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LOYALTY SHOWN IN BEOWULF
In the fictional story Beowulf, one of the oldest existing poems in the English
language, loyalty is revealed in all aspects. Due to God’s loyal act of strength and
power at an exceptional time for the Danes, Beowulf comes into existence as
Scyld’s son. Loyalty, an act of good faith, is a quality you can cherish in everyone.
Beowulf’s past plays a major role in his future. Scyld, Beowulf’s father, did not
have a son for many years. God saw the misery that would befall the Danish nation
if Scyld were to die and leave his country leaderless, so God provided Scyld with
Beowulf. Afterward, Beowulf rules the Danes for many years. Then his son,
Healfdene, becomes ruler, and he has four sons and a daughter. One of Healfdene’s
sons, Hrothgor, although not the eldest, eventually becomes king of the Danes
because of his loyal courage and success in battle, and his band of warriors
increases as his reputation for success and fairness grows throughout the land;
eventually, he builds up a fierce army.
Grendel, not only a monster in human-like shape, but he is also a descendant of
Cain. He lives under an inherited curse and is denied God’s presence. Eventually,
reports of Grendel’s bloodthirsty raids reach King Hygelac’s court in Geatland.
Soon afterward, Hygelac’s nephew Beowulf announces that he will sail to
Hrothgar’s kingdom and offer help. He sets out immediately, sailing across the sea
with fourteen carefully chosen thanes. Arriving at the Danish shore, Beowulf and his
men give thanks to God for a safe journey, then come ashore. They are greeted by
Hrothgar’s coastal guard, who expresses surprise at the Geat’s brazenness,
commenting particularly on Beowulf’s formidable and princely bearing.
Beowulf emerges triumphant and swims ashore, carrying the hilt of the giant
sword and Grendel’s huge head. The Geats cluster about him, thanking God, and
after impaling Grendel’s heavy head on a spear, four men carry it back to Heorot. At
Heorot, they drag the head across the floor for all to see, while Beowulf relates the
story of his fight beneath the water, referring to Grendel’s mother as the enemy of
God. Beowulf’s moral greatness is enhanced by contrasting his refusal of the throne
to Hrothulf’s display of ingratitude to Hrothgar’s kindness when he later lays hold of
the Danish throne.
Beowulf rules wisely for fifty years without war or disruption of peace. As a
warrior, he is incredibly gentle, the mildest of men, and most civil. The peace of the
kingdom is destroyed only when the enraged dragon roars through the Geats’
homeland, burning homes and destroying their mead hall. Beowulf’s first thought is
that he himself may have sinned, or broken an ancient law, and the dragon has been
sent as God’s punishment. With superior forces like God and the heroic deeds made
by Beowulf, then one can truly say they understand and respect loyalty.
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Beowulf, Geats, Scyldings, Anglo-Saxon paganism, English folklore, Hrothgar, Grendel, The Dragon, Hrlfr Kraki, Heorot, Onela, Hygelac
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