Three funerals are described in Beowulf.  Whose funerals are they?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Look at line 33 of the poem, very near the beginning, and you will find a description of the "hero's vessel" which was being readied to set sail bearing the body of the "beloved prince" Beaw, the Scylding. The funeral described here in the opening scene of the poem is a traditional Danish one. The body of Beaw is set in the prow of a boat, ready to be pushed offshore into the ocean.

Next, we see another description of a funeral beginning at line 1006 of the poem. Here, we see a different aspect of the funeral described after the death of Hildeberg's family: the poet describes how a corpse "in his death-bed...sleeps after feasting." He states that those who followed the dead comported themselves extremely well in the mead-hall after their death, in recognition of their life.

The final funeral in Beowulf is, of course, that of the eponymous Beowulf himself. A king, Beowulf must receive a king's funeral; "the flame must devour" his corpse as it is committed to the sea. The description of Beowulf's funeral gives some explanation of how the Anglo-Saxons viewed treasure: the treasure recovered from the dragon shall not be displayed on the neck of any girl in Beowulf's tribe, but rather, must be hidden with his death, "as useless to men it ever was."

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first funeral described is that of the father of the Spear-Danes and their king, Scyld Scefing. After Scyld served his time and passed on, he was given a send-off that he had requested. A band of warriors carried him off to sea, laid his body in a boat, and adorned the vessel with treasures and his battle gear, and the boat committed to the sea. Scyld left behind a son and the next king of the Danes, Beow.

The second funeral described is that of Hnaef, Hilderburh’s brother, and Finn’s brother-in-law. Hnaef is killed during an expedition through Frisian territory. Hilderburh asks that Hnaef’s body and that of her son, a warrior who died during the expeditions, be burned on the same funeral pyre. Finn is the king of the Frisians married to Hilderburh, a Danish princess.

The third funeral described is that of Beowulf. After facing off with the Dragon, Beowulf is mortally injured. Beowulf is given the stipulated send-off fit for a king, and he is placed in a barrow. His funeral pyre is burned, and a mound filled with treasures won from the dragon is constructed. People are allowed to gather around the mound to lament of their king’s death.

nhsaint eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first funeral is for the King of the Danes, in lines 1-52. This funeral serves as a way to introduce the setting and the storyline.

The second funeral is for Hildeberg's family in lines 1007-24. They were killed during Beowulf's battle with Grendel.

The last funeral they probably want you to mention is Beowulf's funeral in lines 3137-82. Beowulf is cremated and buried with all the hoard of the dragon he died killing.

Some commentators have made the argument that there is really a fourth funeral, that of "The Lay of the Last Survivor" found in lines 2247-66. Although this is never explicitly called a funeral, many references are made to rituals that are normally only performed at a funeral.

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