During the battle with the dragon in "Beowulf," what do his followers do?

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

They run away, the lily-livered ungrateful weasels.  Beowulf has led the Geats ably for years, defeating Grendel and his mother, ruling well and honestly.  Yet in his final battle, he is left to face the irate dragon by himself:

The hoard-guard took heart, inhaled and swelled up

and got a new wind; he who had once ruled

was furled in fire and had to face the worst.

No help or backing was to be had then

from his high-born comrades; that hand-picked troop

broke ranks and ran for their lives

to the safety of the wood (2594-2599). 

All, that is, save one honest and brave warrior.  Wiglaf, who not only stands beside Beowulf but rebukes the cowards:

Sad at heart, addressing his companions,

Wiglaf spoke wise and fluent words:

"I remember a time when mead was flowing,

how we pledged loyalty to our lord in the hall

...

...I well know

the things he has done for us deserve better. 

Should he alone be left exposed

to fall in battle? "  (2556-60). 

For free, online lessons for the entire poem, as well as discussion questions (where you can either view the history of or participate in), please click the second link below.