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 been over at the start if God had not guarded me."
Like a good warrior, Beowulf gives his treasures to his king. Once again God is substituted for fate.
Hrothgar examines the hilt of the sword Beowulf used to kill Grendel's mother. In intricate workmanship, the story of Noah's flood, the flood that destroyed the race of giants, and the name of the sword's first owner are engraved on the hilt.
The hilt tells the story of the giants who are destroyed by the flood; the giants, like Grendel and his mother, are descendents of Cain.
Hrothgar tells Beowulf that he will reward him for his courage as he promised, and compares Beowulf's wisdom and generosity favorably to Heremod, who turned on his own people out of greed and became "joyless." He warns Beowulf to learn from Heremod's example. Hrothgar then warns of the danger of pride, which, like a bitter arrow, can infiltrate the heart of the strongest warrior.
Hrothgar mentions Heremod to warn Beowulf that pride can turn a great warrior into a bad king. The word "joyless" was used earlier to describe Grendel. Heremod, like Grendel, was cast out. Joy exists only for those in society.
Hrothgar says that ruled for fifty years, protected his people and had no adversaries. But that joy was followed by grief with the arrival of Grendel. He again thanks God that the strife is over. Night falls, and the men go to rest.
Hrothgar's experience emphasizes that nothing is permanent in this life, that change is inevitable. Joy is followed by grief, and then joy returns.
In the morning Beowulf returns the sword Hrunting to Unferth, and thanks him for the loan even though the sword failed.
Does the failure of the sword indicate a failure in Unferth?
Then Beowulf bids farewell to Hrothgar. He promises to support the Danes in times of trouble, and promises that Hrothgar's son Hrethic will be welcomed among the Geats. Hrothgar is impressed by Beowulf's generosity and wisdom and says that if something should happen to Hygelac's son, Beowulf would make a good king.
Hrothgar gives Beowulf twelve more gifts, and begins to weep with the knowledge that he will not see Beowulf again. Beowulf, meanwhile, proudly surveys the treasure he has won.
Though Beowulf has the makings of a good king, he is still more of a warrior at this time.
At the coast, the Geats greet and reward the watchman for guarding their ship, and sail toward the hall of Hygelac.
Beowulf again shows generosity.