Loyalty in Beowulf: How Does the Epic Warrior Hero Show Loyalty? 

Beowulf shows loyaltyLoyalty in Beowulf is an important theme, probably one of the key major themes because of its importance to the culture during that period. Throughout the poem, Beowulf showed loyalty, and it is what drove him to be a hero.

Together with this, there were other characters too who showed their loyalty to Beowulf. Read this to find out how Beowulf and the other characters showed loyalty.

How Does Beowulf Show Loyalty?

Beowulf shows his loyalty by rushing to help the king of the Danes in their time of need, King Hrothgar. He arrived on the Danish shore, and he sent word to the king that he was ready to help him fight against the monster.

The king remembers him, mentioning that Beowulf is “Here to follow up an old friendship,” as quoted from the Seamus Heaney translation of the poem. Beowulf had some debt to repay to the king, due to his loyalty, he traveled across the sea, risking his life to help them.

In this culture and time period, chivalry and the heroic code were all important. Men needed to be strong, courageous, loyal, focused on honor, and fighting for what is right. Loyalty was one of the most important aspects of this code, and even if one wasn’t blood-related to someone, they still should have been loyal. In this case, Beowulf came to help the Danes showing loyalty to their king King Hrothgar, however, even after fulfilling his duty, defeated Grendel’s mother as well.

Together with being loyal to the Danes, Beowulf kept his loyalty to the cause, which was to remove evil from the world. He insisted on helping the king so that they will, once again be free from a monster. However, achieving this loyalty brought him just what he wanted: honor and recognition for his achievements.

Beowulf Examples of Loyalty: Other Characters Are Also Loyal

Beowulf wasn’t the only character in the poem who proved his loyalty; King Hrothgar is loyal as well as Grendel’s mother, followed by Beowulf’s soldier and kinsman, Wiglaf.

King Hrothgar of the Danes is loyal because he was true to his word about rewarding Beowulf if Beowulf was successful. After Beowulf came to him with evidence of Grendel’s death, the king granted him treasures to return to his own king. After a while, this king also gave parts of that treasure for Beowulf to keep.

Another example of a loyal character is Grendel’s mother. Even though she was an antagonist, illustrating her wild and dangerous side, she showed loyalty to her son by avenging his death. In Seamus Heaney’s version of the poem, it says, “But now his mother Had sallied forth on a savage journey, Grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge.” She came to kill to avenge her son, but even so, she was sought out by Beowulf and killed.

Beowulf examples of loyaltyFinally, one of the most loyal characters in the whole poem is Wiglaf, one of Beowulf’s kinsmen after he became king of his own land. At the end of his life, Beowulf came up against a dangerous dragon, and he told his men not to help.

However, as his men saw that he was in need of their help, they fled in fear, but Wiglaf was the only one who stayed. He helped Beowulf defeat the dragon, watched his lord die, and got a crown as a reward.

Loyalty Quotes in Beowulf: Quoted Examples of Loyalty and Chivalry in Beowulf

Loyalty was part of the chivalric or heroic code in this period of time. It was so important that it is one of the major themes of Beowulf and comes up time and time again.

Take a look at the following loyalty quotes in Beowulf from Seamus Heaney’s version which show its importance to the story:

  • My one request Is that you won’t refuse me, who have come this far, The privilege of purifying Heorot”: here, Beowulf is begging King Hrothgar to allow him to stay to fulfill his loyalty to the Danes in fighting Grendel
  • And I shall fulfill that purpose, prove myself with a proud deed Or meet my death here in the mead-hall”: Beowulf tells the queen of the Danes that he is there to prove his loyalty, and he will die if needs must
  • But now his mother Had sallied forth on a savage journey, Grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge”: after the death of her son, Grendel’s mother was loyal to him, and she went to take vengeance against the Danes for his death
  • I remember that time when the mead was flowing, How we pledged loyalty to our lord in the hall”: after Beowulf becomes king and tends to fight the dragon, his kinsman Wiglaf scolds the other men for not wanting to help their king

The Young Soldier Wiglaf: The Most Loyal Character in Beowulf

While loyalty is shown throughout the famous poem, Wiglaf is likely the most loyal character. At the end of Beowulf’s life, he has to fight a dragon. Holding his pride high, Beowulf wanted to fight alone, that is why he didn’t realize that he was older in age now and couldn’t fight as fiercly as he used to. His other soldiers raced away in fear as they saw Beowulf struggle, however, Wiglaf was the only one who stayed with him.

Wiglaf even scolded the other soldiers who were trembling in fear, reminding them of what their king has done for them. In Heaney’s translation, Wiglaf says,

“I well know

That things he has done for us deserve better.

Should he alone be left exposed

To fall in battle?

We must bond together.”

As Wiglaf went to find Beowulf, he told his king,

“Your deeds are famous,

So stay resolute, my lord, defend your life now

With the whole of your strength.

I shall stand by you.”

Facing his fear, Wiglaf showed loyalty to his king by helping him fight the dragon.

Together, they brought the dragon down, however, Beowulf died. With his dying breath, he implies that Wiglaf will become the next king.

What Is Beowulf? Background Information on the Epic Poem’s Hero

Beowulf is an epic hero, showing loyalty in warrior culture. Taking place in the 6th century Scandinavia, Beowulf is an epic poem written by an anonymous author. Between the years 975 to 1025, in the language of Old English, the story was first orally told and passed down to generations, until someone wrote it down  The plot speaks about the times of an epic war hero called Beowulf, who travels to help the Danes get rid of a monster.

The Danes are at the mercy of a bloodthirsty monster, and no one can seem to defeat him. But Beowulf is a unique warrior, full of strength and courage. He fights against Grendel, defeats him, and is seen as a hero. He also fights Grendel’s mother, and later in his life, he fights a dragon, dying in the process after he kills the dragon.

Beowulf is one of the most important works of literature for the Western world. It gives us an insight into the past, especially about cultural themes. It also shows the transition of Scandinavia from paganism to Christianity. And it’s relatable because of its overall theme of good vs. evil.


Loyalty in beowulfTake a look at the main points about loyalty in Beowulf covered in the article above.

  • Beowulf shows loyalty time and time again: he helps the king of the Danes and then continues to battle the second monster to help him
  • He is constantly loyal to the cause of fighting for what is right as well as removing evil from the world
  • But there are also other characters who show loyalty in the poem
  • Loyalty is one of the main attributes of the heroic or chivalric code, a very important way of life for the culture and time period
  • In Beowulf, the other characters who show loyalty are Wiglaf, his kinsman, Grendel’s mother, and King Hrothgar
  • King Hrothgar is loyal to his word, and once Beowulf kills Grendel, he is given the rewards due to him
  • Grendel’s mother is loyal to her son, and so she emerges from the murky depths to take vengeance for her son’s death
  • Wiglaf, Beowulf’s later kinsman, goes into battle with Beowulf to fight the dragon. He is the only soldier who chooses to fight with him while the others run in fear
  • Beowulf is an epic poem written in Old English between 975 and 1025, taking place in Scandinavia, and it follows the adventures and times of Beowulf, a warrior
  • The Danes are having trouble with a monster named Grendel, and Beowulf offers his service, due to an old debt that needs to be paid, Beowulf comes to help King Hrothgar
  • Hrothgar helped Beowulf’s uncle and father in the past, and Beowulf wants to show him honor by helping him

Beowulf is a perfect epic hero because he displays the main characteristics of the code: honor, courage, strength, and loyalty. He shows loyalty by traveling to help the Danes and risking his life against a monster to pay back an old debt. But even though Beowulf is the main character and very loyal, it’s likely that his lowly kinsman is the most loyal of all.

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