Chapter XVII

“THEN WARRIORS HASTENED to their homes; bereft of friends, they returned to the Frisian land, the homesteads and high fortresses. Hengest yet remained with Finn during that bloodstained winter, honoring the pact and thinking of his home. He was powerless to drive the ring-covered prow of his ship over the waters, as now the waves rolled fiercely with lashing winds or stood locked in winter's icy chains. Then another year came upon the dwellings of man, as even now it continues to do—skies bright with sun always come in their season. Winter was driven far off, and the earth's bosom was fair. That adventurer was up and ready to depart, leaving where he had been guest.

“However, he thought more upon revenge than on sea-roving, and how to hasten hot encounters with the sons of the Frisians. And so he, too, was doomed when Hunlafing gave the scintillating blade of battle to him, the best of blades; its edges were feared among enemies. And in this manner, the sword-death fell upon the fierce-hearted Finn while he was at home; after their sea-voyage, Guthlaf and Oslaf recounted many tales of woe, and so Finn's wild spirit stayed not within his breast. The fortress was red with the blood of enemies, and Finn was slain, the king amid his guards; the queen was taken. The Scylding warriors carried to their ship all the king's possessions and anything of gems and jewels they found in Finn's domain. The gentle wife was carried back over the sea-paths to the Danes.”

The lay, that bardic ballad, was sung to its end. Then the glad feast rose, and the sound of merriment grew bright. Cup-bearers poured wine from their wondrous flagons. Wealhtheow then came forward, moving beneath her golden diadem to where the two brave men sat, uncle and nephew, each true to the other in kindred affection. Unferth the orator sat at the feet of the Scylding lord; men had faith in Unferth's spirit and the might of his courage, although in swordfighting he had been disloyal to his kin.

The Scyldings' lady spoke: “Drink of this cup, my lord, giver of rings! Be you merry, oh magnanimous friend of men, and speak gentle words to the Geats, as men should do! Be glad with them and mindful of those gifts you've received from near and far. Men say that you wish to receive this hero as your son. Heorot has been purged; enjoy that bright hall of riches while you can, and give many treasures, leaving folk and land to your children when you must away to your fate. For I deem that my gracious Hrothulf will rule honorably over the young ones if you quit the world earlier than he does, Scyldings' friend. I believe he will repay good to our children if he remembers well all the comfort and gifts of honor that we bestowed on him when he was helpless.” She then turned to the seat where her sons were placed, Hrethric and Hrothmund, the two young sons of heroes; the Geat also sat there, brave Beowulf, between the brothers.


  1. Wealhtheow’s speech clearly indicates her concern regarding Hrothgar's earlier statement that he views Beowulf as his son. She reminds Hrothgar that his own children are the rightful heirs, and that Hrothgar will succeed Hrothgar's throne should he die unexpectedly. Her speech is another example of how much power and involvement the queen has in political matters, and her advice is designed to avoid a potential struggle between the Geats and Danes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Beowulf’s position here symbolizes either his place in Hrothgar's line of succession, or that the poet indicates that Beowulf is now the children’s protector. The latter is more likely considering the established relationship and loyalty that Beowulf has shown Hrothgar and what Wealtheow shortly tells him.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Unferth may be Hrothgar's orator, 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Hengest, whose slain leader has not been avenged, thinks of revenge but is trapped by the truce with Finn not to fight. The poet implies that when Hunlafing gives the sword to Hengest, he is subtly reminding Hengest that he must renew the fight with Finn because of the pagan code of loyalty to king and kin. The sacred duty to avenge his lord conflicts with another sacred duty to abide by his oath. However, loyalty to king is a much stronger duty in this warrior society.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This is Hildeburh, who had been given as a "peace-weaver" between the Danes and the Frisians (Finn's tribe) when she married Finn, and the poet over-states the situation by saying that she "was taken." She is merely returned to her own people (the Danes)  after this violent episode in which her son and husband have been killed.

    — Stephen Holliday