The narrator of Beowulf emphasizes the importance of both good warriors and good kings. But as the story of Beowulf unfolds, it becomes clear that while good kings and warriors share some similar traits, such as courage, loyalty, selflessness, and might in battle, the values of a good warrior and a good king do not overlap in other fundamental ways.
The differences between good kings and good warriors arise from the different roles that kings and warriors play in society. As a protector and nurturer, the king must put the good of the people above his own desire for fame and glory. A good king is generous with gifts and gold, provides a haven in which his people can eat and drink and socialize, is powerful and fearless in defending his land and people, and yet does not seek unnecessary conflict that might lead to death for either his people or himself. A good warrior, in contrast, supports his people through the pursuit of personal fame, whether on the battlefield, in feats of strength, or by purposely seeking out conflict, just as Beowulf does in coming to Hrothgar's aid and fighting Grendel.
Good Warriors and Good Kings ThemeTracker
Good Warriors and Good Kings Quotes in Beowulf
On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud
Alive, seeking no peace, offering
No truce, accepting no settlement, no price
In gold or land, and paying the living
For one crime only with another. No one
Waited for reparation from his plundering claws:
That shadow of death hunted in the darkness,
Stalked Hrothgar's warriors.
Is simple: no man swims in the sea
As I can, no strength is a match for mine
Than I am! I could kill him with my sword; I shall not,
Easy as it would be. This fiend is a bold
And famous fighter, but his claws and teeth...
Beating at my sword blade, would be helpless. I will meet him
With my hands empty-unless his heart
Fails him, seeing a soldier waiting
Weaponless, unafraid. Let God in His wisdom
Extend His hand where He wills, reward
Whom he chooses!
Must have sent you such words; nothing so wise
From a warrior so young has ever reached
These ancient ears...If your lord,
Hrethel's son, is slain by a spear,
Or falls sick and dies...I say that the Geats
Could do no better, find no man better
Suited to be king, keeper of warriors
and their treasure, than you..., beloved Beowulf.
Horses and treasure—as a man must,
Not weaving nets of malice for his comrades,
Preparing their death in the dark, with secret,
Have gone by as fate willed,...
As I knew how, swearing no unholy oaths,
Seeking no lying wars. I can leave
This life happy; I can die, here,
Knowing the Lord of all life has never
Watched me wash my sword in blood
Born of my own family.
Sealed his ashes in walls as straight
And high as wise and willing hands could raise them...
And the treasures they'd taken were left there too,...
Ground back in the earth.