Beowulf

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Dragon Character Analysis

A fire-breathing dragon who discovered a lost tribe's treasure and moved into the barrow housing the gold. The dragon is exceedingly greedy – marking a stark contrast to good kings, who create loyalty and love among their people and warriors through generosity. After a thief steals from the dragon's horde, the dragon goes on a rampage and terrorizes the Geats. Beowulf, the king of the Geats, fights the dragon. Beowulf ultimately kills the dragon, but at the cost of his own life. The threat posed by the dragon therefore represents a kind of tension in the question of what makes a good king. Was Beowulf right to act as a warrior and kill the dragon and protect his people, even if that action resulted in Beowulf's death, since the loss of their king is likely to result in the destruction of the Geats? Or was Beowulf too rash, and should he have waited for a hero just as Hrothgar did when Grendel attacked the Danes?
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Dragon Character Timeline in Beowulf

The timeline below shows where the character Dragon appears in Beowulf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Dragon (Lines 2200–2323)
Family and Tribe Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
...king for fifty years. But then Beowulf's reign is disrupted by the appearance of a dragon. (full context)
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
The dragon guards an underground barrow full of treasure, which is accessible only by a secret passage.... (full context)
Family and Tribe Theme Icon
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
The dragon discovered the treasure sometime later, and guarded it in peace for the three hundred years.... (full context)
Facing the Dragon (Lines 2324–2710)
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
...who killed Hygelac in battle. Now, Beowulf says, he shall fight once more: against the dragon. (full context)
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
Christianity and Paganism Theme Icon
Since the dragon breathes fire Beowulf decides to use his sword, shield, and armor. He orders his followers... (full context)
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
Christianity and Paganism Theme Icon
Beowulf enters the barrow and shouts to wake the dragon. It attacks, breathing flame. Beowulf's shield protects him, but not for long enough. The narrator... (full context)
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
The dragon charges Beowulf and Wiglaf. Their shields are burned and their armor offers them little protection.... (full context)