SummaryBeowulf bids farewell to his men and sets off wearinga mail-shirt and also a helmet come fight the dragon. The shouts a challengeto his opponent, who emerges indigenous the earth. Man and dragon grappleand wrestle amid sheets the fire. Beowulf hacks v his knife againstthe dragon’s special scales, but his stamin is plainly not whatit when was. Together the flames billow, Beowulf’s companions operation in terror.Only one, Wiglaf, feels enough loyalty to concerned the assist of hisking. Wiglaf chides the various other warriors, reminding them of theiroaths the loyal company to Beowulf. Currently the time has actually come as soon as theirloyalty will be tested, Wiglaf declares, and he goes by himselfto help his lord.
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Beowulf strikes the dragon in the head with his greatsword Naegling, however the sword snaps and breaks. The dragon landsa bite ~ above Beowulf’s neck, and blood begins to flow. Wiglaf rushesto Beowulf’s aid, stabbing the dragon in the belly, and also the dragon scorchesWiglaf’s hand. In desperation beo wolf pulls a knife indigenous his beltand stabs that deep right into the dragon’s flank. The blow is fatal, andthe writhing serpent withers. Yet no sooner has actually Beowulf triumphedthan the wound top top his neck begins to burn and also swell. He realizesthat the dragon bite is venomous and that he is dying. That sendsWiglaf to check the dragon’s treasure and bring the a portionof it, speak that fatality will be much easier if that sees the hoard thathe has liberated. Wiglaf descends right into the barrow and quickly return toBeowulf with an armload of treasure. The old king, dying, thanks Godfor the treasure that he has won because that his people. He tells Wiglaf thathe have to now watch after the Geats and also order his troop to construct hima barrow that human being will call “Beowulf’s Barrow.” After offering Wiglafthe collar indigenous his very own neck, beo wolf dies.
The dragon is the poem’s many potent symbol, embodyingthe idea that wyrd, or fate, the imbues the storywith an atmosphere of doom and also death. Whereas beo wolf is essentiallyinvulnerable come Grendel and also his mother, the is in risk from thebeginning against the dragon. As beowulf feels his own fatality approaching,the dragon increase from the earth, creating the feeling that theinevitable clash will an outcome in Beowulf’s death. The poet emphasizesBeowulf’s reluctance to accomplish death, come “give ground prefer that andgo / unwillingly to inhabit one more home / in a location beyond” (2588–2590).This poetic evocation of death as constituting movement from onerealm to another—from the earthly realm to the spiritual one—revealsthe influence of Christian belief on the generally pagan Beowulf.It is likewise poignant from the view of the warrior ethos, inwhich leaving one’s homeland, the anchor that one’s whole identity,is a really serious and far-ranging undertaking.
That Beowulf need to be therefore adamant in his desire come seethe treasure prior to he dies has perplexed many readers. That is importantto remember that treasure objects often role as symbols of the transmissionof values with generations or of bonds of kinship and loyalty.Beowulf establish this symbolic duty when he shows thathe would certainly pass top top his armor come his own son if he had actually one. His reliefupon seeing the treasure displayed his desire to leaving somethingto his people—a sort of surrogate offspring—when he dies. He knowsthat, even though he has slain the dragon, his victory will feelhollow if over there is no subsequent enactment that the ritual of rewardand gift-giving. Looking ~ above the treasure—ensuring himself of itsphysical reality—eases Beowulf’s mind before death.
That the treasure that Wiglaf find is rusty and also corroded,however, to add a pathetic, ironic top quality to the scene. Whereas Beowulf’s firsttwo encounters v monsters finish with him gift granted treasureswhose splendor to represent his valor, the last encounter end withBeowulf clutching objects whose decaying state epitomizes his ownproximity to death. Furthermore, these wide range will it is in entombed withBeowulf, so that the treasure will be hoarded, in effect, ratherthan redistributed, together the heroic code normally demands. In a way,Beowulf is like the initial burier of the treasure, that realizedthat he to be the last of his line—he knows the his family tree willnot continue. Because the nature of Beowulf’s fight v the dragonis so various from that of his fights with Grendel and his mother,some critics select to see the poem as having actually a dipartite, or two-part,structure quite than a tri-partite one. In the very first two fights,we watch a warrior i was sure in his indestructibility; in the critical fight,on the other hand, we see a warrior aware of his mortality.
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The treasure likewise stands because that the growing bond betweenBeowulf and also Wiglaf, the old hero and the new. Of Beowulf’s men,Wiglaf is the only one that conforms come the heroic criter of loyaltyand valor. Wiglaf, in this section, creates himself as the legit successorto Beowulf, who has actually no organic heir. In this way, the is similarto the young Beowulf, that becomes Hrothgar’s adoptive son. Wiglaffiercely swears that he would fairly die than return residence withouthaving safeguarded his leader. This vow, too, reminds us of the youngBeowulf, that is so eloquent in enunciating the code of respect andso perfectly epitomizes the values. The continuity of honor from onegeneration come the following is ratified once Beowulf takes the collar ofgold native his own neck and, together his final act, offers it to his young friend.In Old English, a laf is an heirloom or remnant,and Wiglaf way “war survivor.” The poet converts Wiglaf through thetreasure (and, the course, the poem)—he will endure Beowulf’s lifetimeand lug on the an excellent hero’s legacy.