Assessment of the Role of Wiglaf as Described in Beowulf
In the poem Beowulf there are many characters that play important roles. There are many characters that help Beowulf through his troubles and battles. One of the most loyal and crucial of these characters is Wiglaf.
Beowulf returned to his kingdom to become king after he helped Hrothgar defeat Grendel. He had many thanes that protected him and fought with him. The job of his thanes was to support the king in battle, respect the king, give king all the credit, never leave the battle while the king is still fighting, guard the mead hall, face death for the king, and various other duties. In Beowulf’s last fight only one of them proved to be worthy of Beowulf.
Wiglaf was the one worthy thane. He was the son of Weohstan, a prince of the Scylfings, and Aelfhere’s kinsman. He was of good blood. He came from an important and honored family.
When Beowulf went to defend his people from the fire-dragon his thanes were tested. They proved to their leader and the rest of their country that they were not loyal thanes. When the fight got to tough they fled to the woods to save their own lives without thinking of their king. Wiglaf was the only one to stay by his side. Wiglaf fulfilled his duties and was true to his king.
Without Wiglaf the fire-dragon would have defeated the old, suffering king and destroyed all the people. He gives Beowulf confidence and physical help. After the dragon strikes Beowulf he becomes powerless and can no longer fight. Wiglaf steps up courageously and slays the dragon.
After the dragon is killed Beowulf shares his last moments of his life with Wiglaf. The king is very grateful. Having no son, Beowulf leaves his realm and most important possessions to Wiglaf with the confidence that everything will be taken care of. In addition to giving him his realm he asks Wiglaf of one favor. Beowulf fought his last fight for a pointless treasure that was never really needed. The last thing that Beowulf asks for is to have the treasure buried with him in a place where he will always be seen and everyone will know that a great king is resting there. As a loyal thane and trusted friend Wiglaf does as Beowulf says.
Wiglaf returns to his comrades and scorns them for their weakness. Each of them is branded with shame and looked down upon for leaving their king to die in his time of need. Wiglaf steps up to his position as king and defends the king that had taken care of him and the other men with such dignity and pride.
Without Wiglaf the thanes would have fled before the battle even began. The dragon would have defeated the king and come after the rest of the community to get revenge for his stolen treasure. There would be no sense of loyalty to the king and society would fail. The people would forget what their responsibilities were and the kings role would be totally different. They would lose all heroic morality, which is to defend and honor your king, give him all he needs and build him up to a great man. Without Wiglaf their society would crumble and fade away.
Wiglaf is a very important character because of his heroism and loyalty. He risks his life, as all thanes should do, to save his beloved king, Beowulf. He is a true example of an honorable warrior.
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