Even though Beowulf was the story of an epic hero highlighting his strength, it ends with Beowulf’s death. The death of Beowulf is shown in his final success against a monster during battle, as a result of this, his time is ending.
Throughout the poem, we see Beowulf’s bravery and courage again and again, together with his true heroic character. Read this to find out how Beowulf died in his final battle.
How Did Beowulf Die?
Beowulf died because of his injuries when battling with the third monster, a raging dragon. As ruling a king of fifty years, he aged and became an old man, there came a malicious dragon near his kingdom who became angry.
The reason for the dragon’s appearance was because someone had stolen an object of his belonging treasure, which resulted in the rage of the dragon and becoming angry. Beowulf, as the new king of his land, goes to fight the dragon, alone, believing in his own strength.
Even though Beowulf succeeded in killing the dragon, he laid down dying, having only one of his soldiers watching him by his side. The message absorbed from Beowulf’s death is that it could be a sign of Beowulf’s excessive pride which led to his downfall. On the other hand, it could just be another example of how great of a hero and a king he was especially according to the culture at the time. Below, Beowulf’s ending is explained in detail.
The Ending of Beowulf Part I: Details and the Story Explained
After Beowulf helped the Danes and killed both monsters, Grendel and Grendel’s mother, he later became the king ruling his own country, Geatland (or part of modern Sweden) where he ruled for 50 years. Throughout the years he was always known for his power, valor, and courage and of course, remembered for killing the terrifying monsters. In Seamus Heaney’s translation of the poem, it says, “leaving Beowulf To ascend the throne, to sit in majesty And rule over the Geats. He was a good king.”
For the long years, Beowulf ruled skillfully, until “the son of Ecgtheow (Beowulf) had survived Every extreme, excelling himself In daring and in danger, until the day arrived When he had to come face to face with the dragon.” The mentioned dragon was residing nearby, and it had a big pile of treasure guarded greedily.
Until one day, a slave was able to find a way in to steal a piece of this guarded treasure. This is seen in the poem when it states, “there was a hidden passage, Unknown to men, but someone managed To enter by it and interfere With the heathen trove.”
Once the dragon found out that a piece of his treasure was missing, he left his shelter where his treasures were and flew out over the land, burning things as he rested. Beowulf, on the other hand, collected his warriors, and he went to fight the dragon taking his vengeance. Arriving at the scene of the battle, however, he told the warriors to wait, as he would go forth alone.
The Ending of Beowulf Part II: The Final Battle and Beowulf’s Death
As Beowulf commands his men to wait he says, “‘Men at arms, remain here on the barrow, safe in your armor, to see which one of us Is better in the end at bearing wounds In a deadly fray.’” Speaking to his men for the last time, he shared and boasted about his past successes, mentioning Grendel and Grendel’s mother.
At that point, Beowulf was probably around 60-70 years old, and yet he still firmly believed in his abilities and strength to defeat the dragon on his own. At first, he succeeded, protecting himself from the dragon’s fire.
Keeping his age in mind, he was weak, and even though he kept on striking, he couldn’t do as well as he might have in the past. The poem states, “That final day was the first time When Beowulf fought and fate denied him Glory in battle.” He got weaker as the dragon blew more flames upon him. As a result, the dragon even clutched his neck, causing deep gashes, but Beowulf, in a final act of strength, stabbed him with a dagger.
However, Beowulf was not alone in defeating the dragon. His soldiers fled for their lives back to the forest seeing just how strong the dragon was, save one, Wiglaf. Truly loyal to his king, joined him in battle, and while Beowulf was stabbing the dragon in the neck, Wiglaf was stabbing him through the belly. The dragon fell, but Beowulf died of his wounds as Wiglaf sat nearby.
Beowulf or Wiglaf: Who Is the True Hero of the Famous Poem?
While Beowulf is the title hero, proving himself with all aspects that made a hero in his culture, his pride, however, often got in the way of good sense. While some may see Beowulf’s sacrifice as noble because he wanted to fight to save his people, which may also be seen as completely audacious.
He was old and could have used the help of his men, but chose not to. At the same time, Beowulf’s men showed weakness, for they abandon their king leaving him to his death when they saw that the battle is going badly.
It is only Wiglaf, one of the soldiers, who ignored the other men and rushes to his king’s aid. He knows it is a noble act to die helping his king than to survive by fleeing. Together, they defeat the dragon, after which he gave Beowulf his first glimpse of the dragon’s treasure. Beowulf gives Wiglaf some of his armor and implies that Wiglaf will become the next king because of his steadfastness.
Furthermore, before his death, Beowulf stated that they should name the area Beowulf’s Barrow to commemorate what occurred there. This shows how Beowulf was full of his pride until the end, and the rest of the poem goes on to his praise.
But what about Wiglaf?
He was given the kingship, but his good character was not mentioned or repeated.
What Is Beowulf? How the Famous Hero’s Story Begins
Beowulf is an epic poem written between 975 and 1025. It is written in Old English and is still to this day, one of the most important works of literature to the English-speaking world.
It tells the story of Beowulf, a young warrior who travels to help the Danes defeat a bloodthirsty monster. He is successful, and then he must defeat another, becoming a king.
Years later, he has to try and defeat a third monster, a dragon, and that’s where Beowulf meets his end as an old man. Beowulf is a perfect example of an epic poem and an epic hero in the Anglo-Saxon culture. He exhibits courage, strength, seeks revenge, is full of confidence, and is skilled in battle. But in the end, his pride led to his downfall.
Take a look at the main points of the article above, answering the question, “How Did Beowulf Die?”
- Beowulf is an epic poem, written between 975 and 1025, one of the important pieces of literature because it’s a perfect example of the Anglo-Saxon culture.
- It’s about a warrior hero in Scandinavia who travels to the Danes to help them defeat a bloodthirsty monster, Grendel followed by the mother monster, as she came to avenge his son’s death.
- After his successes in killing both monsters, he eventually became king of his own lan. He ruled for years in peace because other lands were afraid to fight against him
- 50 years after he killed the monsters, an angry dragon comes near his kingdom hiding his treasures, because someone had stolen a piece and he was rageful.
- Beowulf went to battle him, leaving his men to wait for him, and got mortally wounded, and only one soldier came to his side, Wiglaf.
- Beowulf and the dragon died, and he left his kingdom to Wiglaf.
- In the end, Beowulf’s pride or perhaps his heroism made him do what he did
Beowulf’s fame is has a lot of reasons: the poem shows a piece of the culture at the time, and it’s also exciting, showing a strong warrior against powerful monsters.
However, as a warrior, Beowulf was a perfect epic hero, full of too much pride, which could be what lead to his death. According to him, he had a noble death, but Wiglaf, his successor, might be better equipped to be a better and smarter king.