In Beowulf, is the mead hall the "heart" of Hrothgar's Kingdom?
In Medieval times, the mead halls were central to any town for many reasons.
- Because it was generally the largest structure in town, this was the place for social gatherings and communal dining. News was exchanged, events of the day were shared, and visitors were entertained (by scops who might have been recounting Beowulf, ironically enough).
- In times of seige, any buidling with a tower was the first line of defense; short of that, the mead hall was the place all would go if the town were attacked.
- It was a symbol of the richness and prestige of the local lord or king--the grander the mead hall, the greater the man. Hrothgar was obviously a well respected and proseprous man--except for the Grendel thing, of course.
- A king's thanes (knights, soldiers) slept in the mead hall.
This structure was important on every level--social, physical, and psychological. Anyone who could control or capture another's mead hall had a stronghold on the people, as well.
The "heart" of Hrothgar's Kingdom is Heorot " a great mead-hall meant to be a wonder of the world forever" (line lines 69-70) also referred to as "the hall of halls".( line 78)
Hrothgar build Heorot to be " his throne room" (line 71). Being the centre of the kingdom and the symbol of it, we can easily see why the repeated attacks on it were so demoralizing for the king and the whole nation.
Also, the mead hall had important function in Ancient Scandinavian society. It represented a place of security for the warriors.