When Warthogs gazes upon Grenade’s talon, when he praises Beowulf as the “flower of manhood” (942), and when he adopts Beowulf as his own son, the reader senses the importance of this symbol reflecting the interdependence necessary for survival in an Anglo-Saxon society. Hoarder’s loyalty to Beowulf is symbolized by the abundant gifts with which he rewards the young hero. By rewarding him with “a wealth of wrought gold… Two arm bangles, a mail-shirt and rings,” (1192) Warthogs shows the extent that he values
Beowulf actions as well as the amount of dependence that he places upon Beowulf to protect Horror, his people, and himself. The golden torque that is presented to Beowulf at the banquet following his extraordinary defeat of Greened is “The most resplendent torque of gold” (1194) and its meaning as a symbolic object deepens in that it was worn by Hugely “on his last raid,” (1203), thus showing the ongoing dependence upon the loyalty of kings to brave heroes as a means of protecting their kingdom.
When, much later in life, Beowulf faces the dragon in the battle that is to be his end, all of his men defending the country alongside him flee when the outcome appears to turn in favor of the dragon. All except for one young thane, Wigwag, who stays to fight for Beowulf and his kingdom. Wigwag announces that, “l would rather my body were robed in the same burning blaze as my gold-giver’s body than go back home bearing arms,” (22651), thus giving the reader a strong sense of faithfulness and loyalty for the life of Beowulf, his king.
The wound dealt by the dragon to Wigwam’s hand. “His fighting hand was burned when he came to his kinsman’s aid,” (2697) symbolizes the willingness of Wigwag to sacrifice his own life and vitality for the sake of his leader and shows the reader the importance of protecting his king’s life before his own. In offering his physical strength for the protection of his lord Wigwag finds “a new strength welling up,” (2878-2879) which demonstrates how he finds a sense of strength in protecting Beowulf and is thus dependent upon this loyal relationship to is lord.
Wigwag sacrifices his own security and safety by obeying Beowulf last requests completely, staying beside him as Beowulf draws his last breath, and cleansing his lord’s battle-torn body which shows clearly the his desperate sense of interdependent loyalty upon his lord. Beowulf breathes his last breath as he “then… In his great-heartiness unclasped the collar of gold from his neck and gave it to the young thane (Wagtail” (2809) Beowulf is keenly aware that his life is in it’s final stage.
In bestowing upon Wigwag the resinous gift, which Warthogs had given to him out of loyalty, Beowulf is demonstrating his dependence upon Wigwam’s loyalty and protection in battle. Beowulf is placing a deep loyalty in Wigwag as an equal in battle when he shares with him “the wide rim (shield) once his (Wigwam’s) own had shattered in sparks and ashes,” (2675-2677). By declaring Wigwag as “the last of us, the only one left of the Housewarmings” (2813-2814) Beowulf, in a sense, adopts Wigwag as his son much the same as Warthogs does for him in the beginning of the poem.
This vulnerable action enhances the reader’s awareness of what Wigwam’s loyalty to the death means to Beowulf. Wigwag means “war survivor” and Beowulf is now dependent upon his loyalty to carry on as the king and protector of the Seats. The Beowulf poet thoroughly permeates the theme of loyal dependency into the epic by showing through symbolism the great reliance of the Anglo-Saxon culture upon loyalty from one human to another. Through the relationships between lord and thane the epic shows that as long as there are leaders and followers willing to serve hem, there will be dependency upon the loyalty of each to the other.
Loyalty is one of the most important qualities a man can possess and its presence in a person elevates him from ordinary to heroic. Loyalty is a providing factor in the continuance of existence as it is demonstrated by the protection of life and reward for that protection. As a value of morality and a code of honor, loyal dependency is worth more than any material possession when harnessed and used for the good of mankind as Beowulf so clearly shows through the many examples presented here.