Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593
Higd: Higlac’s wife
Thrith: Offa’s wife who, prior to her marriage, wantonly bore false witness, causing the unnecessary deaths of whomever she chose to accuse
Freaw: the daughter Hrothgar married to Ingeld in the futile hope of settling the feud between his people and his son-in-law’s
As Beowulf and his men go to their ship, the Danish sentry rides to meet them—not to challenge them, but to tell them how welcome they will be at home. Beowulf gives the ship’s watchman a sword hammered in gold and the Geats load their vessel with the horses, armor, and treasures. They set sail. The waiting Geats run to greet them when they arrive home and carry their prizes to Higlac. The band of Geats who are returning from Denmark hasten to greet Higlac.
Higlac seats Beowulf next to him and mead is served. Higlac is happy to see his nephew again, saying he feared he would never see him again. Beowulf tells his lord of his battles with the two monsters, the three feasts, and the impending marriage of Freaw to Ingeld in what Beowulf feels is a futile attempt by Hrothgar to end the feud between their peoples. In presenting the banner, helmet, armor, and sword given to him by Hrothgar for Higlac, Beowulf explains their heritage as Hrothgar had asked him to do. Then the four horses are brought in and presented to Higlac. Higd is given the necklace sent to her by Welthow, Hrothgar’s queen, and three other horses. Higlac bestows the sword of his father and Beowulf’s grandfather upon the young Geatish prince, in addition to bestowing him with land and houses.
Having refused the throne once before, Beowulf accepts it after the deaths of both Higlac and his son, Herdred. He rules for 50 years and is an old man when a dragon is awakened by a thief stealing one of its treasures. The beast arises to terrorize Geatland.
Discussion and Analysis
It seems that Beowulf was well-raised by his lord’s father, Hrethel. Not only does he do exactly as Hrothgar instructed in presenting all his gifts to Higlac, but he also explains their heritage as the older Danish king had requested. Welthow’s gifts to Higd are given with the same promptness and courtesy. It must be pointed out that princes and warriors often kept the gifts bestowed upon them as prizes, instead of giving these gifts to their kings.
Hrothgar cautioned Beowulf against letting pride be his ruling emotion; between the respect and loyalty he shows for his sovereigns and the kindness (as in presenting the man who watched the boat with a sword for his troubles) and deference he shows to his elders, the reader begins to wonder if perhaps Beowulf has taken Hrothgar’s stories and admonitions to heart. When he is urged to ascend the Geatish throne upon Higlac’s death, he does not, preferring to stand aside so that Herdred, Higlac’s son, could have that honor and responsibility. Only when Herdred also dies does Beowulf agree to take the throne.
It appears that, while amassing all the glory and fame he could, Beowulf is simultaneously learning the ethics necessary to be a proper king. The poems sung at the feasts and the stories told to him by the Danish king do not miss their mark. It is noted that he was noble (although thought lazy) while still a boy; it is obvious that all his fame and glory did not destroy this nobility.
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