Hrothgar is the king ruling Denmark when Grendel begins to terrorize the mead hall. He was a good friend to Beowulf’s father, and once bought Beowulf’s father out of a terrible feud. Therefore, he has earned Beowulf’s loyalty before the story begins. Hrothgar is the model for the king that Beowulf would become. He was once a fierce warrior, earning the loyalty of his men. It is because of his successful leadership that the men are able to build Heorot and enjoy their revelry, feeling safe and secure from any potential danger. However, he knows that he is no longer the fierce warrior that he was in his youth. When Grendel begins to terrorize his men, Hrothgar does not believe that he can defeat him, instead allowing his warriors to try to defeat the beast. This is not indicative of cowardice on Hrothgar’s part; instead, his caution seems to reflect wisdom because he understands that his people need him to survive in order to continue to protect them. He is capable of looking at the big picture and not simply worry about protecting his reputation.

After Beowulf defeats Grendel and Grendel’s mother, Hrothgar becomes a mentor to Beowulf. He helps teach Beowulf how to be a king, and serves as an example of a wise king. However, Hrothgar also serves as a cautionary tale for Grendel. When Hrothgar passes away, his nephew usurps his son’s position as king. Hrothgar has failed to prepare his son adequately. This is contrasted with Beowulf’s experience in Geatland, where he supports his cousin’s ascension to the throne.

Sign up to continue reading Hrothgar >

Essays About Beowulf