How does the lieutenant recognize Beowulf as a hero?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beowulf heard of Grendel’s terror over the Danes. He decided to travel to King Hrothgar’s territory to offer assistance to the people and take up the challenge of facing the monster. He gathered 14 warriors to accompany him to the Danes and help him face Grendel. They traveled by sea along the coastline and arrived at their destination on the second day. They disembarked on the shore, and they were met by a Scylding scout (lieutenant). The sentinel was responsible for watching the shores of the Danes for intruders. The sentinel sought the strangers’ introduction but also recognized the hero-warrior (Beowulf) by his armor.

"Who then are you, men bearing arms and clad in coats of mail, who have thus come with this mighty vessel over the ocean's ways? I have been set as a sentinel over this seacoast that no foe of the Danish folk should harm the land with marauding ships. Never have shield-bearing men so openly landed, nor do you know our clan's word of passage, or hold my folk's consent—never have I seen in the world a warrior like that one among yourselves—a hero in his armor! He is no henchman, unless his looks deceive; he has a regal bearing. Now must I know your nationality before you wander hence from here as intruders in Danish lands. Now, foreigners who fare on the ocean, hear me out: it's best to make haste and let me know from whence you come.”

It is likely that Beowulf’s armor was different from those of the other warriors. He was considered a prince and more so a hero among his people. This would have entitled him to some special features on his dressing that made him stand-out. His demeanor and dressing made it possible for the sentinel to recognize Beowulf’s status.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the epic poem Beowulf, the sentinel, or lieutenant, immediately recognizes Beowulf as a hero. Beowulf has just landed in the Dane-lands and the first person he meets is the sentinel.

It is the job of the sentinel to watch the shores of Hrothgar's lands for invaders. Seeing Beowulf arrive in full battle gear surprise the sentinel.

While he is surprised, he immediately recognizes Beowulf as a great leader and warrior.

Never have shield-bearing men so openly landed, nor do you know our clan's word of passage, or hold my folk's consent—never have I seen in the world a warrior like that one among yourselves—a hero in his armor! He is no henchman, unless his looks deceive; he has a regal bearing.

Through this, readers can see why he has come to the conclusion that Beowulf is a hero.

Read the study guide:
Beowulf

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