Sections 37-43 (lines 2694-3182) Notes from Beowulf

Gareth Hinds
This section contains 954 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
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Beowulf Sections 37-43 (lines 2694-3182)

Wiglaf stabs the dragon low in its body, in an effort to kill it and stop the hideous flames burning his master's body. The flames fade off as the dragon dies. Beowulf knifes the dragon in half, mustering the last of his strength. Split apart, it falls, blood seeping into the ground and over the gold. Beowulf's wounds are too much; death is near, his neck stinging from the dragon's venom. Beowulf drops to the ground and good Wiglaf bathes his wounds with water. Beowulf speaks to Wiglaf, entreating him to gather the dragon's gold at his feet before he dies:

"My days/ have gone as fate willed,.../ As I knew how, swearing no unholy oaths,/ Seeking no lying wars. I can leave/ This life happy; I can die, here,/ Knowing the Lord of all life has never/ Watched me wash my sword in blood/ Born of my own family." pg. 108, lines 2735-6, 2638-2743

Topic Tracking: Good and Evil 11

Wiglaf enters the dragon's tower quickly, seeking and carrying out as much treasure, ancient helmets, and gold as possible before his Lord dies. The interior of the castle is lit by a brilliant light, which brightens the gray stones and signifies the goodness of their partnership in killing the dragon. Wiglaf brings the treasure to Beowulf to soften his death. The treasure has been won, and he sprinkles more water over his King.

Topic Tracking: Christian/Pagan 10

Beowulf speaks to Wiglaf, telling him to lead the Geats. As he dies, he asks him to take the treasure to his people, and rule well. He asks Wiglaf to build a monument, a tomb where King Beowulf's ashes will be buried, a high tower over the old one, so sailors will see it and speak of it forevermore. Then Beowulf gives forth his golden necklace, helmet, rings, and mail to the future king and dies:

"The old man's mouth was silent, spoke/ No more, had said as much as it could;/ He would sleep in the fire, soon. His soul/ Left his flesh, flew to glory." pg. 110, lines 2817-2820

Wiglaf looks at his Lord, now dead, and the hideous dragon, split in two by his hand, lying nearby. The Geats who had run away, abandoned Beowulf and then Wiglaf when terror struck, come from the trees toward Wiglaf, waiting for him to speak. Wiglaf speaks to them harshly, saying how Beowulf had trusted in their word, gave them weapons and treasures, a hall, and mead. He tells of how they ran with fear when the dragon attacked Beowulf. Wiglaf had only done a small thing: he distracted the dragon just long enough to give Beowulf time to kill it. He declares that no more treasure will be given to them, there will be no more ring giving. When the other Geats discover their cowardice, they and their family will forever be disgraced, worthy only of death.

Wiglaf sends a messenger to the Geats, who had waited far off, telling of Beowulf's fate. The messenger speaks to them, saying how Beowulf fought, and both he and the dragon died. Wiglaf has been left as King, but peace cannot be expected with the Franks, nor with the Swedes. He speaks of their history, and how Higlac had saved the Geats from the Swedish King's blade.

The messenger tells the history of war between the Geats and the Swedes. Ongentho, when he heard of Higlac's strength and reputation, withdrew his men into the forest, away from the Geats. But the Geats had no mercy for Ongentho, and invaded the army, and Wulf (of the Geats) cracked the Swedish King's helmet and skull. Ongentho wounded Wulf in the helmet as well, but his brave brother, Efor, killed Ongentho with one blow of his massive sword. Wulf was bandaged, and the Geats praised the brave Efor, who was given Higlac's only daughter, gold, and land.

The messenger's story speaks of the horrors that will come with Beowulf's death; the Geats will surely be attacked. He speaks of how the dragon's jewels will be burnt on Beowulf's funeral pyre, and the rest will be buried in the tower built in the King's name, to greet the sea. Sadness will descend throughout Geatland for their loss. The warriors walk to where Beowulf lay, and see the dragon:

"stretched in front/ Of its tower, a strange, scaly beast/ Gleaming a dozen colors dulled and/ Scorched from its own heat. From end/ To end fifty feet, it had flown/ In the silent darkness, a swift traveler/ Tasting the air, then gliding down/ To its den." pg. 117, lines 3038-3045

Wiglaf speaks of Beowulf, and how his bravery and desire for gold cost him his life. He leads the Geats to the tower, where the wealthiest of Geats gather the dragon's treasure in their arms, and carry it to Beowulf's pyre. The best of helmets, gold and mail are placed on the pyre, and the fire grows, enveloping the great King. Wiglaf and his men roll the dragon off the cliff, and into the ocean. The smoke billows from Beowulf's pyre, and the brave Geats watch in sorrow as he is swallowed by Heaven. Then:

"For ten long days they made his monument,/ Sealed his ashes in walls as straight/ And high as wise and willing hands could raise them.../And the treasures they'd taken were left there too,/ ...Ground back in the earth." pg. 121, lines 3159-3163, 3165-3167

The warriors, Geats and Wiglaf, sing their praises high and loud; no nobler life on earth was had among men. The best of the Geats ride around Beowulf's tower on horseback, singing stories for all, of a wise and brave King had once lived named Beowulf.

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