Wiglaf, along with Beowulf's other warriors, watches Beowulf initiation
his battle against the dragon. WHen the fight seems to be turning against
Beowulf, however, all of the warriors except Wiglaf -flee. Wiglaf's
purpose in the poem, however , is more than simply someone to help
Beowulf. Wiglaf is the model of a good warrior, and as a good warrior,
Wiglaf demonstrates the importance of heroism to society and the necessity
of loyalty to one's kinsman and lord. He is willing to saccrifice his
life to reciprocate the gifts which he received from his lord, but even
more important, he symbolizes the need for cooperation between warrior and
lord in order to preserve society against overwhelming odds Wiglaf also
demonstrates the responsibility of the good warrior, a contrast to the
cowardly warriors, who represent all that sciet shoud not emulate.
After BEowulf's Battle with the dragon, Wiglaf reprimands the warrioirs
who fled. Such cowardice, he says, reveals a national weakness and is an
invitation for their enemies to attack. Wiglaf reminds them that the loss
of Beowulf means no more gifts, a loss of land rights and everything that
makes life joyous. Wiglaf emphasizes that death is preferable to a life
without a lord; without a lord, man is adrift in a hostile world.
During Beowulf's battle with the dragon, the poet tells us that Beowulf
is not "undoomed", and after the battle during Wiglaf's attempt to revive
the old Warrioir, the poet reminds us that God not only has the power to
preserve heroes in battle, but also to take life from them. He is saying
at times, God dispenses victories, and at other times heroes lose their
lives. Here, Beowulf loses his life. God allows Beowulf to avenge himself
against the dragon and fight the good fight, but we must always remember a
key idea of the heroic code: a hero mustfight- even thoughhe knows that he
fights against fate.
Although Wiglaf is only a young warrior when he inherits the kingdom,
heknows that the cowardice of the Geats will lead to their downfall. Other
tribes who hear about the warrior's failure to protect their king will
surely swarm down upon them, hoping to take revenge for past hostilities.
In short, Wiglaf is a doomed man. Hw has inherited a longstanding feud,
and he must lead a people who seem inable or unwillingly to fight. HE
also faces a hostile world, leading a people who fail to recognize the
necessity of a do-or-die loyalty to the code of their clan.
Wiglaf may appear only momentarily in the poem, but, without a doubt, he
is more important kthan being a simply a deus ex machina who aids Beowulf
in his battle with the dragon. Wiglaf explains the seething enmity
between the Swedes and the Geats, a feud which will eventually lead to the
Geat's downfall. We can only see a bleak future for Wiglaf a warrior
without a lord, a king without a stable kingdom, a man strugglingvaliantly
against a hostile and ever-changing world.
"For complete summary and analysis of literary works, please visit