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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSE 18

Beowulf is rewarded with yet another gift, "the most beautiful necklace known to men." At a certain point, all these material objects-the swords, the armor, the helmets, the horses, the jewels-seem to lose their value. Do you think the Danes have gone overboard in their expression of thanks toward Beowulf? Is the accumulation of wealth Beowulf's primary concern?

NOTE:

By telling us the history of the necklace of the Brosings the poet seems to be mimicking the endless gift-giving. Is any object, he's asking, worth fighting about? The emphasis on objects is connected to the pagan, nonreligious world that existed before the advent of Christianity. Objects are like idols, symbolizing fame and wealth. Beowulf can be seen as the hero of the future. Though he accepts the gifts (fame and wealth are obviously important to him), he's more interested in pleasing God, and he knows that the way to do this is by acting ethically and with concern for others.


Welthow presents Beowulf with these valuable jewels and asks him to lend his strength and wisdom to her two sons. In her speech, the poet reveals her to be innocent of the forces of evil, an uncynical person who believes that among the Danes "men speak softly" and "trust their neighbors." She describes the Danes as "loyal followers who would fight as joyfully as they drink."

Welthow is under the illusion that now that Grendel is dead the world will return to the way it was before. Yet the poet has hinted-in the Finnsburg Episode, especially-that disaster and unexpected turns of fate are facts of life. Nothing can be taken for granted.

The soldiers fall asleep as they did after the first banquet. Again, the poet foreshadows the theme of "bed after feast." He implies that something terrible is about to happen. By now we must realize that the world described by the poet is in a constant state of change, passing from exultation to tragedy in the course of a day.

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