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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSE 38

So gold can easily Triumph, defeat the strongest of men, No matter how deep it is hidden!

(2764-66)

How insignificant the dragon's treasure-hoard seems in comparison to the acts of bravery and honor that Beowulf accomplished during his life! Yet, as he dies, his main concern is to see the treasure that the dragon was guarding. The conflict between spiritual and material values is never more evident than in his last speech, where he thanks God for "this gold, these jewels." It's as if as an old man he's reverted to the pagan belief in objects, forgetting that it was with God's strength that he was able to be successful against his many adversaries.


"I sold my life/For this treasure," Beowulf tells Wiglaf, "and I sold it well" (2798-99). The treasure-hoard, as described by the poet, is in a state of chaos-"piles of gleaming gold, precious gems, scattered on the floor"- much like the world itself. After all the feuds and all the endless battles, the dragon's treasure seems like a small reward.

Beowulf's last request is to have a tomb built in his honor. Like Hrothgar, he wants to create some kind of permanent monument to his successes-though permanence, as we've seen, is only an illusion. He gives his necklace, helmet, rings, and mailshirt to Wiglaf. It's the end of an era of prosperity and stability and the beginning of an age of chaos and disintegration. What hope does the world have without the bond between king and warrior?

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