I know this is going to seem so incredibly dorky that I am putting this on here, but it is one of the only “short stories” I have ever actually finished and it is my favorite. In the beginning of my senior year of high school, my English teacher had us read the book “Beowulf” and then write our own part of the story. While most students chose to write about the main character, Beowulf, or the antagonist, Grendel, I decided to go on a completely different route. I instead chose Wiglaf, one of the most important characters in the story (in my opinion) but the one who seemed to have gotten completely overlooked by the rest of my class. So here goes…..this is my own version of Wiglaf’s part in Beowulf.
“Flames lapped the shield, charred it to the boss, and the body armour on the young warrior was useless to him. But Wiglaf did well under the wide rim Beowulf shared with him once his own had shattered in sparks and ashes (Beowulf).” All around Wiglaf the flames licked up the dry ground at his feet. His face felt like it too was on fire, yet he did not cower away. Although not a major character in Seamus Heaney’s translation of “Beowulf”, Wiglaf proves his character and worth through his courageous battle with the dragon on Beowulf’s behalf. No other man under Beowulf’s command dared what Wiglaf did.
Only minutes before racing into the dragon’s lair, Wiglaf had been sitting near the rest of Beowulf’s men listening to them bet on how long it would take Beowulf to kill the dragon. Suddenly, he heard a cry come rushing out of the dragon’s lair. Immediately, he knew it was that of Beowulf. “It sounds like Beowulf is in trouble,” spoke Wiglaf. “We should go to his aid.”
“Are you mad?” the others questioned. “That dragon would kill us in a heartbeat. No, we should have never come here in the first place. We do not wish to die.” At that moment, a horrendous sound came from the dragon’s mouth and fear began to take hold of Beowulf’s men. With that they turned and began to run as fast as their feet could carry them away from the entrance to the dragon’s lair. The sound of Beowulf’s wailing pierced the air again and without giving it a second thought, Wiglaf turned, alone yet brave, and ran into the lair. The closer he came to where the fighting was taking place, the worse the conditions got. He could barely see the ground he was walking on because of the thick smoke clouding his vision. He began to choke incessantly and his eyes began to water. The air smelled of sulfur, not to mention the smell of human flesh rotting where the dragon had left men to die. He followed the sound of Beowulf’s voice. Scared as he was, he would not leave his master to die. He continued on until he came in view of the dragon and Beowulf. The dragon caught sight of him in its peripheral vision. It turned toward him and with one big huff, it blew out a massive trail of fire that was headed straight toward Wiglaf. He quickly tried to duck behind Beowulf’s shield, but, unfortunately, he was not fast enough for a moment later he felt a searing pain on his arm where his own shield had been and smelled the stench of burning flesh and metal. He wailed in pain and, looking at his arm, saw that the dragon’s flame had completely melted his shield and scorched his arm. Beowulf quickly hid Wiglaf behind his shield and with a few swift movements, he bestowed upon the dragon a fatal wound. The dragon came crashing down upon the ground with such a forceful thud that it shook the whole countryside. Rising to his feet, Wiglaf stood behind his king in awe. Beowulf the Geat had killed the hazardous dragon, but not without suffering a fatal wound of his own.
“My faithful warrior,” Beowulf addressed Wiglaf, “You have made my proud this day for you were the only one of my men who had enough courage to come to my aid at the time I needed you most. You have shown great valor, and for that you will always be held high in the Geat court. I have never known a man worth more.” With that, Beowulf drew one last breath of life, closed his eyes, and died.
Before his courageous act, Wiglaf had always been considered one of the weaker men in Beowulf’s band of men. He was not as quick with a sword or a bow and arrow as many of them were. Sometimes it had felt as though he was a misfit and often times he was left out of the action. However, from that day on, things were different. Wiglaf was held in high respects by everyone. Wiglaf had proven that he was worthy to be one of Beowulf’s warriors. He had shown his worth, his true devotion, his courage, and that made all the difference.