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32 terms

Beowulf Characters, Places, Terms

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Beowulf
protagonist of the epic; Geatish hero who fights the monster Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a fire-breathing dragon; personifies all of the best values of the heroic culture
King Hrothgar
king of the Danes; enjoys military success and prosperity until Grendel terrorizes his realm; father figure to Beowulf and a model for the kind of king that Beowulf becomes
Grendel
demon descended from Cain; preys on Hrothgar's warriors in the king's mead-hall
Grendel's mother
unnamed swamp-hag; seeks vengeance for son's death (human aspect)
The dragon
ancient, powerful serpent; guards a horde of treasure in a hidden mound
Shield Sheafson
legendary Danish king from whom Hrothgar is descended; inaugurates a long line of Danish rulers and embodies the Danish tribe's highest values of heroism and leadership
Wealhtheow
Hrothgar's wife; "peace weaver" queen of the Danes
Unferth
Danish warrior jealous of Beowulf; unable or unwilling to fight Grendel, thus proving himself inferior to Beowulf
Aeschere
Hrothgar's trusted adviser
Hygelac
Beowulf's uncle, king of the Geats, and husband of Hygd
Wiglaf
young kinsman and retainer of Beowulf; helps fight against the dragon while all of the other warriors run away; adheres to the heroic code, proving himself a suitable successor to Beowulf
Ecgtheow
Beowulf's father, Hygelac's brother-in-law, and Hrothgar's friend; lives on through the noble reputation that he made for himself during his life and in his dutiful son's remembrances
Breca
Beowulf's childhood friend, whom he defeated in a swimming match
Sigemund
figure from Norse mythology, famous for slaying a dragon; foreshadows Beowulf's encounter with the dragon
King Heremod
evil king of legend; contrasts greatly with Beowulf
Queen Modthryth
wicked queen of legend; punishes anyone who looks at her the wrong way
Scyldings
Hrothgar's warriors
Hrunting
Unferth's sword Beowulf used to fight Grendel's mother
Naegling
the sword Beowulf used to fight the dragon
Heorot
the mead-hall built by the Danish King Hrothgar, to house his men, and show off his victories and fame
Geatland
homeland of Beowulf
Denmark
Land of the Danes; ruled by Hrothgar
Beowulf's barrow
tower built after Beowulf's death where his ashes are buried
scop
poet
torque
collar or necklace that Wealhtheow gives Beowulf as symbol of the bond of loyalty between her people and Beowulf
comitatus
ideal of fealty, brotherhood, community
fame, renown
desire to be much talked of, both during one's life and after death; the desire for immortality through one's name, one's works, one's deeds
vanity of pride
emerging counter-ideal associated with Christianity; re-evaluation of virtue no longer as strength and valor but instead as moral awareness
wyrd
fate, the strong sense of doom; replaced or complemented by Christian belief that all things happen for a reason according to God
wergild
"man-price"; a legally fixed compensation for murdering someone; token of a civilized person; stops endless blood-feuding
kenning
a kind of metaphor, not unlike the Homeric epithet; compound of two nouns, used as a poetic substitute for a common word
litotes
ironic negative statement or understatement