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This is Wiglaf, one of King Beowulf’s thanes. During the fight with the great dragon, the great and mighty Beowulf was slain by poison from the dragon’s mouth. He fought bravely, and none of the other warriors would help him because they were too scared. Even though I was probably more scared than any of them, I went to my king’s aid. His sword, the powerful Naegling, broke in two, and the dragon darted forward and bit him on the neck. I immediately went into a rage and plunged my sword into his thick hide.
He burnt my hand. It hurt. A lot.
King Beowulf dragged a knife from his belt and drove it into the dragon’s soft underbelly, a fatal wound.
But the king’s wound was also fatal. As soon as he realized this, he begged me to show him some of the treasure the dragon had so fiercely hoarded, so that he might see what he had won his people before he passed on. Not paying attention to my surroundings, I rushed into the dragon’s barrow and scooped a random armful of treasure off the ground. Returning to my king, I showed him the treasures, and he told me I must become the Geat’s leader, take up his mantle and lead his people.
And he passed out of this life and into the next.
The warriors who had been to cowardly to come to Beowulf’s aid were ashamed when they saw he had died. I rebuked them, full of anger at the fact that our great ruler might have lived. I sent messages to the Geats of his death and warned them of coming attacks now that he could no longer defend us. We buried our king in a barrow on a cliff by the sea, where all seafaring vessels could see it. A Geat woman sang a lament that brought many to tears. Goodbye, brave warrior and king of the Geats.
“They said that of all the kings upon the earth
he was the man most gracious and fair-minded,
kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.”
~ Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney, lines 3180-2