What makes a "well loved lord" (20), an "honored prince" (88) or a "leader beloved" (1827)? Cultures as well as individuals have differed in their definitions of a successful king for generations. The epic poem Beowulf introduces two kings: Beowulf, the protagonist of the story, the famed hero who slays monsters with his bare hands and then becomes king of the Geats, and Hrothgar, the king of the Danish court, who is grateful for Beowulf's help in overcoming Grendel and his mother. A king received respect for wealth, fame, and warriors, during the time in which the poem Beowulf takes place. However, a king should go beyond these basic "needs" and become one with his people. This is achievable by depending on one's people instead of remaining independent, and acting rationally and logically rather than rashly. True Leaders delegate work rather than taking care of everything themselves, and think of consequences as well as limits. Hrothgar succeeds in meeting all of these criteria, while Beowulf comes off short. Beowulf, a true hero rather than a true king, obtains wealth, fame, and warriors but acts independently and rashly, as a hero should.
Both Hrothgar and Beowulf present themselves as esteemed kings, because of their fortunes, fame and great bands of warriors. Throughout Beowulf the narrator uses such phrases as "well loved lord" (20), "honored prince" (88), and "leader beloved" (1827) to describe both Hrothgar and Beowulf. Hrothgar's transition to becoming a great king is described: "Hrothgar was granted glory in war, success in battle; retainers bold obeyed him gladly; his band increased to a mighty host" (38-41). As well as having a band of warriors which follow him gladly, Hrothgar gives out rings as rewards, and has a meadhall built, "mightier than man [has] known" (43). This "famous mead-hall...to distant nations it's name [is] known, The Hall of the Hart" (51-53). Not only is Hrothgar successful in the eyes of his own people, but word of his many deeds, such as building the mead hall, travel far. Beowulf achieves similar fame, not only as a hero but also as a king. His reign is summed up: "For fifty winters he governed [his people] well" (1372). He is described as "the friend, who had dealt [his people] treasure" (1797), the "ring prince" (1443) and the "mighty leader" (1559). Beowulf, being a famous hero because of his courage and physical strength, is also known as "the lord of warriors" (1436) and he "who [had] often withstood the shower of steel [for his people]" (1834). Though Beowulf and Hrothgar both hand out rewards and create famed groups of powerful warriors, there is more to being a great king than just wealth, and warriors.
In Beowulf, Hrothgar and Beowulf appear to be trustworthy, except that Beowulf breaks the biggest promise he makes to his people, which is to not die for the sake of glory. Hrothgar seems to always stay true to his word, as is told at the beginning, "the king kept well his pledge and promise to deal out gifts, [and] rings at the baquet" (53-55). Further on in the story, Hrothgar makes a promise to reward Beowulf if he succeeds in killing the monster Grendel who has been haunting the famous mead-hall for 12 years. He says, "For his gallant courage I'll load him with gifts....[He] shall know not want of treasure or wealth or goodly gift that [his] wish may crave, while I have power" (290-291,689-691). Beowulf is successful in slaughtering Grendel, and therefore "upon Beowulf, then, as a token of triumph, Hrothgar bestowed a standard of gold, a banner embroidered, a byrny and helm...a costly sword" (745-747). He tells the brave hero, "I will keep you Beowulf, close to my heart in firm affection; as son to father hold fast henceforth to this foster-kinship" (686-688). Not only does Hrothgar keep his promise to reward Beowulf, he also makes him his foster son so that a permanent alliance is formed in case Beowulf ever needs any help. Beowulf, before he has taken on the role of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document