And another item lent by Unferth beowulf essay prompts that moment of need was of no small importance: the brehon handed him a hilted weapon, a rare and ancient sword named Hrunting. The iron blade with its ill-boding patterns had been tempered in blood. It had never failed the hand of anyone who hefted it in battle, anyone who had fought and faced the worst in the gap of danger.
Swords have great significance in the war-centred Anglo-Saxon culture from which Beowulf arises. Therefore, emphasis is strongly placed on the exchange of weapons of war. Unferth’s very act of giving Hrunting to Beowulf and the sword’s unexpected failure in the battle against Grendel’s mother bear much symbolism in the poem. The reason behind Hrunting’s failing against Grendel’s Mother has been a point of much scholarly debate.
Rosier, in A Design for Treachery: The Unferth Intrigue, puts forth the contention that Unferth deliberately gave Beowulf a sword that he knew would fail, possibly for the purpose of preventing Beowulf from succeeding where Unferth himself failed. Yet this point has been contested by J. Another explanation that has been put forth connects Hrunting’s failure to the broader underlying message of Christianity prevalent throughout the poem. Kent Gould, in his essay “Beowulf” and Folktale Morphology: God as Magical Donor, suggests that Hrunting fails because it was given to Beowulf by Unferth, a heathen. Only the more powerful replacement blade that God gives Beowulf is capable of destroying evil. Beowulf line 1528, Heaney, Norton ed. Rituals of Power: From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages, ed.