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

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.