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Relationships between Beowulf, Hygelac and Hrothgar in “Beowulf”

The heroic poem “Beowulf” is the oldest preserved story in English literature. Although its exact date of composing is not completely clear, the poem was supposedly written in the tenth century, although according to some scholars, it might have been composed even in the eighth century by an anonymous writer (21). The poem itself is written in English and it has also an English origin, however, it does not deal with native Englishmen, but with their Germanic forebears, in particular with two south Scandinavian tribes, the Danes and the Geats, ruled by Hrothgar and Hygelac, respectively. The main hero of the story is Beowulf, Hygelac’s thane and nephew, who due to his brave deeds exemplifies the traits of the perfect hero. Since these three characters are unique in their way of thinking and acting, the relationship between them is peculiar as well, and it is affected by several factors. Firstly, Beowulf, the perfect warrior, treats not only his king Hygelac with a great amount of respect, but also Hrothgar, the king of Danes. Secondly, Hrothgar, a wise ruler, aids Beowulf’s development into maturity, which makes their relationship bound. Finally, the relationship between the two kings, Hygelac and Hrothgar, is rather reserved.
In the war society described in “Beowulf”, the values of which the poem constantly invokes, the most important of human relationships was that which existed between the warrior and his lord. This relationship was based less on subordination of one man’s will to another’s than on mutual trust and respect. Beowulf, the thane of Hygelac, showed respect not only to his king, but he threated Hrothgar, as his own lord as well. Having heard the news about Grendel and his dreadful acts in Heorot, Beowulf decides to help the people of Danes which documents his brave character. He fights for the nation as it was his own, and before
the fight with Grendel’s mother, he actually asks Hrothgar to protect his retainers if he was killed “Be guardian of my young retainers, my companions, if battle should take me” (46). However, Beowulf kept being loyal also to his king. After the battles in Heorot, he expresses a great desire to see Hygelac again “Now we sea-travelers come from afar wish to say that we desire to seek Hygelac” (50).
   1  |  2    ďalej ďalej
Zdroje: “Beouwulf” The Norton Anthologhy of English Literature vol.2. Ed. Abrams, M. H. et al. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1993. 21-68.
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