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Section 9

Beowulf and Wyglaf Slay the Dragon

For the last time, Beowulf utters his boast to fight the dragon. He will carry a shield and bryny, as that is the best way to counter the fire of the dragon. He says that though he is full of courage, he will not make a boast this time: he will simply fight till he or the dragon dies. He walks to the stone arch near the wall from where a stream gushed out, hot from the dragon's breath, and utters a shout of challenge. The dragon in reply sends a blast of venomous breath, and Beowulf lifts the shield to save himself. He smites the dragon with his sword, but for the first time it was Beowulf's fate to lose, and the sword cuts less deep than he had hoped. Beowulf's sword and shield are weakened by the dragon's breath, and the poet notes that Beowulf, though no willing participant, is doomed to death.

Beowulf is grievously hurt, and his warriors abandon him, running into the forest. Only one man, Wyglaf, in whose heart ties of kinship still hold strong, remains. Wyglaf was Weohstan's son, and a Swedish prince. When he sees his king in distress, he picks up his shield, helmet and sword and carries them to Beowulf. Wyglaf remembers when all the warriors had drunk mead and sworn allegiance to Beowulf and made a promise to repay him for the war-gear and treasures that Beowulf had given them. Wyglaf laments his companions' ingratitude in running away. He exhorts Beowulf to be mindful of his glory and prowess.

The dragon blows another smoke of fire, and though Wyglaf's buckler and bryny fail him, he fights alongside Beowulf. Beowulf strikes the dragon with his sword, Naegling, but iron was never destined to be Beowulf's help, and the blow failed. The dragon rushes at the king and fastens his fangs at his throat, and Beowulf is mortally wounded. Wyglaf, though his hand is burned, strikes low at the dragon, and the fire lessens. Beowulf now draws his dagger and cuts apart the dragon.



Beowulf's Death



The venom begins to spread through Beowulf's body and he sinks against the wall. Wyglaf tries to revive him with water, but Beowulf (who knows that he is dying) asks him to carry out his last wish of bringing the treasure to him, so that he could see it before he dies. Wyglaf goes inside the barrow and finding gleaming treasures of gold, arm-rings and a banner, picks up what he can including the banner. Beowulf thanks God for granting his people this treasure, and asks Wyglaf to ensure that when his body is burnt, his warriors build a stately barrow on the headland of the Cape of the Whale, so that people could always remember him. He gives Wyglaf his collar of gold, gold-decked helmet, ring and bryny, and wishes him well as the last surviving member of the Waemunding line.

So saying, Beowulf dies and lies alongside the dragon, which once had soared high in pride but had been brought low by Beowulf. The warriors return and Wyglaf rebukes them for failing their king at a time of need, and he proclaims that they will all be disinherited of their land and homes, once their shameful act is made known.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10



 






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