Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wealhtheow's Diary

Dear Diary,
Oh what a fright I had as I walked into Heorot this day. I had such a sense of foreboding that I could not control. Beowulf is a most fearsome warrior. Strong, large, and nimbly minded, this great warrior was quite a presence. What a boastful fellow he is as well! When I felt it time to grace the arrival banquet with my presence, Beowulf spoke to me as I performed my queenly duties. I offered him a cup to drink of and this is when he pledged that he would dispose of the evil creature haunting our kingdom. It will be some time before I can forget what he said and how he said the words with such truth that you could do nothing but believe him.

“I had fixed purpose when I put to sea
As I sat in the boat with my band of men,
I meant to perform to the uttermost
What your people wanted or perish in the attempt,
In the fiend’s clutches
Heaney 43 (lines 632-636)

How is it possible that he, Beowulf, is so resolved to kill a monster that does not affect him or his lands? His resolve is what frightens me. I have seen for years the affects of men and their evil. Most of this evil stems from the need for power. What other reason could Beowulf have then to conquer our meager kingdom for his king? All of this worrying is making me quite unsettled. Hrothgar will be here and I cannot show him my true feelings. I must sleep. Possibly when this happens I will be able to puzzle out Beowulf’s ambition.

Dear Diary,

That fearsome, ghastly beast from hell has finally gone back to its origins! Grendel is dead and Beowulf is the slayer. I knew he was a great warrior but I do not believe I ever thought that Grendel could die. He has beset our kingdom and killed many warriors for years. That one man could tip the scales of Fortune seems ludicrous. Now that is has happened, Beowulf is the favorite of both the King and the warrior. I am incredibly pleased with these events on the surface but I cannot help but feel that my sons are in danger from this man so favored by all. Do not mistake me, I am just as happy that the horror Grendel has created is over with but I had a sinking feeling that Grendel is not the only threat to the kingdom that my sons will inherit. As their mother, I must think of them first.

Hrothgar, that loathsome man! He bequeathed the name of son to this Beowulf, a foreigner of a sometimes friendly country. This man, if he so chooses could dispose of both of my sons by maiming or killing them. It would be easy for him! He could do something as simple as sit on Hrethric and one threat to him would be over. My poor boys!
Breathe! Wealhtheow, you are a queen not just a mother. You must think of the political reasons why Hrothgar would essentially disinherit his own flesh and blood. There must be something that he stands to gain. My husband would not be king if he had no cunning in him. Cunning I know he possesses. It is in his blood. I know that it is to my husband’s advantage to control Beowulf. Perhaps I can do something to help. If I can remind Hrothgar of his children and what they stand to lose if Beowulf turns against us, it might be enough to caution the King. Enough with this reminiscing, the chime sings. I must go to the celebration banquet.

Dear Diary,

That banquet was one to remember! The country has not been this merry since before the threat of Grendel. It does a monarch’s heart well to see her country happy and prosperous once more. It is possible the mead was extra sumptuous tonight but I am finally feeling good about the Beowulf problem. I succeeded in my quest. My address was regal and emotional while still sounding detached. I pleaded with Hrothgar to make my sons the kings they deserve to be before he passes to Valhalla. I addressed Beowulf as well, playing on his honor:

“Take delight in this torque, dear Beowulf,
wear it for luck and wear also this mail
from our people’s armoury: may you prosper in them!
Be acclaimed for strength, for kindly guidance
to these two boys, and your bounty will be sure…
Treat my sons with tender care, be strong and kind.”
(Heaney 87, lines 1216-1220, 1226-1227)

After his defeat of Grendel, I was certain that this man’s flaw is his honor. He will not waver in his protection of my boys. How could he when I, a Queen, have beseeched him to do so. I feel all is well in the land of the Danes. I bid thee goodnight.


  1. Lindsay,
    I think you do a really good job at capturing Wealtheow's distinctive voice, particularly in the second entry's first paragraph. One criticism I have might be that I doubt that she, as woman in this age, would refer to her husband as a "loathsome man", even in a private diary. I would probably emphasize the part about his cunning and her confidence in his abilities a little bit more.Another thing I might include is the solution she offers Hrothgar, about him abdicating in favor of his sons. Maybe have her work the solution out mentally. Otherwise though I think you do a great job with this.

  2. Lindsay,
    I believe that the addition to our discussion in class of questioning Beowulf's evilness was interesting. For further drafts I would continue this thread in the latter two diary entries as well, but otherwise you have included the direct quotes and given Wealhtheow much more character. In addition you might be able to expand on the thoughts and actions surrounding Hrothgar adopting Beowulf into the family, from the end of the second entry in which she tosses the idea semi-briefly. Maybe offer suggestions as to why he may want Beowulf in the family versus her just saying Hrothgar may have his reasons..?

  3. "His resolve is what frightens me." Nice line - after all, if Unferth's resolve and Hrothgar's resolve don't measure up, Beowulf must seem like he's from another planet. I like how you portray her, although we could form a couple opinions about this W. Maybe she's a realist; maybe her imagination is failing her. Either way, she's interesting.

    The second entry has interesting possibilities - I like that you're elaborating the hint of conflict between her and Hrothgar. But you spend too much time setting the scene, and not enough developing her response. Maybe it's just me, but I think it might be better for her disagreement with her husband to continue, even if she understands his motivations - maybe she worries that he's showing weakness, for instance.

    In the third entry, you portray her as being convinced. Why? Being able to answer this question well would really show what *you* have to add.

    Is it that she understands, after doubting, that Beowulf really is almost bigger than life? If so, what convinces her? I think something to do with Grendel's mother might be key here.

    In any case, I like the proto-feminist W., and I like her skepticism - but I think that her skepticism and anger either need to be assertively developed, or else her conversion needs to be convincingly explained.