begins with the legends of the warrior kings of the Danes. The most
famous was Shield Sheafson, the founder of the ruling house. He was
revered by his own subjects, and outlying clans were forced to pay
tribute to him. Shield had a son named Beow, who became famous
throughout the region for his exploits.
died while still at the height of his powers. His warriors placed his
body in a boat, piled it up with treasure, weapons and armor, and sent
it out to sea. No one knows, the poet says, who salvaged all the
Shield's death, it was Beow's job to defend the Danish forts. He was
well respected and ruled for a long time. He was succeeded by Halfdane,
who had three sons, Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halga, and an unnamed
daughter who was married off to Onela the Swede.
was an extremely successful king. People flocked to his service and he
created a large army. He decided to build a huge hall, and intended it
to be one of the wonders of the world. He called the hall Heorot. It was
a magnificent, towering building. The poet states, however, that in the
future it would be burned down during a battle between members of the
poet introduces the story by giving some background information about
the Danish warrior kings. This a way of introducing Hrothgar, who plays
an important role in the story.
1939, archeologists discovered at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, England, a
buried ship of treasure dating probably from the seventh century A.D.
The find included a warrior's sword, a great gold buckle, silver
serving vessels, and other items. It showed that warriors and kings from
this period were indeed buried with their riches, just as the poet
describes in the lines about the death of Shield.