Beowulf

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Gold, Treasure, and Gifts Symbol Analysis

Gold, Treasure, and Gifts Symbol Icon
In Beowulf, gold, treasure, and gifts are less important for their economic value than their social value. In fact, gold can be seen as a symbol of social interaction: a lord rewards loyalty with gold, and in doing so inspires further loyalty. The transfer of the gold is also a kind of physical embodiment of the lord's duty to nurture his people. Gold can also act as a symbol of regret or a desire for peace: one way of avoiding a feud is to pay the wergild, the man-price, by compensating the family of the injured person with gold, to avoid more violent vengeance.
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Gold, Treasure, and Gifts Symbol Timeline in Beowulf

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gold, Treasure, and Gifts appears in Beowulf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue (Lines 1–63)
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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... (full context)
Hrothgar’s Early Reign (Lines 64–85)
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Hrothgar is successful in battle, and gains followers and treasure. He constructs Heorot, the most magnificent mead-hall ever built, and a good place to feast,... (full context)
Grendel Attacks (Lines 86–193)
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...notes that unlike men, Grendel has no desire to end the feud, or to pay compensation for those he kills and thus make peace with their families. Hrothgar can neither make... (full context)
Beowulf Arrives (Lines 194–490)
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...Hrothgar after Ecgtheow killed Heatholaf of the Wylfings. Hrothgar purchased peace from the Wylfings with treasure, and Ecgtheow swore an oath of loyalty to Hrothgar. (full context)
Celebration (Lines 837–1250)
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...defeat of Grendel. He proclaims that Beowulf is now like a son to him, and rewards him with treasure. Hrothgar adds that it is "through the Lord's might" that Beowulf was... (full context)
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At the feast, Hrothgar gives Beowulf gifts ranging from gold to horses to weapons. He also gives gifts to Beowulf's men, and... (full context)
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After the song, Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, offers the gold mead cup to Hrothgar and tells him to be generous to Beowulf and the other... (full context)
Grendel’s Mother (Lines 1251–1407)
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...seems bottomless. Hrothgar says he must depend on Beowulf a second time, and offers him treasure to kill Grendel's mother and end the feud. (full context)
A Second Fight (Lines 1408–1639)
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Beowulf asks Hrothgar to protect his Geat companions and send the treasure he's won to Hygelac, should he fail to return from the fight with Grendel's mother.... (full context)
New Celebration (Lines 1640–1912)
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At Heorot, Beowulf presents the head and sword hilt to Hrothgar. He describes his fight with Grendel's mother, saying that "the fight would have... (full context)
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Hrothgar tells Beowulf that he will reward him for his courage as he promised, and compares Beowulf's wisdom and generosity favorably to... (full context)
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Hrothgar gives Beowulf twelve more gifts, and begins to weep with the knowledge that he will not see Beowulf again. Beowulf,... (full context)
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At the coast, the Geats greet and reward the watchman for guarding their ship, and sail toward the hall of Hygelac. (full context)
Beowulf at Home (Lines 1913–2199)
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...his young queen, Hygd. The narrator states that Hygd is a good queen, generous with gifts, in contrast to another queen, Modthryth. When Modthryth was young, if anyone but her lord... (full context)
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...next relates his fight with Grendel, detailing both the ferocity of the monster and the treasure he received from Hrothgar, and then describes the fight with Grendel's mother. (full context)
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After finishing his story, Beowulf turns over most of his treasure of armor, weapons, gold, and horses to Hygelac and Hygd. In addition he gives Wealhtheow's... (full context)
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In order to acknowledge and reward Beowulf's loyalty and bravery, Hygelac gives Beowulf numerous gifts, including a magnificent sword that belonged... (full context)
The Dragon (Lines 2200–2323)
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The dragon guards an underground barrow full of treasure, which is accessible only by a secret passage. One day a slave, fleeing a beating,... (full context)
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The narrator explains that this particular barrow was the treasure of a lost tribe. Long ago the last living man of the tribe placed his... (full context)
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The dragon discovered the treasure sometime later, and guarded it in peace for the three hundred years. But when the... (full context)
Facing the Dragon (Lines 2324–2710)
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...Geats carrying the armor of thirty men on his back. In Geatland, Hygd offered Beowulf treasure and rulership of the kingdom, fearing that her son Heardred was too young to rule.... (full context)
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Beowulf tells also how he repaid Hygelac's gifts of treasure and land with loyal service, not only leading Hygelac's warriors into battle, but... (full context)
Beowulf and Wiglaf (Lines 2711–2845)
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Beowulf asks Wiglaf to bring him the treasure so that he can die knowing that he won it. Wiglaf enters the barrow, and... (full context)
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Wiglaf gathers some of the treasure and returns to Beowulf, who thanks God that he could win such treasures for his... (full context)
Wiglaf Speaks (Lines 2846–3109)
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...It has been laid down next to the corpse of the dragon and the ancient treasure. The golden hoard, which the narrator notes was once richly decorated, is now eaten by... (full context)
Beowulf’s Funeral (Lines 3110–3182)
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...attacking the dragon. Yet he also says that Beowulf followed his destiny, and won the gold as was his fate. Wiglaf then orders that wood be gathered for the funeral pyre.... (full context)
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...the Geats build a huge mound, visible from the sea. In the mound they place treasure from the dragon's hoard "where it lies still, as useless to men as it was... (full context)