Beowulf ctd.

Beowulf finally gets to meet Hrothgar face to face and offer his help. This is more complicated than it sounds because all the actors have to negotiate through the complicated codes of Germanic/Old Norse codes of behaviour. First of all, you have a bunch of armed guys inside the king’s hall – they say they come in peace but how can you know? So they’re allowed to see Hrothgar in their armour but without their shields and spears. They, on the other hand, have to trust that the Danes won’t make off with their equipment. Beowulf asks for the privilege of facing Grendel only with his own men, although it is actually Hrothgar who is going to be indebted to Beowulf, if he wins, and if he loses, at least it’s not going to cost Hrothgar any more lives of his men. Beowulf also downplays the chances of his own success, saying he doesn’t want a big funeral if he dies, he only asks for his mail shirt to be sent back to his king. And he is going to fight Grendel with his bare hands, to give the monster the level playing field, because Grendel doesn’t use any weapons either. Hrothgar also reminisces that he once paid on behalf of Ecgtheow, Beowulf’s father, the wergild (man price) for the man Ecgtheow had killed, so even though he doesn’t say it expressly, Beowulf presumably feels indebted to him. On the whole, these Vikings come off as rather subtle lot in their dealings. I wonder if anybody has ever attempted a transactional analysis of all these goings-on,

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