Beowulf Questions and Answers

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In "Beowulf," why did the Danes bury the treasure that Beowulf and Wiglaf recovered from the dragon?    

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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During the battle, Wiglaf was the only warrior brave enough to enter the fight and come to Beowulf's aid. Despite his efforts in helping kill the dragon, Wiglaf was not able to save the king's life and Beowulf offered him final instructions to retrieve some of the treasure to look at before he passed away. Beowulf also ordered Wiglaf to construct a massive funeral pyre for his burial at Whale's Cliff. After the king dies, Wiglaf rebukes the warriors, who ran away and refused to fight the dragon. Then, Weohstan selects seven thanes to enter the dragon's lair and they proceed to haul the buried treasure out of the barrow. The audience learns the treasure has been cursed and is to be buried with Beowulf. Shortly after retrieving the treasure, a funeral pyre is erected, where Beowulf's body and the dragon's treasure are burned. The treasure is then buried in a funeral barrow alongside Beowulf's remains. The treasure was not distributed and shared among the warriors because they were not worthy of receiving the gold after they refused to fight the dragon.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Danes bury the treasure because this was one of Beowulf's last commands before dying after fighting the dragon. The treasure is to be buried rather than shared by Beowulf's warriors, as would be the usual dispensation of the spoils of battle, because Beowulf's warriors had behaved in a disloyal and cowardly way. Except for Wiglaf, all of Beowulf's men abandoned him by running away, refusing to help him slay the dragon when it became clear that the dragon was winning his battle against the King. Beowulf's warriors, except for Wiglaf, betrayed their responsibilities and therefore their very reason for existing in their culture. Such cowardice and treason would not be rewarded. The treasure is walled up in the tower built by the sea, at Beowulf's direction, along with his ashes.

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