Lines 2,602–3,057 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated May 24, 2023.

Wiglaf, who had Swedish ancestry but was now a Geat, was the warrior who did not flee from Beowulf's battle with the dragon. He wore his father Wexstan's armor, obtained from a battle with Onela's nephew. Wiglaf rushed to Beowulf's aid for the first time, acknowledging that the king had grown older and needed assistance from younger and stronger men, despite his initial intention to face the dragon alone. He shouted words of encouragement to Beowulf, which angered the dragon. As a result, Wiglaf had to abandon his burning shield and seek refuge behind the king's shield since his chainmail provided no defense against the intense heat.

Beowulf attempted to slay the dragon with his sword Nagling, but it shattered like his previous swords due to his mighty strikes. Exploiting Beowulf's temporary vulnerability, the dragon attacked and impaled its tusks into Beowulf's neck. Wiglaf, burning his hands in the process, attacked the dragon in a lower area with his sword as the dragon's flames began to weaken. Beowulf used his dagger to split the beast in half. Unfortunately, the dragon's venom in Beowulf's flesh caused a festering wound. Beowulf collapsed, and Wiglaf did his best to make him comfortable in his final moments. Realizing his impending death, Beowulf requests that Wiglaf retrieve some of the dragon's treasure to ease his passing.

Wiglaf discovered the treasure, mysteriously illuminated by a pervasive light, and hurriedly brought a portion to the dying king. He used water to alleviate Beowulf's suffering as the old king implored him to succeed him as the next ruler. Beowulf also instructed Wiglaf to construct a tomb by the water's edge, a prominent landmark visible to sailors, so that they would remember their fallen king. Beowulf succumbed to his injuries after handing over his necklace, helmet, rings, and mail shirt to Wiglaf.

Desperate to keep Beowulf alive, Wiglaf continued to sprinkle water on the lifeless body while the cowardly soldiers returned. He sternly criticized their disgraceful behavior and dispatched a messenger to inform the Geats of their king's demise, urging them to prepare for an imminent war once their enemies learned of Beowulf's death. He proposed that the dragon's treasure be entirely consumed in Beowulf's funeral pyre, preventing anyone from enjoying it, as it was acquired at the cost of their wise king's life. The soldiers walked past the enormous dragon's corpse, then mournfully passed by Beowulf's motionless body, shedding tears.

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