Conflict is a condition of opposition and discord. In a novel or story a main character may be the focus in determining the result of a conflict. Therefore, secondary characters often may be discounted for their own parts in the resolution to the story. Hrothgar, the king of the Dane’s and a secondary character in the epic, Beowulf, written by an unknown author, was responsible for abolishing his land of the monstrosity that plagued his domain. Hrothgar rid his country of evil that haunted his realm by utilizing his great wisdom.
King Hrothgar bared the ability to discern and judge what was true, right and lasting. He processed accountable and reliable knowledge. Hrothgar had the experience and understanding to follow the soundest course of action. This was evident in the epic when Beowulf, the powerful and foreign warrior, entered Hrothgar’s kingdom to seek permission to subdue Grendel, the shepherd of evil, who was terrorizing Hrothgar’s region. While requesting his service, Beowulf, in lines 407-455, boasted of his accomplishments and endeavors.
For instance Beowulf states this, “They had never seen me boltered (clot) in the blood of enemies when I battled and bound five beasts, raided a troll nest, and in the night-sea slaughtered sea-brutes,” (419-422). Then Unferth, one of Hrothgar’s council members, taunted Beowulf by claiming that Beowulf was a liar and a fool. Hrothgar did not halt Unferth, but instead waited and listened for Beowulf’s response. Beowulf responded in a calm and respectful manner, which proved to Hrothgar that Beowulf was able to be trusted and he then granted Beowulf’s request.
Hrothgar’s wisdom led him to listen for Beowulf’s reaction to determine the soundest course of judgment to avoid a matter of greater conflict. Compassion is another quality Hrothgar processed that gave him the responsibility of purging his nation of the destructive force that threatened his country. He processed a deep awareness of sympathy for people who suffered. He had the desire to help and spare those in need. The King of the Danes wanted to ease the pain of people who were helpless and in misery. For instance, in the poem Hrothgar had constructed a majestic mead hall specifically for his loyal warriors.
This hall is used for a feast in the epic Beowulf, which is illustrated when , “a bench was cleared in the banquet hall so the Geats could have room to be together and the party sat, proud in their bearing strong and stalwart,” (491-494). Hrothgar’s compassion for these men that came to save his nation was evident with the feast that he provided in the mead hall. This extravagant hall was a place where warriors could meet and gather until Grendel, the demon, sought to kill and devour any man that fell asleep in the magnificent hall.
Hrothgar could have forced his men to stay in the mead hall that created specifically for them, but instead he demonstrated his compassion upon them be never demanding that any man ender the exquisite mead hall. Hrothgar’s great compassion, or deep feelings of sympathy for his warriors, helped him rid his country of the conflict based evil. Hrothgar was responsible for overcoming the wickedness that tormented his kingdom through his incredible lack of hubris. King Hrothgar did not possess an undue sense of his own superiority.
He never exaggerated his self-confidence. Likewise, Hrothgar possessed immense humility. His extreme lack of pride proved that he was an archetype, a perfect example, of a noble leader. An example of this can be seen when Hrothgar set aside his national pride to do what was right of his country. This happened when Beowulf came to Hrothgar’s domain to request permission to attempt to defeat the evil that plagued Hrothgar’s country. Hrothgar not only permitted Beowulf to attempt to subdue Grendel, but also humbled himself even further.
An example can be found when Hrothgar tells Beowulf, “I will compensate you for settling the feud as I did last time with lavish wealth, coffers of coiled gold, if you come back” (1380-1383). Not only does Hrothgar grant Beowulf, the epic hero, a lavish life he also admits to this intimidating foreigner, Beowulf, that his brother, who was a better person than Hrothgar, was the first heir to the throne, but sadly did not live to take his rightful place as king of the Danes. Hrothgar, a man who had no sign of hubris, acted selflessly by setting aside his pride for the well-being of his kingdom.
He granted Beowulf’s request through his humility and by doing so, he was able to abolish the conflicting malicious actions that terrorized his warriors and people. Hrothgar demonstrated qualities much like the main character Beowulf. They both displayed properties of courage, and wisdom. However, Beowulf is the one deemed as the hero. A hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Hrothgar, the aged ruler of the Danes, is trongly rooted in the heroic way much as Beowulf is; however his old age and experiences, both good and bad, have developed a more reflective view of heroism than his younger successor, Beowulf. Hrothgar’s view on heroism is both from a young hero’s perspective as well as an old man’s. This thought process that is provided gives us an insight as to who Beowulf is becoming, despite his external conflict of defeating the evil driven Grendel. Beowulf was able to publicly demonstrate his courage by defeating Grendel, the source of evil in Hrothgar’s kingdom, when Hrothgar himself could not.
Hrothgar’s position, King of the Danes, put him in a place that made it impossible for him to throw himself into the heroic spotlight. Because Beowulf was not initially placed in a position of power, he had the opportunity that Hrothgar did not. Regardless of whether or not he, Hrothgar, defeated Grendel, as a secondary character it would have led to an unsatisfying conclusion of the epic. The conflict within Hrothgar wanting to be the hero and knowing what was best for his realm, was resolved when Beowulf requested to step up to defeat the demonic Grendel. Conflict is an opposition between two simultaneous but incomplete feelings.
In Beowulf, an ancient text, the main character Beowulf seems to be the primary focus in resolving conflict. Therefore, Hrothgar, a secondary character can often be overlooked for his contributions to the outcome of the story. Hrothgar, the King of the Danes, was the man that liberated his nation of the horrid evil that threatened his realm.
Greenbalt, Stephen. “Beowulf. ” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Eighth Edition, Volume 1: The Middle Ages Through the Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. 8th ed. Vol. 1. N. p. : Norton, 2006. 407-1383. Print.