The masterpiece of Beowulf gives us a wealth of symbols and themes to analyze. Throughout the epic perception of major icons such as the great two mead-halls of Heorot and Hygelac's Hall and treasure are important parts of Beowulf. A deeper look into these material possessions and physical places show us that the meade-halls were a significant place of culture and importance, and perception of treasure changed through the story.
The great hall of Heorot was a very important place for the king and soldiers of Denmark. Built when there was prosperity throughout Hrothgar's kingdom, it was a symbol of hope, light, and strength. Heorot was an ancient mead-hall. As its name suggests, it was a place where there could be feasting and drinking. Historically, a mead-hall was usually a single room hall made especially for this purpose of merry-making for the king and his soldiers. However, Heorot was perceived as much more in Beowulf. First of all, it is suggested in the text that this hall was a place of greatness, and had multiple side rooms and a chamber where the king could sleep. The king distributed the spoils of battle by “offering everyone, young and old, all he could give that God had granted" (lines 63-64). Songs were sung and listened to, tales of old were recounted and passed down, and the reputation of warriors was spread.
It also was perceived as a place of light and refuge in the ever-present darkness surrounding them. After the first attacks of Grendel, the kingdom of Hrothgar became a place of darkness and danger, especially at night. The only place that could be a place of refuge was Heorot, though its strength waned as Grendel repeatedly terrorized the soldiers. Which brings up another point, as Beowulf took place in Norse culture, or somewhere in Denmark, did the soldiers wear Viking helmets as part of the armor? It never was described in Beowulf what kind of battle dress the soldiers wore in the great hall of Heorot.
John Hilde is a historical weapons and armor collector and owns his own online store selling authentic armor and weapons. Please visit http://www.armorvenue.com to learn more.