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?
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)
Facing the Dragon (Lines 2324–2710)