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Hrothgar's response to Beowulf reveals something we didn't previously know: years before, Hrothgar befriended and helped Edgetho, Beowulf's father. We can assume that Beowulf knew about his father's past relationship with the Danish king, and that consequently his instinct to travel to Denmark didn't occur in a vacuum. Part of his incentive-besides the opportunity to rise to new heights of fame and glory-is to repay an old debt.
Hrothgar's modesty, which he reveals when he recounts how he helped Edgetho, acts as a perfect foil for Beowulf's self-confidence. The old, wise king is contrasted with the brash, young warrior. Hrothgar represents a mirror-image, or model, of what Beowulf's own future might be.
The brief story of Edgetho and Hrothgar is the first of many historical digressions that interrupt the flow of the narrative. According to Hrothgar, Edgetho became embroiled in a feud with a tribe called the Wulfings, but Edgetho's countrymen were frightened of going to war. Edgetho turned to the Danes for help, and Hrothgar, a young man "new to the throne," sent treasures to the Wulfings to appease them and end the quarrel, (Notice as you read the poem the many different ways that feuds or disagreements can be resolved.)
Hrothgar passes abruptly from the story of his friendship with Edgetho to a description of the present troubles with Grendel. Though he doesn't say so directly, he implies that Beowulf will be given the chance to prove his courage against the monster. Hrothgar tells Beowulf of all the Danish warriors who have died-foolishly and drunkenly-in an attempt to rid the country of the evil monster.
Does Hrothgar's response to Beowulf's arrival seem too restrained, considering what's at stake? How do you think you'd act under similar circumstances?