What are some qualities of King Scyld? How do the people view him, and how can you tell?

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You are referring to Scyld, the king who is discussed in the opening lines of the poem. Scyld is pronounced "Shild" because the "sc" letter group in Anglo-Saxon had the same sound as modern English "sh."

Scyld, the son of Scef, was thought to be an exemplary king. We know this because the poet states it explicitly: "þæt wæs gód cyning" (line 11), which means, "that was a good king!" It is no accident that a description of Scyld is the first thing we read in the poem. Scyld is being held up as an ideal king against whom all the other kings in the poem—and there are many, particularly if we include the various digressions as well—must be compared.

What kind of king was Scyld, then? Well, we know he was courageous and that rumor of his great deeds had spread far and wide. He was also extremely fearsome—the peoples of everywhere for miles around had to submit to him and "gomban gyldan," or yield tribute. This is important because it means he made his own nation both powerful and wealthy through his behavior. It also tells us that the Anglo-Saxons expected a good king to be a warrior king.

"Honors" were showered upon Scyld during his kingship, and he was then given a son who was said to have been "god sende," or sent by God, to comfort the people after Scyld left them. We can see, then, that Scyld was greatly beloved by his people, as they suffered "distress" (line 14) during the time they were forced to be without him and his protection.

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