Chapter IV

THE FOREMOST MAN gave answer, and the warriors' leader unlocked his word-hoard: “We are kinsmen of the Geats' clan and are Hygelac's own hearth-fellows. My father was known to far-off folk: Ecgtheow was his name. A man of many winters, he departed as an aged man from the earth and is honored even today by sage men throughout the world's width. We come with good intent to your lord and liege, to Healfdene's son who protects his people. Be good and advise us! We come to the Danish lord with a great message, and, as I see it, nothing should remain hidden. Tell us if you know the truth about what we hear men say: that among the Scyldings a strange monster, doing black deeds in the dark of night, wreaks havoc and murder with unmatched rage and hatred. I would bring Hrothgar generous aid, that he who is wise and brave may best his foes—if ever there is to be an end to his ills and the fight that afflicts him, if a cure is to come, and the seethings of torment grow calm again—lest he suffer ever after in days of anguish and sore distress for as long as that majestic house rests high on its hill!”

Astride his steed, the shore-warden gave the answer of an undaunted clansman: “The quick-witted one must have skill to know the measure of words and deeds if he means to do well. I gather that this band is of a gracious mind toward the Scylding lord. March then with your arms and armor on the way I show you. I will order my men to guard your boat in the meanwhile, the freshly pitched ship there by the ocean's shore. They will watch it faithfully 'till it once more wends its way over the waters, bearing her well-loved lord to the Geats' borders with those that fate shall grant to pass through battle unscathed.”

They then set on their march—the ship lay still, riding on her cable; the broad-bosomed boat lay fast at anchor. The boar-figures on their cheek-guards shone; forged with gold, ornate and gleaming brightly, they guarded the man of war. The heroes marched in haste 'till they saw the hall, broad-gabled and bright with gold; among earth-dwellers this majestic house was most renowned, and the light of it illuminated far-off lands. The stalwart warrior pointed to that scintillating fortress and bade them go straight there; then he wheeled his steed about like a mighty warrior, and gave a parting word: “It is time for me to go from you. May the Almighty Father guard you well with grace and mercy in your quest. I go seaward to keep my watch against hostile marauders.”


  1. To unlock one's word-hoard is a very common formulaic phrase in Old English or Anglo-Saxon used to describe a very formal, ceremonial speech. In answering the guard's question, the still unnamed hero of the Geats conforms to such expected conventions to explain his unexpected presence in Hrothgar's territory. In doing so, we not only learn more about the hero's respect for the customs of the land, but we also are able to see how eloquent of a speaker he is.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor