How long does Beowulf rule peacefully in his own kingdom?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf’s rule begins with the death of Heardred, the son of king Hygelac of Denmark. Beowulf had served the king’s son for a short time as regent, but his rule as a fully fledged king lasts for fifty winters. During this time, he not only brings prosperity to the “Geats,” but also security, in that no foreign ruler dares to invade their country with the knowledge that Beowulf, whose reputation as a formidable warrior had been established during the Shylfing wars would be in position to meet them. When a Geatish thief steals a golden cup from a dragon, the aging Beowulf comes to the defense of his realm one last time. He meets the dragon with an iron shield as opposed to his favored wooden shield, which had served him during his previous battles. However this is not enough, in that although he is successful in killing the dragon, he needs the help of a loyal young soldier by the name of Wiglaf, who stabs the dragon while it is busy fighting the king. Beowulf is poisoned by the dragon’s bite, and his reign comes to an end soon after as he expires.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Years pass following Beowulf's victories over Grendel and Grendel's mother and King Hygelac is finally killed in battle. After King Hygelic is slain, his son Heardred inherits the throne and Beowulf becomes his regent. Heardred is then slain by the sons of Ohthere and Beowulf inherits the throne as King of the Geats. Beowulf peacefully rules over his kingdom for fifty consecutive years until a malevolent dragon begins to terrorize the countryside. The dragon has guarded his treasure for three hundred years and seeks vengeance after a Geat fugitive steals a single flagon from his hoard. Although Beowulf has aged considerably since his renowned past victories, he accepts the responsibility of protecting his country by preparing to battle the dangerous dragon. Beowulf orders a new shield made of iron and travels to the dragon's lair along with eleven of his best soldiers. Unfortunately, all of his soldiers abandon him except Wiglaf. However, Beowulf and Wiglaf successfully defeat the dragon before Beowulf dies from his wounds.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf rules the Geats for fifty years. At around line 2210, the poem says that after the death of Hygelac and his son Heardred, Beowulf ruled well “for fifty winters, grew old and wise / as warden of the land.” For those fifty years, Beowulf lived an exemplary life; he behaved with honor, did not cut down a comrade who was drunk, and controlled his tremendous strength.

It is after this protracted period of prosperity that Beowulf’s final challenge, the dragon, appears. Someone has broken into the dragon’s lair and stolen a jeweled goblet, enraging the dragon. The dragon lays waste to fortifications up and down the coast, and even destroys Beowulf's own throne room. Beowulf chooses not to raise an army to fight the dragon, figuring that he and eleven companions should be able to defeat the monster.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After Beowulf defeated Grendel at a battle in the mead hall of the Danes, Grendel's mother sought to avenge her son's death. She attacked the mead hall after sunset and killed King Hrothgar's confidant and warrior. The King was furious and sad and asked Beowulf to pursue Grendel's mother to her hideout. Beowulf pursued the monster and defeated her in a great battle at her hideout. After this achievement Beowulf and his men went back home.

Beowulf then became king of the Geats after the fall of King Hygelac and his son Heardred in a battle with the Swedes. Beowulf went ahead to rule for 50 winters (years) peacefully before the kingdom was attacked by a dragon.

"He held it well, ruled fifty winters; he was an old land guardian.Then in the dark nights a dragon began to rule, he who guarded a hoard, a steep stone burial mound high on the heath."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf ruled for fifty winters (years) in Geatland before the dragon was disturbed.  Beowulf ascended to the throne after his cousin, Higd's son, was killed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial