After each of encounters with the monsters, Beowulf gained possession of more treasure and wealth, either as form of booty or reward of the good deed. Praises were given to those who wore the precious jewels, armor, and carried the valued weapons. Treasure and wealth were distributed in the poem as rewards and gifts to those who accomplished something courageous, they also serves the purpose of assuring loyalty and allegiance. The possession of treasure and wealth symbolize honor and eminence, and one pursues treasure and wealth because of what they symbolize. Treasure and wealth came in various forms such as gold, jewels, horses, armor, and trophies of battles.
In the society where Beowulf lived, the possession of treasure, gold, swords, and armor symbolized status, honor, and accomplishment. These treasure and wealth were used to assure loyalty, allegiance and protection. Beow, son of Scyld, inherited wealth from his father, a well-respected king. "In this way a young man ought by his good deeds, by giving splendid gifts while still in his father's house, to make sure that later in life beloved companions will stand by him, that people will serve him when war comes." (Beowulf, p. 3) After Scyld died, Beow became successor to the throne with loyalty of his countrymen. The queen of the Danes, Wealhtheow also used wealth and treasure to assure allegiance and protection.
She gave Beowulf a gold necklace, two arm-ornaments, a mail-shirt and rings in hope that Beowulf will guide and protect her sons after King Hrothgar dies. In each of the kingdom / tribes , one with the most treasure, courage and fame would come in possession of the throne; the throne was then passed down to the sons of the great warriors, the treasure and wealth of the king was then passed to the descendant. As it did when King Hygelac died in battle, his son inherited the throne even with Beowulf, the more wealthy, famous, and respected, in the court as respect to the king. Sometimes the son of the king might be wealthy and respected and becomes king of his own right, such as Beow, son the Scyld. When the king does not have a direct descendant, the throne was then passed on to one of the warrior in the kingdom with the most courage, wealth, and fame. Beowulf became king after the son of King Hygelac died because of the wealth, fame he collected over the years as a warrior in the court.
This is based on a system which designated wealth and honor as desired values. Famous and precious armor, mail-shirts and swords are treasures that marked a warrior's success, fame, and honor. The more brilliant their weapons were, passed down from their forefathers, won from battles, and gained as gifts, the more honorable and respected the warrior were. When the armor a warrior carries can be recognized by others, the warrior gains immediate respect from others because a name of a sword can only be spread around when one goes through difficult battles. When Unferth lent Beowulf his sword, Hunting, it represented his respect for Beowulf, honored Beowulf, and the act redeemed Unferth from the insult he had given him before Beowulf proved himself by killing Grendel. Beowulf's mail-shirt in the battle with Grendel's mother was precious and it protected him from getting harmed by the monster.
The mail-shirt represented Beowulf's status as a warrior by its worth. The gifts King Hrothgar gave Beowulf included a helmet which Beowulf wore in the battle against Grendel's mother as a symbol of his status of a well-respected warrior. When Beowulf was leaving the land of the Danes, the guard regarded Beowulf and his men as honorable just by the mail-shirts and the weapons they carried: "the guard of the coast saw the coming of the earls... the return of the warriors in bright armor in their ship would be welcome to the people of the Weather-Gets." (Beowulf, p. 32) In the society which Beowulf was based on, trophies from battles provided warriors proof of their courage and strength. They are evidences of their accomplishment when they are challenged by others.
The trophies are treasures that bring the warriors fame and respect from other warriors and in turn allows the warriors to gain trust of others and lead others. Beowulf's trophies from battles against the monsters were regarded as forms of treasures in the poem. The arm of Grendel, which was torn off by Beowulf by his bare hands, was hung in the hall of Heo rot. It was considered as evidence of security assured by Beowulf.
The giant sword and Grendel's head Beowulf acquired from the battle against Grendel's mother were proof of Beowulf's strength and courage. These trophies were treasures to advance Beowulf's honor and fame. The trophy from the battle against the dragon was actual treasure that the dragon has been protecting for centuries. The barrow of gold that Beowulf won from the battle represented his last victory and while he was dying from the poison of the dragon, he demanded to see the treasure to comfort him: .".. I may see the ancient wealth, the golden things, may clearly look on the bright curious gems, so that for that, because of the treasure's richness, I may the more easily leave life and nation I have long held." (Beowulf, p. 46) The treasure later showed the warriors that fled from the dragon the courage of Beowulf, though Beowulf himself did not win the treasure for his kingdom as he had hoped because the treasure was buried with him after his death.
King of the Danes, Hrothgar, showered Beowulf and his men with generous gifts as a result of wounding / killing Grendel and relieving the Danes from the danger of Grendel. He was given weapons, armor, treasure, and horses. Beowulf was not ashamed to accept the gifts because in receiving these gifts, Beowulf obtained honor and status as a respectable warrior. Same generosity was granted by King Hrothgar when Beowulf killed Grenwulf's mother.
Beowulf left the Danes in the ship that was "loaded with armor, the ring-proved ship with horses and rich things." (Boe wulf, p. 32) The treasures were symbols of Beowulf's status and importance as a warrior and he left the Danes proud of what he had achieved. The treasure he brought back with him provided evidence to his own king, Hygelac, of what he had accomplished during his time overseas. In result of what was accomplished by Beowulf in the land of the Danes and Beowulf's achieved fame, respect from the treasures he brought back, King Hygelac offered Beowulf land to rule on his own. One seeks treasure and wealth in Beowulf's society as a result of desire for power. Warriors obtained treasure and wealth through battles and rewards, with these treasure and wealth, warriors also gain fame, respect, and honor.
In the society where these were valued, warriors were able to acquire power over other warriors and land once their honor and respect were achieved. Losing the treasure means losing one's life or losing their honor and respect to the warriors, the wealth they obtain over their lifetime stays with them till death. And some of the treasures even follow them after they die: .".. Scyld the courageous went away... not heard of a ship more splendidly furnished... treasure of the people...
set a golden standard high over his head, let the water take him, gave him to the sea." (Beowulf, p. 4) Beowulf described the value system of that time: the great warriors and kings possess the wealth and treasures who.