HomeLiterature Study GuidesBeowulfLines 2200 2509 Beowulfs Ascension To King Summary

Beowulf | Study Guide


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Beowulf | Lines 2200–2509 (Beowulf's Ascension to King) | Summary



The poet moves forward rapidly in this section and describes Hygelac's demise in conflict against the Shylfings. Hygelac and Beowulf went to take on a Germanic tribe called the Franks. They were great goldsmiths and had a lot of gold and jewels, which often made them targets for raids. The king of the Franks found out about the Geats' attack and sent an army to retrieve all that the Geats took. Beowulf survived, but many—including Hygelac—did not. Beowulf's time to rule comes, and he does so for 50 years before the waking of the dragon.

A runaway slave enters the dragon's barrow, which is filled with an "ancient cache" of treasure. The man flees with a golden goblet. The dragon searches high and low around the mound and sees no man. Eventually, the dragon can take it no longer and sets forth to avenge the theft.

He burns land and villages and causes mayhem all across Beowulf's kingdom and then heads back to his hoard by daybreak. Beowulf knows he must challenge the dragon and save his people from this monster. A great battle shield is made, but Beowulf doesn't prepare a large army because he is certain that he will be able to handle this beast like he has all the others.

Beowulf then flashes back to the battle that claimed his king's life and caused Beowulf to narrowly escape across the sea. Beowulf goes on to explain that when he managed to make it back home, Hygd (Hygelac's queen) had wanted him to be king, but Beowulf would not agree to be named ruler over Hygelac's son, Heardred. Eventually, King Heardred is accused of being a part of a Swedish feud and is killed, leaving Beowulf to ascend as king. He was a good king and helped end the feuding. He also avenged Heardred's death by killing King Onela, who had seized the Swedish throne.

After Beowulf's rise to power is told, Beowulf selects 11 men to join him, and they find the thief who had stolen the goblet, whom they force to guide them to the dragon's lair. At the cliff-top opening to the barrow, Beowulf wishes his men good luck with a sad sense of foreboding. Beowulf again speaks of times past and tells of an heir killed accidentally by his brother. Hrethel, the king at the time, was devastated, and there was no way to avenge the death. The king dies and wars erupt between the Geats and the Swedes. The Swedish king, Ongentheow, is eventually killed by Eofor, one of Hygelac's thanes. Beowulf then reminisces about his time fighting loyally for Hygelac's kingdom and being richly rewarded.


The tale about Hygelac's demise foreshadows the events that will transpire as Beowulf faces the dragon. It is a battle with a great deal of risk and very little reward, especially when the outcome leads to death. The story of Beowulf's rise to power again serves to prove his loyalty. Beowulf rejects Queen Hygd's idea and instead backs Heardred as king. When Heardred is killed by Onela, Beowulf even avenges his death, again proving his loyalty and sense of honor, all characteristics of a hero and great king. These deaths further build the theme of death and defeat.

The tale then turns to the lone survivor who buries his people's treasure. He is saddened that no one will use the items and reminds the audience that fighting and war have brought an end to his people. The biggest mistake the lone man makes is that he builds a great burial chamber with all the gold and treasure but forgets to shut the door. A treasure-seeking dragon makes quick work of finding the ancient treasure.

The dragon's symbolism of greed is highlighted, as the beast—discovering that a single goblet is missing amid the countless stacks of riches—becomes enraged and overcompensates in his revenge by destroying entire villages, including Beowulf's hall. Fired up by the heroic code, Beowulf is at first quite confident in his own strength, even though he is 75 years old.

Some foreshadowing of his present frailty is shown. Instead of electing to fight the creature bare-handed, as he had done with Grendel, he calls for a metal shield to be made. However, he then gathers only 11 men to go with him. When Beowulf and his men get to the cliff top, Beowulf's confidence wavers as he appears to sense his own demise. He talks about Hygelac's tragic rise to the throne and then tells a haunting tale of a father watching helplessly while his son is hanged in the gallows. This adds to the mournful tone of this section of the poem. Beowulf remembers Hrothgar's wisdom in telling him that a reversal of fate isn't impossible and Beowulf questions what he might have done to offend God and fate.

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