Beowulf: Characters

Tap here to download this entire LitChart for free! (PDF)


Beowulf – The hero of Beowulf, Beowulf is a Geatish warrior loyal to his king, Hygelac. Beowulf's father was the warrior Ecgtheow, and his mother is a sister of Hygelac. Despite his noble lineage, Beowulf was a bit of a juvenile delinquent, and little was expected of him. But he soon proved his doubters wrong and grew up to be a great warrior. He has the strength of thirty men in his grasp, and rather remarkable swimming ability. In addition to his great warrior skills, Beowulf eventually becomes a strong, powerful, and generous king.

•See Beowulf quotes.

Hrothgar – King of the Danes, the son of Healfdene, the brother of Heorogar, Halga, and the wife of Onela the Swede. He is also the father of Hrethric, Hrothmund, and Freawaru. Hrothgar is an excellent and successful king. He builds Heorot, a magnificent hall, and is very generous and wise.

•See Hrothgar quotes.

Ecgtheow – Beowulf's father and the husband of King Hygelac's sister. Hrothgar gave him sanctuary after Ecgtheow, a Geatish warrior, killed a warrior of the Wylfings.

Hygelac – The king of the Geats, son of Hrethel, husband of Hygd, father of Heardred, and Beowulf's uncle. He is a good and generous king.

Hygd – The wife of Hygelac and the queen of the Geats. Like Wealhtheow of the Danes, Hygd is a good and generous queen.

HrethelHygelac's father, and one-time king of the Geats. His life was made bitter when one of his sons (Haethcyn) accidentally killed the other (Herebeald).

•See Hrethel quotes.

HeardredHygelac and Hygd's son. After Hygelac dies, Beowulf supports Heardred as boy-king of the Geats even though Beowulf could have taken the throne himself.

Wiglaf – The son of Weohstan the Scylfing, and a relative of Beowulf, as well as his most loyal warrior. He rules the Geats after Beowulf dies.

Breca – A Geat who competed with Beowulf in a swimming contest as a youth.

WulfgarHrothgar's herald. Technically he is a Wendel and not a Dane, but he serves Hrothgar the Danish king.

Hondscioh – The Geat whom Grendel grabs and eats in Heorot before Beowulf fights the beast.

Scyld Scefing – A foundling, he became the first king in the Danish royal line. He is the father of Beow, and the great-grandfather of Hrothgar.

HealfdaneHrothgar's father, and the king of the Danes.

Wealtheow – The wife of King Hrothgar and queen of the Danes, the mother of Hrethic and Hrothmund. She is a good and generous queen.

Unferth – A Dane, the son of Ecglaf, and a follower of Hrothgar. Unferth is a jealous and boastful man without much courage to back it up, though he does become more generous after Beowulf defeats Grendel.

HrethicHrothgar's son and heir.

Hrothmund – Another son of Hrothgar's.

Hrothulf – The nephew of Hrothgar, the son of Hrothgar's brother. After Hrothgar's death, Hrothulf betrays his cousin Hrethic, leading to the burning of Heorot by the Heatho-Bards.

Beow – Sometimes called Beowulf I or Beowulf the Dane, he ruled the Danes after his father Scyld Schefing. He is not the hero of Beowulf.

Aeschere – An old Danish warrior and Hrothgar's counselor. Aeschere is killed by Grendel's mother.

Freawaru – The daughter of Hrothgar, and the future wife of Ingeld, the prince of the Heatho-Bards. Her marriage is an unsuccessful attempt to create peace between the feuding Danes and the Heatho-Bards..

EcglafUnferth's father.

Heremod – An example of a bad king. An early Danish king, he was once great but was moved by pride to suppress and kill his own people.

Modthryth – An example of a bad queen. In her youth she caused people to be killed merely for looking at her. She is said to have improved, becoming generous, after her marriage to the king of the Angles.

Finn – In the story of the Fight at Finnsburg, Finn is a Frisian king who marries the Danish princess Hildeburh, but then battles and kills Hildeburh's brother, Hnaef.

Hildeburh – In the story of the Fight at Finnsburg, the wife of the Frisian King Finn and sister of the Danish King Hnaef. When these two kings fight, she's caught in the middle, and both her brother and son are killed.

Hnaef – The king of the Danes in the story of the Fight at Finnsburg. Hildeburh is his sister.

Hengest – The Dane who becomes king after Hnaef is killed fighting the Frisians in the Fight at Finnsburg.

Sigemund – A legendary warrior who killed a dragon.

Cain – The Old Testament of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, tells the story of how Cain killed his brother Abel. Cain was marked by God, so others would know him and cast him out of society. The giants, Grendel and Grendel's Mother, are descended from Cain.

Grendel – A man-eating monster descended from the Biblical Cain. Grendel is a "walker in darkness," who is "wearing God's anger," and "lacking in joy."

•See Grendel quotes.

Grendel's Mother – A female version of Grendel, she is also descended from Cain.

•See Grendel's Mother quotes.

Dragon – A fire-breathing dragon who discovered a lost tribe's treasure and moved into the barrow. After the dragon terrorizes the Geats, Beowulf fights the dragon.