Beowulf Characters

Is Beowulf a hero? ️Where is he from? How he dies? Find all the answers in this article on Beowulf characters prepared by experts. Grendel, Hrothgar, Grendel’s mother, Unferth, and others are described below. There is also a Beowulf character map that presents the main characters and their connections.

🗺️ Beowulf Character Map

Below you’ll find a Beowulf character map. It contains all the key characters that appear in the poem.

Beowulf character map contains all the key characters that appear in the poem.

🛡️ Beowulf

The protagonist of the oldest English text accomplished feats that lived through the ages. His hand had the strength of thirty men. He could fight monsters at the bottom of the ocean. The miraculous abilities of Beowulf allowed him to defeat mighty monsters and a fire-breathing dragon. He saved the Geats from monstrous Grendel and his mother.

Who is Beowulf?

This Geatish hero was loyal to his king, Hygelac. Beowulf’s mother was Hygelac’s sister, and warrior Ecgtheow was his father. In spite of noble birth, Beowulf had to prove his might in battle. Eventually, the hero becomes a wise and generous king whose reign lasts for fifty years.

Where is Beowulf from?

The setting of the poem takes place in 6th century Scandinavia. Beowulf came from the land of the Geats, the North Germanic people. Nowadays, it is the south of Sweden, notably Gotaland. It is one of the three Swedish collective provinces.

Beowulf: Character Traits

Beowulf is an epic hero. That is why his personality traits are all about bravery, heroism, and strength. His intention to kill Grendel for King Hrothgar and risk his life demonstrates his honor and desire for fame. Besides, Beowulf is exceptionally loyal and grateful to the king of the Geats and Danes.

When Hygelac, the King of the Geats, died, his Queen proposed Beowulf to ascend the throne as her son was too young. But the warrior rejected the proposal and promised to be a faithful counselor to King Heardred. This action shows that Beowulf has no vanity or greed. He is wise, kind, and endlessly loyal.

How Does Beowulf Die?

In Beowulf’s last battle, the dragon bit the hero in the neck. The poison penetrated the wound. His neck got swollen and burnt. But Beowulf managed to kill the serpent and tell his last words to Wiglaf. He died as a hero, even though he was a king in advanced years who felt that death was near.

Is Beowulf a Hero?

This question is debatable. So, it is better to answer the question “why and why not.” Beowulf is a hero because he won the battle with Grendel and the dragon. Besides, he is brave, loyal, and strong. He is not a hero because fame was his motivation, not an intention to help people.

Beowulf Quotes

We are sprung from the lineage of the people of Geatland,
And Higelac’s hearth-friends. To heroes unnumbered
My father Ecgtheow was well-known in his day.

Beowulf, part 5

The foe I must grapple, fight for my life then,
Foeman with foeman; he fain must rely on
The doom of the Lord whom death layeth hold of.

Beowulf, part 7

I hold me no meaner in matters of prowess,
In warlike achievements, than Grendel does himself;
Hence I seek not with sword-edge to sooth him to slumber,
Of life to bereave him, though well I am able.

Beowulf, part 11

For the jewels I look on
Thanks do I utter for all to the Ruler,
Wielder of Worship, with words of devotion,
The Lord everlasting, that He let me such treasures
Gain for my people ere death overtook me.

Beowulf, part 38

🤴 Hrothgar

Hrothgar had been the King of the Danes for fifty successful years, and then Grendel came to hunt people. The King was wise, powerful, and generous. He is the personification of a father figure for the young Beowulf.

Hrothgar built the mead-hall called Heorot, which symbolized the unity of people and their social strength. When Beowulf defeated the monsters, Hrothgar rewarded him with precious objects, manifesting openness and generosity. In a word, he is the role model of a king.

Hrothgar Quotes

I remember this man as the merest of striplings.
His father long dead now was Ecgtheow titled,
Him Hrethel the Geatman granted at home his
One only daughter; his battle-brave son
Is come but now, sought a trustworthy friend.

Beowulf, part 7

To defend our folk and to furnish assistance,
Thou soughtest us hither, good friend Beowulf.

Beowulf, part 8

Beware of arrogance, world-famous champion!
But a little-while lasts thy life-vigor’s fulness;
’Twill after hap early, that illness or sword-edge
Shall part thee from strength, or the grasp of the fire,
Or the wave of the current, or clutch of the edges,
Or flight of the war-spear, or age with its horrors,
Or thine eyes’ bright flashing shall fade into darkness.

Beowulf, part 26

🥷 Unferth

The son of Egclaf is the opposite of Beowulf. He is jealous, unfriendly, and a poor warrior. Their only common feature is that both are boastful. But Unferth lacks the courage and strength to back up his boasting. Beowulf accuses him of killing his brothers, and Unferth never objected to the accusation.

When the hero kills Grendel, Unferth lends Beowulf his family sword, Hrunting, to defeat Grendel’s mother. This deed shows him as a wise and generous man.

