beowulf characters

Shield Sheafson The legendary Danish king from whom Hrothgar is descended, Shield Sheafson is the mythical founder who inaugurates a long line of Danish rulers and embodies the Danish tribe’s highest values of heroism and leadership. The poem opens with a brief account of his rise from orphan to warrior-king, concluding, “That was one good king” (11).
Beow Son of Shield Sheafson, father of Halfdane
Beowulf He is a thane of the Geat king Hygelac and eventually becomes King of the Geats. The poem relates his heroic exploits over 50 years, including the fights with Grendel and his mother and with the treasure-guarding dragon.
Halfdane The father of Hrothgar, Heorogar, Halga, and an unnamed daughter who married a king of the Swedes, Halfdane succeeded Beow as ruler of the Danes.
Hrothgar He is the King of the Danes at the time of Grendel’s assaults. He builds the hall Heorot as a tribute to his people and his reign.
Grendel This man-monster is a descendant of Cain. He attacks Heorot after hearing the sounds of revelry there. Beowulf eventually kills him, with his severed arm hung as a trophy in Heorot. His mother attempts to avenge his death.
Hygelac Beowulf’s uncle, king of the Geats, and husband of Hygd. Hygelac heartily welcomes Beowulf back from Denmark.
Ecgtheow Beowulf’s father, Hygelac’s brother-in-law, and Hrothgar’s friend. Ecgtheow is dead by the time the story begins, but he lives on through the noble reputation that he made for himself during his life and in his dutiful son’s remembrances.
Wulfgar He is one of Hrothgar’s faithful thanes. As the watchman for the Danes, he is the first to greet Beowulf and his thanes to the land of the Danes. He also deems the Geat visitors as people worthy enough to meet with Hrothgar.
Unferth A Danish warrior who is jealous of Beowulf, Unferth is unable or unwilling to fight Grendel, thus proving himself inferior to Beowulf.
Breca Beowulf’s childhood friend, whom he defeated in a swimming match. Unferth alludes to the story of their contest, and Beowulf then relates it in detail.
Wealtheow Hrothgar’s wife who is queen of Danes
Sigemund A figure from Norse mythology, famous for slaying a dragon. His story is told in praise of Beowulf and foreshadows Beowulf’s encounter with the dragon.
Heremod He was an ancient Danish king who went from being a good king to a ruthlessly evil king. Hrothgar uses him as an example of bad kingship for Beowulf.
Finn King of Frisians (lost to Danes)
Hildeburh Her story in recounted during the second feast for Beowulf at Heorot. She is an ancient Danish princess who was married into the Frisian royalty. Her brother and her son were both killed in a war with the Frisians at Finnesburh.
Hengest Dane responsible for slaughtering Finn
Grendel’s Mother An unnamed swamp-hag, Grendel’s mother seems to possess fewer human qualities than Grendel, although her terrorization of Heorot is explained by her desire for vengeance—a human motivation.
Aeschere the right hand man of Hrothgar killed by Grendel’s mother; led to Beowulf”s quest for their lair
Modthryth A wicked queen of legend who punishes anyone who looks at her the wrong way. her story is told in order to contrast her cruelty with Hygd’s gentle and reasonable behavior.
Hygd Hygelac’s wife, the young, beautiful, and intelligent Queen of the Geats. Hygd is contrasted with Queen Modthryth.
Ingeld Freawaru’s husband, a Heathobard, married to form an alliance
Dragon This is the third and last monster that Beowulf must defeat. After a Geat slave steals from his treasure, he goes on a rampage. Beowulf defeats him, but not before being struck with a mortal blow
Heardred Killed by Onela, Son of Hygd. King of the Danes for a while, mother, Hygd, wanted Beowulf King over him.
Onela Halfdane’s son in law, Swedish King who killed Heardred during a raid on Geatland.
Herebeald Geat prince; eldest son of Hrethel; killed accidentally by Haethcyn
Haethcyn Son of King Hrethel, brother of Hygelac and Herebeald, accidentally kills Herebeald
Wiglaf A young kinsman and retainer of Beowulf who helps him in the fight against the dragon while all of the other warriors run away. Wiglaf adheres to the heroic code better than Beowulf’s other retainers, thereby proving himself a suitable successor to Beowulf.
Weohstan Wiflaf’s dad who killed Eanmund and bequeathed his war gear to his son.
Wulf Eofor’s brother–delivered crucial blow to Ongentheow but was injured by him
Hrethel King of the Geats, father of Hygelac, takes in Beowulf
Danes Tribe that hrothgar is king of
Ohthere son of ongentheow, father of eadgils and eanmund
Eanmund killed by Onela, son of Ohthere, brother of Eadgils,
Freawaru She is the daughter of Hrothgar who is unmentioned until Beowulf tells Hygelac about her. Beowulf believes that her marriage to a Heathobard prince will do more harm than good for the Danes.
Heorogar danish king, son of Halfdane
Geats a poeple in Sweden. Beowulf becomes their king and rules them for 50 years.
Hnaef Danish chieftain; killed by Finn’s men during battle; brother of Hildeburh
Shyflings Foreign tribe of Wiglaf (the one that starts with an S)
Waegmundings Tribe of Wiglaf (starts with W)

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