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Beowulf's thanes never have the opportunity to defend him in battle because Beowulf has superhuman fighting abilities; nevertheless, Beowulf holds his thanes in the highest respects. Beowulf is confident that his thanes are "brave of heart" (666) and will protect him whenever he needs them. He thinks he knows he can trust them because they "swore to our lord" (1574) eternal protection. As Beowulf ages, his vulnerability and his reliance for his thanes become more apparent. Though they swear to keep Beowulf "both sound and safe" (1105) from evils, they run like cowards as Beowulf needs them most. On the fateful day of the dragons appearance, Beowulf's "mighty thanes" (1103) "fled to the forest" like true cowards. These cowardly thanes help set the stage for Wiglaf's bravery (in an ideal setting to be introduced) as a true and loyal thane.

Wiglaf is a hero with no great powers other than his courageous heart. Wiglaf is a member of the Wægmunding, a clan that Beowulf also belongs to. He is an emotional character that remembers all that Beowulf has done for him in the past. In spite of that, Wiglaf finds himself "with bitter reproach" (1571) fiercely criticizing the other thanes for their cowardly actions. With no time to waste, Wiglaf knows that he has to help his lord; he will be Beowulf's only "loyal thane, the kindest of comrades," (1616). Wiglaf rushes to the aid of Beowulf, only to have his wool shield be burnt by the dragons fierce fire; still, Wiglaf continues to help his lord. In the battle Wiglaf's hand is burned "as he helped his king" (1619), sacrificing his own body to help Beowulf. Together, Wiglaf and Beowulf kill the dragon, only to find his valor to be too late for Beowulf is dying.

Beowulf has a realization of Wiglaf's aid in battle. After the dragon was dead, Wiglaf came to Beowulf's side, where Beowulf knew his fate was upon him and he began to ramble about his happiness with ruling a land of peace. Beowulf thanks the Lord for all his...
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