LINES 2,892 – 3,182 : The funeral
Wiglaf sends a messenger to tell those waiting back at the court of
On his arrival, the messenger warns of a great disaster because the warring
neighbors of the Geats may view Beowulf’s death as an opportunity to conquer the land, in particular the Swedes to the north with whom Beowulf had secured a fragile peace.
It is agreed that Beowulf should be burned on a mighty funeral pyre and the
curse-laden treasure buried with him.
There is much mourning in the land concerning the death of their King.
The court moves to the scene of the battle and preparations are made for
Large amounts of wood are brought for the pyre. Wiglaf and seven others drag the fire dragon’s body and push it over the cliff into the sea. Beowulf’s body is to be burned on the Whale’s Headland and the pyre is hung with helmets, battle-boards and other weapons of war.
An un-named Geatish woman laments the loss of her Lord in song.
It takes ten days for the Geats to prepare a mound in which to store the
ashes of Beowulf and the treasure horde.
Again the poet pays tribute to the heroic deeds of their leader.
At the start of this epic poem we learn about the Pagan funeral of Scyld,
and the epic ends with the funeral of Beowulf.
Both rites are clearly Pagan in contradiction with the Christian elements throughout the main body of the poem. Perhaps the scribes recognised that to amend these sections would diminish the impact of the poem. Therefore, this Godly tale is framed by two Pagan rituals.
There is also a distinct vein of irony at the end with the inference that
the death of Beowulf marks the end of a peaceful age for the Geats.
For the optimistic reader, the hope is that Wiglaf will unite his people and
rebuff any foreign invaders and thereby carry on where Beowulf left off.
The Geatish woman that sings a song of lament at Beowulf’s funeral is
assumed to be Hygd, Beowulf’s widow. Again the poet neglects to name her, although he does not neglect to tell us the names of the warrior’s swords, once more emphasizing the lack of status of women in these times.
Beowulf’s epitaph is contained in the last three lines of the poem thus:
"They said that he was of all the world’s Kings
the gentlest of men, and the most gracious,
the kindest to his people, the keenest for fame."