In Beowulf, who is Wiglaf, and what is his relationship to Beowulf?

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Wiglaf is a significant character in the third and last episode of the Beowulf poem. Wiglaf is Beowulf's most loyal warrior, a representative of the generation after him. He is the only one of Beowulf's warriors not to abandon his king when the dragon menaces Beowulf's people. He is Beowulf's sole living kinsman, being a distant cousin of the great warrior-king.

Wiglaf's fierce loyalty, especially in contrast to the other warriors, says a lot about the state of Beowulf's society late in his reign. It suggests that the heroic traits that Beowulf so embodied—loyalty to a king, courage in the face of danger—are dying traits. This adds to the famous elegiac tone of the poem, which presents the passing away of a way of life. The fact that Beowulf's people fear their own extinction when he is no longer there to protect them contributes to this implication.

Wiglaf emerges as Beowulf's successor, both as a king and as a warrior. However, he does not appear optimistic about the future of the Geats. He may or may not be able to fully fill Beowulf's shoes as protector of his people.

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Wiglaf is Beowulf's most loyal warrior and the only person who comes to his aid during his grueling battle with the dragon. Wiglaf is Beowulf's kinsman and one of the last remaining members of the Waegmunding clan. He is referred to as an honorable Shylfing warrior and demonstrates his loyalty by risking his life to help Beowulf win the final battle. When Wiglaf realizes that Beowulf is in serious trouble, he attempts to shame the other warriors into fighting alongside the king in order to defeat the dragon. Unfortunately, Wiglaf is not able to persuade the other warriors into entering the dragon's barrow and runs to Beowulf's aid by himself. After the dragon fatally wounds Beowulf, Wiglaf stabs it in the stomach before the king is able to deal the fatal blow and defeat the dragon. Following the battle, Beowulf is incapacitated and Wiglaf carries some of the dragon's treasure to the king's side to comfort him before he dies. Beowulf then passes his kingship onto Wiglaf, who has earned the right to rule the Geats.

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Wiglaf is the old King Beowulf's most loyal warrior. In Beowulf's last battle as he attempts to slay the dragon, all of his warriors desert him except Wiglaf. Together they slay the dragon. As Beowulf is dying from his wounds, it is Wiglaf who retrieves the dragon's treasure and brings it to Beowulf, as Beowulf had asked him to do. Wiglaf revives and comforts the dying king. Beowulf then gives Wiglaf his own gold necklace, helmet, rings, and mail shirt and makes his final requests of the young man: to lead and help his people and to build a tomb for Beowulf by the sea. Wiglaf mourns the loss of his king and honors these requests faithfully.

In regard to his personal background, the text identifies Wiglaf as the son of Wexstan whose family had been of Swedish descent. At various times, Wiglaf refers to Beowulf as his lord, his king, his cousin, and his kin. 

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