhtheow professes trust in his care of her children, there are hints of his subsequent treachery to them.

Freawaru

Freawaru (FRAY-ah-wah-rew), Hrothgar’s daughter, about to be betrothed to Ingeld of the Heathobards as a political pawn. Beowulf prophesies that only unhappiness will arise from this alliance.

Wiglaf

Wiglaf (WEEG-lahf), the last of Beowulf’s kinsmen and his heir. He alone helps the old hero in his last fight against a ravaging dragon, and he later berates his companions for their cowardice.

Heardred

Heardred (HEH-ahrd-rayd), Hygelac’s son, who succeeds his father as king of the Geats. Beowulf serves as his regent until the boy reaches maturity and replaces him after Heardred is killed in battle with the Swedes.

Ongentheow

Ongentheow (OHN-yuhn-thee-oh), the Swedish king, slain by the Geats at the battle of Ravenswood.

Onela

Onela (OHN-eh-luh),

Ohthere

Ohthere (OHT-ehr-uh),

Eanmund

Eanmund (AY-ahn-moond), and

Eadgils

Eadgils (AY-ahd-gihls), members of the Swedish royal family.

Wulfgar

Wulfgar (WOOLF-gahr), Hrothgar’s messenger, famous for wisdom and courtesy.

Hrethel

Hrethel (HRAYTH-uhl), Hygelac’s father, who trained his grandson Beowulf.

Haethcynn

Haethcynn (HATH-kihn) and

Herebeald

Herebeald (HEHR-uh-bay-ahld), his sons, who brought tragedy to their father through Herebeald’s accidental killing of Haethcynn.

Eofor

Eofor (AY-uh-fohr), a warrior of the Geats, the slayer of Ongentheow.

Aeschere

Aeschere (EHSH-hehr-uh), Hrothgar’s thane, a victim of Grendel and his mother.

Scyld

Scyld (sheeld) and

Beowulf

Beowulf, legendary Danish kings.

Breca

Breca (BREHK-uh), a prince of the Brondings, Beowulf’s companion in a swimming marathon.

Daeghraefn

Daeghraefn (DAY-rayf-uhn), a Frankish warrior whom Beowulf crushes in his powerful grip.

Finn

Finn, the Frisian ruler in a minstrel’s legend.

Hildeburh

Hildeburh (HIHL-duh-bewr), his queen.

Sigemund

Sigemund (SIHG-eh-mewnd) and

Fitela

Fitela (FIHT-uh-luh), the legendary Volsungs, uncle and nephew, whose valor is compared to Beowulf’s.

Heremod

Heremod (HEHR-uh-mohd), the minstrel’s example of an evil, oppressive ruler.

Offa

Offa (OHF-fuh), the king of the Angles, another figure from an illustrative legend.

Beowulf Characters

Aeschere
Hrothgar's councillor and friend, his "wing man" in battle. Grendel's mother murdered him in revenge for the...

(The entire section is 1632 words.)

Beowulf Character Analysis

Beowulf
The protagonist of this epic Old English poem is at times sketched in the broad strokes you might expect in a...

(The entire section is 1473 words.)