Why Does Beowulf Sail to Denmark?

At the time when Beowulf was written, and even more so when the described events took place, there was no such a country like Denmark. Beowulf took fifteen chosen companions with him to fight a man-eating monster who threatened the Danish tribe.

There were several reasons why he decided to undertake this risky affair. First, it was an issue of loyalty. When Beowulf was a child, his father, Ecgtheow, got into a blood-feud with the Wulfings tribe because he had killed Heatholaf. His family demanded a large wergild (blood-money) from Ecgtheow. Beowulf’s father sought refuge. He asked Hrothgar for help, and the king “healed the feud by paying.” The line means that he repaid the Wulfings on behalf of Ecgtheow. 

If Hrothgar had not paid, Beowulf’s family would have been exiled from their tribe, and their property would have been confiscated. The life outside the tribe was dangerous and hungry. As a child, Beowulf would not have survived it. So, Hrothgar saved his life.

Second, Beowulf was ambitious and already famous as a hero who defeated sea monsters. He wanted to increase the number of his feats. He was the strongest warrior ever known, and his strength required application. 

Third, Beowulf’s success in the battle with Grendel and his mother glorifies his king, Hygelac. The hero is loyal to his lord, so this motivation also worked well. 

Finally, the voyage to the land of the Danes was long and hazardous. It was an exciting challenge for Beowulf, which could prove his skills once again.

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