What is the function of Heorot?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Hrothgar, king of the Scyldings (Danes), was a successful king and warrior. As a result, his followers were loyal and his band of followers grew. His intent in building Heorot (sometimes spelled Herot) was to construct a great hall in which he could share his spoils of war and "all that God had given him, except for common land and men's bodies." He gives it the name Heorot which means "heart." It is to be the heart or center of their social lives, a place where they gather together to celebrate victory or simply to eat, drink, and celebrate life. The narrator later adds, "He did not forget his promise: at the feast, he gave out rings, treasure." Heorot gave Hrothgar a place to show his generosity to his retainers (servants, attendants, warriors). It is therefore all the more tragic when Grendel attacks because Heorot is the symbol of brotherhood, a home, and the place where they should find comfort in celebration and sharing wealth. 

Hrothgar is quite proud of Heorot. He recognizes its importance to the Scylding's way of life, the "heart" of their social gatherings. He expresses this admiration as well as his faith in Beowulf to protect it: 

"Never before, since I could raise hand and shield, have I entrusted to any man the great hall of the Danes, except now to you. Hold now and guard the best of houses: remember your fame, show your great courage, keep watch against the fierce foe. You will not lack what you wish if you survive that deed of valor." 

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