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Beowulf and Hrothgar: Anglo-Saxon Ideal Code of Conduct

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Beowulf and Hrothgar: Anglo-Saxon Ideal Code of Conduct

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  • October 1999
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Beowulf and Hrothgar: Anglo-Saxon Ideal Code of Conduct

The epic poem of "Beowulf" presents the characteristics of two heroes, Beowulf and Hrothgar. During this Anglo-Saxon time period, Hrothgar rules as the king of his Danish lands. However, this king faces many problems due to the disturbances of a monster known as Grendel. As an Anglo-Saxon warrior of the time, Beowulf hears of this creature and journeys through the hero's path to kill Grendel. Through this journey, Hrothgar and Beowulf reconstruct the code of conduct of an ideal Anglo-Saxon king and warrior.

The Danish lands of the time are ruled by Hrothgar, a respected and generous king. These qualities of character were admired by the people of his time and place. All people of Hrothgar's kingdom respected this king, and they all accepted his "very word far and wide as a command." The people also give him great titles such as the "Lord of the Mighty Danes," "guardian of the Scyldings," and "protector of warriors." Much of these people's respect come in response to Hrothgar's generosity to everyone. This generosity can be seen towards Beowulf, when the king gives his thanks for the heroic deeds of the warrior. Hrothgar rewards Beowulf with priceless material as he says to the warrior, "You shall lack no earthly riches I can offer you." The people of the land also trust their king, who holds a strong belief in God. In the scene where Hrothgar celebrates Grendel's death, he holds the monsters hand as he says, "Let us give thanks at once to God Almighty for this sight." The followers of the king both respect and trust their ruler, and through his generosity and strong trust in good, Hrothgar displays the ideal code of conduct for an Anglo- Saxon king.

Another epic hero that has qualities that follow the Anglo-Saxon code of conduct is Beowulf. This warrior, known to be the "strongest man alive," leaves for a heroic journey when he hears of the evil Grendel. He first shows his...