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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSES 14-15

Hrothgar's speech to Beowulf is more than an expression of gratitude. "Let me take you to my heart," he says, "make you my son too,/And love you" (947-48). When a person performs a great favor for you, as Beowulf has done for Hrothgar and the Danes, the immediate, human response is to accept the person into your family. If someone were to save your life wouldn't you feel that way toward her or him? (Remember, too, that Beowulf and Hrothgar are connected by Hrothgar's relationship to Beowulf's father.) Accepting Beowulf as a son is more important than all the material wealth Hrothgar can offer.

NOTE:

Again, notice how the influence of Christianity pervades Hrothgar's speech to Beowulf. It was the Almighty who sent Beowulf to Denmark and it was "with the Lord's help" that Beowulf was able to defeat Grendel. Beowulf's mother "knew the grace of the God of our fathers" for giving birth to such a great hero. Do you think that Hrothgar is minimizing Beowulf's achievement by attributing his defeat of Grendel to the will of God?


Beowulf's response is almost apologetic (especially in comparison to his more boastful speeches in the previous verses). Though Grendel is obviously dead, and his severed arm hangs from the rafters, Beowulf isn't completely satisfied with his accomplishment. His retelling of the story of his battle with Grendel is an example of the poet's technique of describing the same scenes from different points of view.

NOTE:

The contrast between age and youth, father and son, is one of the major themes of the poem, and the speeches by Beowulf and Hrothgar provide one of the best examples. Although Beowulf is described as being youthful, his exact age is never stated. When he first arrives in Herot he announces to Hrothgar that "the days/Of my youth have been filled with glory" (408-09). He is already known throughout the world as the strongest man alive and a proven hero. It's this quality of agelessness, as if his life were suspended in time, that sets him apart from other men, and defines him as a truly heroic individual.

Notice the poet's ability to describe things with precision. At the start of Verse 14 we see Grendel's claw "swinging high from that gold-shining roof." At the end of the verse the poet returns to the image of the claw:

swinging high From Hrothgar's mead-hall roof, the fingers Of that loathsome hand ending in nails As hard as bright steel

(983-86)

Now that Grendel is dead it's time to prepare a great banquet. The poet takes the opportunity to refer to the battle between Beowulf and Grendel (996) and again we see the monster and the hero wrestling together under Herot's roof. The poet gives momentum to his material by describing the same thing in different ways. In this way he's similar to a jazz musician, improvising the same melody and chords, never repeating himself exactly, but always on the lookout for new ways of stating his themes.

NOTE:

The image of the feast (1008) comes up again and again; eating and death are interrelated. Here human life itself is described as a feast. After every banquet the tired warriors go to bed where in the darkness-as we'll see soon enough-they'll meet their death.

Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf enter the hall and begin the celebration by toasting each other. The poet points out that for this moment, at least, all the Danes are genuinely happy (1018-19). No one is plotting any new conspiracy. Such unity of good spirits is rare; this moment, like all others, is transitory. Who knows what new horror the next night will bring? And isn't the poet hinting that some future act of treachery will occur? Why does he choose this moment to mention Hrothulf?

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