Even Beowulf Got Old

In the final third of Headley’s translation of Beowulf, readers are introduced to a much more weathered and aged Beowulf, leader of his kingdom, who is being threatened by a mysterious dragon. Although Beowulf is far more cynical about the outcome of this fight than he was with Grendel or his mother in Heorot, Beowulf is still focused heavily on the way that his men and kingdom view him. His death will not be one in vain, if he does die in the battle, he will be a martyr for the cause of protecting his people. However, following a lethal blow to his neck, Beowulf is left to die, and what he asks for, is not about sacrifice. “I want to know what I did, to look at my winnings, my gilded gifts,” (p.118, Headley). Beowulf, following the death of Grendel and his mother, was never focused on the gold given by Hrothgar, but more on the glory that he receives for his work, and the fame. These are intangible, interpersonal connections created by his accomplishments, which is starkly different from asking to see material gifts of gold on his death-bed.  Why does Beowulf’s feeling of reason and purposefulness change?

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