Unferth Quotes

Art thou that Beowulf with Breca did struggle,
On the wide sea-currents at swimming contended,
Where to humor your pride the ocean ye tried,
’Twas mere folly that actuated you both to risk your lives on the ocean.
From vainest vaunting adventured your bodies
In care of the waters?

Beowulf, part 9

Then I ween thou wilt find thee less fortunate issue,
Much more will Grendel outdo you, if you vie with him in prowess.
Though ever triumphant in onset of battle,
A grim grappling, if Grendel thou darest
For the space of a night near-by to wait for!

Beowulf, part 9

💁 Wiglaf

All epic heroes have helpers. Wiglaf plays the role of kinsman in the poem. He follows Beowulf to the dragon’s barrow when all the other Geatish warriors flee in fear. It shows him as a brave and reliable friend. By the way, he is Beowulf’s relative.

When Beowulf dies from the dragon’s poison, Wiglaf rules Geats. But the narrator makes it clear that the prosperous times have finished, and Wiglaf does not make a good leader after the death of Beowulf.

Wiglaf Quotes

The day is now come when the ruler of earthmen
Needeth the vigor of valiant heroes:
Let us wend us towards him, the war-prince to succor,
While the heat yet rageth, horrible fire-fight.

Beowulf, part 36

Thy life thou shalt save, mighty in actions,
Atheling undaunted, with all of thy vigor;
The monster advances on them.
I’ll give thee assistance.

Beowulf, part 36

Death is more pleasant
To every earlman than infamous life is!

Beowulf, part 39

🧌 Grendel

Cain’s descendent inherited his curse for murdering his brother Abel. Grendel attacks the Danes after they celebrated the building of Heorot. We can assume that the monster’s isolation caused his hatred for people who were joyful and social.

Grendel kills people with his hands and eats them, so he is humanlike. He is lonely and miserable. Probably, this is the reason why he became a villain. The monster dies after Beowulf has ripped his arm off.

👹 Grendel’s Mother

Her name is never mentioned in the poem. She appears after Beowulf kills her son. Grendel’s mother comes to Heorot to get revenge. She takes away one of the sleeping warriors (whose head will be later found on the swamps) and Grendel’s hand.

When Beowulf comes to kill Grendel’s mother, she drags him to her cave. At the last moment, the hero picks up a sword that lay forgotten in the lake and kills the monstrous woman.

🐲 The Dragon in Beowulf

The creature with a venomous bite found a cave with the abandoned treasure of an extinct tribe. It lived there for three hundred years until a slave wandered into its barrow and stole a golden cup. It infuriated the serpent, and it burnt the Geat buildings and killed people.

Beowulf defeats the dragon but dies from its bite because the enemy is worthy of Beowulf’s steel. Its treasure is buried under Beowulf’s funeral mound. People push the dead dragon from a cliff into the sea.

🎭 Minor Characters in Beowulf


He is the grandson of Shield Sheafson and the successor of King Beow. Hrothgar, Heorgar, Halga, and another daughter who married the King of Swedes (her name is never mentioned) are his children. Hrothgar, the King of Danes in the times of Beowulf, is his second son.


She is a young Danish princess and daughter of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow. Hrethic and Hrothmund are her brothers. She married Ingeld the Heathobard, peace-weaving their tribes in a marital alliance. Still, Beowulf doubts it will end well.


He was one of the past Danish kings. Hrothgar tells his story when Beowulf returns, having defeated Grendel’s mother. Heremod was a powerful king who used his rule unwisely. He murdered his kinsmen in pursuit of wealth. Anglo-Saxon culture views such acts as the biggest sin.


She Is the Queen of Danes and the wife of King Hrothgar. Wealhtheow hosts all the celebrations in Heorot, demonstrating hospitality and generosity. The Queen gives a gold necklace to Beowulf that King Hygelac will wear later. She kindly offers Beowulf to become a wise counselor to her sons.


The King of the Geats was married to Hygd. They had a son Heardred and a daughter who married Eofor. According to the story, he is Beowulf’s uncle. Upon his death, Beowulf is offered to take his throne, but the hero refuses. Hygelac was a historical figure that helped the scholars to date the text.


Her story is told in a song sung by a scop (lines 1071-1158). She was the daughter of Hoc, the King of Danes, and married Finn, the King of Frisians. In this marriage, Hildeburgh unsuccessfully acted as a peace-weaver. As a result, she lost her son, husband, and brother in a battle.


In Beowulf, he was the most loyal advisor and friend of King Hrothgar. Grendel’s mother killed him on the night she came to avenge her son. Aeschere’s head was found near Grendel’s lair. Hrothgar deeply lamented the loss.


She was a lovely but violent queen who killed everyone who dared to look at her in the wrong way. Her story is told in contrast to Queen Hygd, in favor of the latter. Modthryth applied her power for useless bloody actions, while the narrator repeatedly praises the diplomatic role of women.

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🔗 References

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