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Beowulf | Study Guide


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Beowulf | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In Beowulf, what are the items the "keeper of the hoard" says that he had hidden in the burial chamber?

There were swords, plated goblets, helmets, the coat of mail, a magical banner, leather fittings, and a harp. The items he chose captured the importance of his people's culture and the history that would be lost once the "keeper" died. There was a lot of value and sentimentality put on handed-down items such as swords and armor. He included the royal banner that would have been a symbol of the people and a memorial for those whose lives had been destroyed by war.

What is the significance of the mournful section of Beowulf that describes the "keeper of the hoard" (Lines 2231–2270)?

The description of the "keeper of the hoard" shows that gold and treasure do not make up for the loss of one's comrades. The tone is dark and sad; the "keeper" is the lone survivor who has watched humanity all but end. The narrator says the keeper "mourned as he moved about the world,/deserted and alone, lamenting his unhappiness."

In Beowulf how does Wiglaf link Beowulf's death to the death of his people?

In a speech filled with situational irony, Wiglaf predicts that Beowulf's death may actually lead to the death and slavery for his entire kingdom. Wiglaf says that the shameful behavior of the king's warriors will lead their land to be attacked. Had Beowulf's warriors offered him the protection he so freely gave them, the outcome might have been far different.

In Beowulf, how did the dragon become the guardian of the treasure, and what is the monster's reaction when the golden goblet is stolen?

The keeper of the hoard left the door open on the barrow, and a dragon's goal is to seek treasure. The dragon found and has stayed with the treasure since that point. When the slave takes the golden goblet from the dragon, the great beast is enraged. He searches over and over again for the treasure and the person who stole it. He is obsessed with gold and with the people who violate his domain and his treasure.

What characteristics of the dragon are depicted in Beowulf?

The dragon is a fire-breather and hoarder of treasure. He appears to be a recluse, only coming out at night and shying away from humans. He flies, so he must have wings, and he must have sharp teeth because they cause the final injury that kills Beowulf.

In Beowulf, what is Beowulf's initial conclusion about the dragon attacks?

Beowulf automatically takes responsibility for the dragon and for his attacks. The reader does not know whether Beowulf's thought is warranted, but the author says, "He thought he must have thwarted ancient ordinance of the eternal Lord, broken His commandment."

in Beowulf, what preparations does Beowulf make to fight the dragon?

Beowulf chooses a mighty shield made of metal. Shields were typically made of wood, but that wasn't going to hold up against a dragon. He chooses 11 of his bravest and most loyal warriors. He then finds the slave who had stolen the goblet to lead them to the barrow.

In Beowulf, what might have led Beowulf to decide to fight the dragon alone?

Beowulf might still be thinking of the days when he had the strength of 30 men—when he could perform superhuman tasks. He has always been a hero and able to face and conquer any challenge presented to him. Beowulf hasn't had limitations in the past, so it is only fitting that he feels he can defeat the beast on his own. Also at one point, Beowulf wonders if he did something or committed a sin that has allowed this evil creature to come forth and destroy his kingdom. But he may also just believe it is his responsibility to protect his people as their king.

In Beowulf, what premonition does Beowulf have about the battle with the dragon?

Beowulf begins to see his own frailty as he considers the task ahead. He sees the heroes of the past and likely remembers that they, too, had to die. Beowulf recognizes that he probably will not make it through this battle. While he is aware that he may die, he doesn't seem to think about what will happen to his kingdom if he doesn't prevail.

In Beowulf, what does Beowulf give Wiglaf as he is dying, and what meaning does the gift have?

Beowulf bestows his armor on Wiglaf. Wiglaf displays the same sort of bravery and loyalty as Beowulf, and because Beowulf has no children, he decides to pass on his possessions to Wiglaf, a distant cousin. He and Wiglaf are part of the Waegmunding clan, and Beowulf says, "You are the last of us, the only one left/of the Waegmundings." Beowulf also asks him to "look after their [the Geats'] needs." The gift gives Wiglaf some credibility with the other warriors so they will honor Wiglaf's instructions for Beowulf's funeral and barrow. However, because Beowulf has not officially selected an heir, it is uncertain that they will honor Beowulf's words.

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