Beowulf

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Beowulf Prologue (Lines 1–63) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scyld Scefing is the first of the great kings of the Spear-Danes. From humble beginnings as a foundling discovered at sea, he rises to great power and is honored and paid tribute by many. The narrator says of him: "That was a good king."
Through Scyld, the poem establishes strength and loyalty as traits of a good king. The orphan Scyld parallels Beowulf, who was an unimpressive child.
Themes
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
Scyld has a son Beow, who accomplishes many glorious deeds and wins the loyalty of his fellow men through his great generosity.
Beow is a warrior who finds fame. Generosity makes him a good king.
Themes
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
When Scyld dies, he is laid to rest in a ship filled with treasure and set out to sea. In this way, the narrator notes, his life ends just as it began.
The similarity emphasizes Scyld's rise from humble beginnings to be king.
Themes
Family and Tribe Theme Icon
Repetition and Change Theme Icon
Beow rules the Spear-Danes prosperously and well for many years. When Beow dies, his son Healfdane became king. Healfdane, in turn, is followed on the throne by Hrothgar, the second of Healfdane's four children.
Scyld founds a dynasty, passing a stable throne to his son. Warlike deeds won him fame, but Scyld was a great king because he died in peace.
Themes
Family and Tribe Theme Icon
Good Warriors and Good Kings Theme Icon
Fame, Pride, and Shame Theme Icon
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