Chapter V

THE STREET WAS stone and guided the band of men. Their coats of mail gleamed; hand-forged and hard, the steel rings on their armor sang as they marched in battle garb to the hall. The seaweary men set down their broad shields, the stout bucklers, along the wall. Seating themselves on the bench, their breastplates and war-gear clanged. They stacked together their gray-tipped spears of ash—those men of iron had weapons worthy of them!

A proud warrior there questioned the heroes about their home and kinsmen: “Whence do you bear these burnished shields, gray armor, and grim helmets, and a multitude of spears? I am Hrothgar's herald and marshal. Never have I met so many foreigners of heroic bearing. Methinks that it's for glory—not because of exile, but for courageous valor—that you seek Hrothgar!”

To him the proud leader of the Geats made answer beneath his hardy helm: “We are of Hygelac's clan; I am named Beowulf. I seek to explain my mission to the son of Healfdene, the mighty prince and your lord, if it be his pleasure that we now greet him who is good.”

Then Wulfgar, the Wendel chief well-known to many for his might of mind, courage, and wisdom, said: “I will tell the king of the Danes, the Scyldings' friend, the giver of rings, what it is that you ask; I'll tell the illustrious prince of your journey here, bringing back quickly such answer as the mighty monarch may be pleased to give.”

He then made haste to where Hrothgar sat, white-haired and old with his warriors about him, 'till with gallant stance, he stood before the shoulders of the Danish king—he knew the customs of court.

Wulfgar addressed his liege: “Men from afar have come hither over the ocean's paths—people of the Geats—and the most noble of their band is named Beowulf. They seek the boon of speaking with you, my lord. Do not deny them a hearing, most gracious Hrothgar! By their war-gear they appear worthy warriors, and their leader, a hero who led his band hither, is surely a valiant man.”


  1. Wulfgar, as Hrothgar's subject, instinctively makes sure that he positions his own body lower than Hrothgar's as he addresses him. To address one's king while standing at a higher level would violate customs and traditions.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. As mentioned earlier, ancestry and family were of incredible value at the time. Prior to announcing his own name, Beowulf wants to assure Hrothgar's spokesman that the Geats are a part of the great chieftain Hygelac's clan to establish context for his group to help ensure them passage to Hrothgar.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. All good leaders in Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon societies are described as *givers of rings*, which is a common metaphor for their generosity in distributing wealth to their followers in exchange for loyalty.

    — Stephen Holliday