A literary symbol is something, often an object, that stands for a significant concept or series of ideas. Often a symbol is emblematic of the values of the characters. In Beowulf, some of the most important symbols are Hrothgar's mead-hall, Grendel's cave, Grendel's arm and head, and the dragon's treasure-trove. Hrothgar's great mead-hall, Heorot "Hall of the Hart" , functions as both setting and symbol in the epic. It is much more than a place to drink. Symbolically, Heorot represents the achievements of the Scyldings, specifically Hrothgar, and their level of civilization. The hall is a home for the warriors who sleep there and functions as a seat of government. It is a place of light, warmth, and joy, contrasting with Grendel's morbid swamp as well as the dark and cold of winters in Scandinavia. In Heorot, Hrothgar celebrates his victories and rewards his thanes warriors with various treasures.
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What Is Heorot?
The hall, located in Denmark, serves as a seat of rule for King Hrothgar , a legendary Danish king. After the monster Grendel slaughters the inhabitants of the hall, the Geatish hero Beowulf defends the royal hall before subsequently defeating him. Later Grendel's mother attacks the inhabitants of the hall, and she too is subsequently defeated by Beowulf. The hall is generally held to correspond to the great hall of Lejre in Denmark found in North Germanic texts. A location of the same name receives mention in the Old English poem Widsith. The name Heorot may stem from an association between royalty and stags in Germanic paganism. Archaeologists have unearthed a variety of Anglo-Saxon finds associating stags with royalty. For example, a scepter or whetstone discovered in mound I of the Anglo-Saxon burial site Sutton Hoo prominently features a standing stag at its top.
A mead-hall is a large dining hall where warriors and others would participate in drinking and eating and the telling of stories. Heorot is mentioned in the epic poem Beowulf as mead-halls are in Anglo-Saxon history and can easily be compared to the dining halls of today. In Beowulf , Heorot is illustrated as a grand hall built by the Danish King Hrothgar for his village. Everyone drinks and socializes in Heorot as part of a daily ritual.
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