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Beowulf comes to the assistance of the Danes (Scyldings) for complicated reasons.Certainly he is interested in increasing his reputation and gaining honor and payment for his own king back in Geatland.Loyalty A theme in a literary work is a recurring, unifying subject or idea, a motif that allows us to understand more deeply the character and their world.
Beowulf could become king then but is more loyal than ambitious.
Queen Hygd offers Beowulf the throne after her husband dies, thinking that her young son (Heardred) is unable to protect the kingdom; Beowulf refuses and serves the young king faithfully.
If Beowulf can't win a match like that, Unferth asserts, he surely can't defeat Grendel.
Beowulf defends his reputation with such grace and persuasion that he wins the confidence of King Hrothgar and the rest of the Danes.
When it is apparent that Beowulf is losing the battle to the dragon, however, all but one of his men run and hide in the woods.
Only Wiglaf, an inexperienced thane who has great respect for his king, remains loyal. Realizing that they will be no help and that his king is about to be killed, he stands beside the old man to fight to the death — theirs or the dragon's. Although he and Wiglaf kill the dragon, the king dies.He points out that he swam with Breca for five nights, not wanting to abandon the weaker boy.Rough seas then drove them apart, and Beowulf had to kill nine sea monsters before going ashore in the morning.After Heardred is killed, Beowulf does become king and rules with honor and fidelity to his office and his people for 50 years.In his final test, the burden of loyalty will rest on other, younger shoulders.Beowulf is courageous and famous for his performance in battle but equally well known for his good deeds.Although aggressive in war, Beowulf has "no savage mind" (2180) and never kills his comrades when drinking, an important quality in the heroic world of the mead-hall.When a drunken Unferth verbally assaults Beowulf at the first banquet, at issue is the hero's reputation.Unferth's slur is the worst kind of insult for Beowulf because his reputation is his most valuable possession.His reputation intact, Beowulf prepares to meet Grendel and further enhance his fame.As he discusses Beowulf's later years, the poet lists the virtues (2177 ff.) leading to the great man's fine reputation.