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Leaders bring a sense of order and everybody has the desire for said order, in short leaders guide people to the point they want to be. When times are good and when times are bad, a leader stands strong and puts their needs and wants aside for the wants and needs of others. Beowulf possesses this quality and it is what makes his reign successful right up until his untimely demise. Beowulf’s fearlessness combined with his great hunger for glory and his ability to put others before himself is what makes him a good king.
The society of Geats glorifies brute strength and the ability to protect. The leader that preceded him, Hrothgar, was very well renowned for building Heorot Hall. “There he would dispense his God given goods to young and old but not the common land or peoples lives. Far and wide through the world.” (lines 71-74) his best achievement being what society cherishes and values most. In the eyes of the people Hrothgar embodies everything that is right, everything that is great and everything that is noble.“So Grendel ruled in defiance of right, one against all, until the greatest house in the world stood empty, a deserted wallstead. For twelve winters, seasons of woe, the lord of the Shieldings suffered under his load of sorrow. (Lines 144-149) Previously Hrothgar was very well respected, once Grendel attacks for the first time his method of leadership is put into question. The people have finally seen something that is larger and more mighty than their leader, thus instilling fear over the course of twelve years. The people have not yet criticized the reign of Hrothgar, they still have a great deal of respect for him but they are slowly losing faith in him because of the “unfamiliar territory”.
A leader brings hope for a better future. When Beowulf arrives he makes his mission clear and concrete. “ We come in good faith to find your lord and nation’s shield, the son of Halfdane. Give us the right advice on a great errand to the lord of the Danes and I believe therefore there should be nothing hidden or withheld between us.” (Lines 269-272)He has explained to the Geat people that his intentions are good, although it seems his intentions are then contradicted by his want for glory through the way he speaks so boastfully of what he’s done, ultimately he is seeking for the respect of the people as well as their safety. From the people’s perspective he is everything Hrothgar was and more because of his potential to defeat the one who has caused all of their problems.
A leader needs to be selfless. In a case of dramatic irony, Beowulf’s demise is attributed to his great selflessness. Beowulf rules for fifty years without any problems, up until a dragon attacks.” The dragon began to belch out flames and burn bright homesteads… Everywhere the havoc he wrought was in evidence. Far and near, the Geat nation bore the brunt of his brutal assaults…“ Then Beowulf was given bad news, a hard truth… He was destined to face the end of his days in this mortal world.” (Lines 2312- 2318, 2334, 2341-2342) Due to his previous triumphs Beowulf is expected to protect his people once more, despite his old age and the looming threat of death that comes along with it. As expected along with the aid of Wiglaf, Beowulf goes to seek out the dragon, in his final act of selflessness, he receives a fatal wound to the neck but the dragon is slain and peace is restored once more.
All expectations aside Beowulf did not see the dragon as an opportunity for greatness much like how he did with Grendel, he sees his people and their well being. In conclusion Beowulf lived a rather selfless live, beginning with a quest for recognition and recognition alone, ending with doing what’s right, Beowulf put his what he wanted aside, for a greater future for his people and literally died fighting. The matter of good and bad is essentially a matter of perspective, but if there is a prime example of what a good king is, it would be Beowulf.
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