Foreshadowing in Beowulf

Foreshadowing Examples in Beowulf:

III 1

"hence it after became           Certainly known to the children of men..."   (III)

For the purposes of the story, it is important that Grendel's reign of terror lasts as long as it does. By stating that the dire situation became well-known among the Danes, Swedes, and Geats, the poet foreshadows the coming of a hero to save Hrothgar's Hall.

"To Sigmund accrued then..."   (XIV)

The digression here to the story of Sigemund serves several purposes. First, by linking Beowulf to the cultural hero Sigemond, Beowulf is praised and his reputation is greatly enhanced. Second, the inclusion of this tale is meant to foreshadow more conflict in Beowulf's life.

"as to Sigmund's           Mighty achievements..."   (XIV)

The poet links Beowulf with the the legendary hero Sigemund, from a series of tales from the Old Norse Volsunga Saga that an Anglo-Saxon audience would know. The effect is to build on an existing narrative and perhaps foreshadow coming events in Beowulf's own story.

"And Unferth the spokesman..."   (XVIII)

Unferth may be Hrothgar's spokesman, but he is also an untrustworthy man who has killed his own brothers. By mentioning that Unferth sits in a prominent place in Hrothgar's hall, the poet is likely foreshadowing that all is not well and informing the audience of future discord.

"Doomed unto death..."   (XIX)

The poet uses the concept of fate to foreshadow the death of one of the warriors at the feast. For those living during Beowulf's time, when a man is fated to die, he will die, and there is no action the man can take that will alter his fate; this is why the man is “doomed unto death,” giving the end of this section an ominous tone.

"Weird they knew not, destiny cruel,..."   (XIX)

The poet's choice of using Weird, or Fate, and cruel destiny in this passage foreshadows conflict that will shortly come to Hrothgar's hall. Essentially, this passage is saying that the people feasted and enjoyed themselves, unaware of the struggles and hardships that will come to them. Interestingly, this word choice omit's any reference to the Christian God, the poet preferring to use the pagan concept that controls the lives of humankind.

"the weening deceived him..."   (XXXIII)

The noun “weening” is Germanic in origin and means the action of believing, thinking, or supposing. In this case, the poet is saying that the dragon believes in his barrow and that this belief will deceive the dragon. This serves as foreshadowing for the coming conflict between Beowulf and the dragon—the dragon's trust in the security of his home is not going to help against Beowulf.