Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 13

Thus speaking, he turned his horse’s head and led the way up the steep cliff paths, while the Geats followed him, resplendent in shining armour, with boar-crests on their helmets, shields and spears in their hands, and mighty swords hanging in their belts: a goodly band were they, as they strode boldly after the Warden. Anon there appeared a roughly trodden path, which soon became a stone-paved road, and the way led on to where the great hall, Heorot, towered aloft, gleaming white in the sun; very glorious it seemed, [Pg 9] with its pinnacled gables and its carved beams and rafters, and the Geats gazed at it with admiration as the Warden of the Coast said: “Yonder stands our monarch’s hall, and your way lies clear before you. May the All-Father keep you safe in the conflict! Now it is time for me to return; I go to guard our shores from every foe.”

Hrothgar and Beowulf

The little band of Geats, in their shining war-gear, strode along the stone-paved street, their ring-mail sounding as they went, until they reached the door of Heorot; and there, setting down their broad shields and their keen spears against the wall, they prepared to enter as peaceful guests the great hall of King Hrothgar. Wulfgar, one of Hrothgar’s nobles, met them at the door and asked whence such a splendid band of warlike strangers, so well armed and so worthily equipped, had come. Their heroic bearing betokened some noble enterprise. Beowulf answered: “We are Hygelac’s chosen friends and companions, and I am Beowulf. To King Hrothgar, thy master, will I tell mine errand, if the son of Healfdene will allow us to approach him.”

Wulfgar, impressed by the words and bearing of the hero, replied: “I will announce thy coming to my lord, and bring back his answer”; and then made his way up the hall to the high seat where Hrothgar sat on the daïs amidst his bodyguard of picked champions. Bowing respectfully, he said:

“Here are come travelling over the sea-expanse,
Journeying from afar, heroes of Geatland.
Beowulf is the name of their chief warrior.
This is their prayer, my lord, that they may speak with thee;
Do not thou give them a hasty refusal!
[Pg 10] Do not deny them the gladness of converse!
They in their war-gear seem worthy of men’s respect.
Noble their chieftain seems, he who the warriors
Hither has guided.”

At these words the aged king aroused himself from the sad reverie into which he had fallen and answered: “I knew him as a boy. Beowulf is the son of Ecgtheow, who wedded the daughter of the Geat King Hrethel. His fame has come hither before him; seafarers have told me that he has the might of thirty men in his hand-grip. Great joy it is to know of his coming, for he may save us from the terror of Grendel. If he succeeds in this, great treasures will I bestow upon him. Hasten; bring in hither Beowulf and his kindred thanes, and bid them welcome to the Danish folk!”