Chapter XV

THEN THE ORDER was given to promptly bedeck the hall of Heorot, and the throng of men and women who gathered to garnish the mead hall and bowers was dense. The tapestries glistened like gold, with many scenes of wonder that delighted each mortal who looked upon them. Though strengthened with iron bonds, the bright building was badly broken. The door-hinges were torn, and the roof alone remained intact when, ridden with guilt, the fiend fled for his life.

It is no small task to escape death, for those who try it! For all soulbearing folk among the races of men and earth-dwellers are forced to that fated place where, after the feast, their body sleeps on its deathbed.

Then the hour arrived when Healfdene's son proceeded to the hall: the king himself would share the feast. Never have I heard that a greater host of that nation gathered graciously 'round their ring-giver! Those who owned renown sat at the benches to enjoy the feast, and the mighty in spirit quaffed many a cup of mead with the kinsmen in the sumptuous hall, Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot was now filled with friends; no Scylding folk had yet attempted treachery.

Then did the son of Healfdene present to Beowulf a banner woven of gold as an ensign for the victory, an embroidered flag of battle, a helmet and a coat of mail, and a precious sword that was seen by many when they brought it before the hero. Beowulf drank the cup of thanks in the hall, for he had no need to be ashamed of those gifts of bounty before the throngs of warriors. I have heard of few heroes in such a hearty mood being thus honored with four such gold-decorated gifts at the ale-bench! About the top of the helmet, there was fixed a ridge of wire to ward the head, lest sharp battle-blades scathe it when that shield-bearing hero should grapple with fierce foes.

The shielder of the people commanded that eight steeds with carved headgear be led into the court; one horse had a gleaming saddle set with jewels; it was the battle-seat of the high king, when the son of Healfdene was of a mind to exercise with swords. His valor never failed when the corpses fell in the battlefront. And so, the chief of Ing's descendants gave both to Beowulf at once, the steeds and the weapons, and wished him well in enjoying them. And so manfully did the great king, keeper of the hoard and heroes, recompense that hard battle with horses and treasures, that none who knew truth could ever condemn him.


  1. The poet foreshadows dynastic problems that are yet to come for Hrothgar's Danes. The mention of Hrothulf, Hrothgar's nephew, may support the belief of some scholars that the foreshadowed treachery involves both Unferth and Hrothulf against Hrothgar.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The poet uses a feast as a metaphor for life, which would resonate with the audience. Note also how the poet does not describe this "fated place" as heaven or hell. Not mentioning some kind of life after death is odd for a Christian poet, but this is possibly an example of the pagan view of death taking precedence over the Christian view.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor