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SUMMARIES AND NOTES OF THE POEM
BEOWULF MEETS HROTHGAR
Beowulf follows Wufgar to meet Hrothgar. After greeting the King, Beowulf gives some of his credentials. He explains that he has just returned from slaying five monsters that were giants. He also tells of killing monsters from the depths of the oceans. Beowulf then tells of his desire to avenge Hrothgar by killing Grendel and cleansing the Heorot. He states, "I hear he spurns the use of weapon. I will grapple with him, and he whom death takes off must resign him self to the judgment of God. If battle claims me, you will not have to cover my body. But I ask you send my wat of mail to Hygelac."
After telling Beowulf about how he had helped his father, Hrothgar talks about Grendel's bloody destruction of his land. He welcomes Beowulf's help against this horrid monster. He then invites him to sit with him at their feast in Heorot Hall and tell them all about his exploits. Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, welcomes Beowulf and offers him a drink. During the feast, Unferth taunts Beowulf, saying that Breca has defeated him in their swim in the open ocean. Beowulf shuts him up by explaining how he had saved Breca's life by overcoming monsters. He then promises to prove his strength in his battle with Grendel.
On his arrival at Heorot, Beowulf proudly tells Hrothgar about his credentials and confidently informs the King that he has come to his aid and will battle Grendel. But like a true hero, he does not claim that Grendel will be defeated. Instead, Beowulf leaves the outcome of the battle to God. He even instructs Hrothgar to return his armor to Hygelac, the King of the Geats, if he is killed by the monster.
In Anglo-Saxon tradition, it is Beowulf's duty to help the Danish King; and Hrothgar accepts Beowulf's timely arrival as a repayment by a son of favors earlier bestowed on his father. He is, however, appreciative of Beowulf and honors him at the feast held in Heorot Hall. Unferth, however, taunts Beowulf during the feast by claiming that Breca had outdone him in the swimming wager. The taunting of a hero is a common feature of epics, especially before a battle. In this case, the taunting causes Beowulf to explain how he saved Breca's life and to win Unferth as an ally. Later, during the battle with Grendel's mother, Unferth lends his sword, the Hrunting, to Beowulf.
Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, is seen for the first time in this section. At the feast, she greets Beowulf warmly. Later in the poem, she will emerge as an influential queen, a protective mother, a sound supervisor of domestic activities, and a cautious advisor to Hrothgar.