Through the noble deeds performed in Anglo-Saxon originated epic, the ideal presentation of loyalty is portrayed through the main character, Beowulf. Since he is such the ideal thane, the failure of other knights to be as extraordinary as Beowulf makes him seem even more faithful and noble. Beowulf was loyal to all of his kin, kingdom, king, country, and his subjects. With this and courage he was a model thane, as well as king, for he was portrayed through the epic as the perfect warrior, and the most idealistic knight of his time.
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As described in the story, Beowulf is fiercely loyal; he has allegiance with all that are not enemies. His king Hygelac, his host, Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, his faithful men that follow and worship him, his kin such as Wiglaf, and the Geatish citizens are all those who he is loyal too in most respects. Through Beowulf’s popularity, he could easily overtake either of the two standing kings because of his outstanding courage. He would not dishonor himself by battling himself against a friend, as this would be disloyal. He avenges the death of Hrothgar’s close friend as it was viewed during the Anglo-Saxon time period a very noble and loyal thing to do. He also proved loyalty to his subjects by attempting to save them from the harm caused by the dragon, and was equally protecting of the Danes, when he fought against Grendel. When Wiglaf, his cousin, remains by his side when he fights the dragon, Beowulf is loyal to him and grants him the throne as a reward for Wiglaf’s unwavering loyalty.
Loyalty played a very important role in Anglo-Saxon culture and life. A persons life was determined by their status and rank in their country. In turn, those who were the loyalist of followers of their ruler received much generosity from that ruler, therefore leading a better life having a better rank. Rulers depended on the loyalty of their subjects and thanes, and without it they would most certainly fall from power. Beowulf worked mostly out of loyalty, he tried to be a servant to his king Hygelac by creating peaceful friendship between the Geats and Danes by defeating Grendel and his mother. Beowulf’s unselfishness and unfailing loyalty gave him quite a reputation and much popularity with both the Danes and Geats subjects and their kings.
Reputation is what motivates thanes to be loyal to their rulers. The more courageous acts they performed for their country, the better their reputation and popularity. Therefore their rank in the social ladder would increase as well. The fact that not all thanes could be as courageous and have so many heroic achievements for their countries and rulers is why Beowulf seems so ideal and extraordinary. Beowulf’s many achievements told through out the story gives him the appearance of the most faithful of thanes, who has climbed the social ladder not because he has meant to do so, but because he wishes to protect his country and others and give all the credit to its rulers. This sort of behavior gives him a kind and generous nature that can be traced to a kind of chivalry. Chivalry can also be considered a very important role in the creation of a thane’s reputation and popularity.
Through Beowulf’s chivalry, generosity, friendship, and popularity, all of his kingdom and of others knew him for his heroism and loyalty. Through the epic, he becomes the perfect thane, and is represented and set as a glorified example. Those thanes that can not live up to his standard of excellence are degraded because they are not as noble as Beowulf himself. Beowulf’s portrayal of loyalty in the epic story is indeed the theme of the ideal thane.
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