In Beowulf, how might Wiglaf's recollections of the past foreshadow the future of the Geats?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the epic Beowulf, the King of the Geats, Beowulf, has just died in section 39, abandoned by all his men but the young warrior, Wiglaf.

Therefore, in section 40, as Wiglaf shares the story of Beowulf's fate, he also shares a history of those warriors and kings who came before Beowulf. Wiglaf speaks of fighting and the death. He recounts how, when it seemed all was lost, relief and support came at the last moment, when all believed there was no hope.

But rescue came
with dawn of day for those desperate men
when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,
tones of his trumpet; the trusty king
had followed their trail with faithful band.

Wiglaf's memories of the past may well foreshadow the future of the Geats, but in light of the abandonment of Beowulf in his hour of need, the story may have a different outcome.

Rescue comes from Hygelac, Beowulf's uncle. He was a man that Beowulf loved and honored. Beowulf, much like his uncle as a man and ruler, would have risked all, to also arrive when there seemed little hope of deliverance, to save his people. However, now that Beowulf has died because of the cowardice of most of his men, the fate of the Geats may be very different, as Beowulf is not alive to rescue them in their hour of need. Wiglaf's recollections may well foreshadow doom for the Geats under the present circumstances.

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