The Wanderer

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Why does the wanderer go into exile?

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Although the code of behavior in Anglo-Saxon England did expect that one of the king's thanes would fight to the death at the king's side, it was not always the case that a surviving thane was dishonored. For example, Beowulf himself, the greatest of heroes in Old English poetry (at least what is extant), survives the battle in which his king and kinsman, Hygelac, is killed, and returns home alone (anhaga, which is also used to describe the Wanderer in lines 1 & 40). His people actually ask Beowulf to be king at that point, but he refuses, instead serving as regent or protector to Hygelac's son Heardred--until Heardred is also killed. Then, in spite of having failed to defend not one but two kings, Beowulf is still made king. (See Beowulf, lines 2354-2390 for this sequence of events.)

In "The Wanderer" itself, we do not find any sense of guilt or shame, but only sorrow. Furthermore, this sorrow is not just for the king or for himself, but for much greater loss:

Where is the horse?...

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