4 March 2012 Digressions in Beowulf At first glance, the beginning of Beowulf seems confusing. The chapter talks about some other ruler when the story is about Beowulf. A reader might think that the unknown author of Beowulf put the Scyld section in by accident or just to explain the times before Beowulf was born, but it was no accident. The story of Scyld is the story of Beowulf. Scyld opens the poem because he is used as a foreshadowing figure to show what will happen to Beowulf in the future.
Scyld is a warrior, a conqueror, and he gifted away the treasures of his enemies as he defeated them. Beowulf was interested in the treasure and trophies of war also. Beowulf also always brought a piece or two of the recently conquered monster back to show the rest of his people. In addition, the unknown poet mentions the pure prosperity, praise, and honor of Scefing, Scyld; and likewise, the reader is shown the wealth and recognition for the hero Beowulf.
Scyld fights for his people, defends his lands and his honor, and when the gods appointed “his time”, he died and was buried at sea. Beowulf and Scyld both have a beautiful burial out by sea and die the same way, in battle. These parallels show how important it was to be a divine ruler. When a person dies the only thing that they are remembered by is their accomplishments, Beowulf fiercely wanted to be like Scyld because when he died everyone remembered all of the great things that he did for his people.
The poem has circular structure as it begins and ends with the story of an aged king with great accomplishments, and it sets the tone for what type of leader Beowulf must be in order to defeat Grendel, the monster attacking the mead-hall. He must be a man who is also fearless and powerful in battle as well as a man free from greed and pride just like Scyld. The unknown author puts Scyld at the beginning of the story to give a reference as to what Beowulf needs to become not as a background of the times before Beowulf.