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Hygelac, son of Hrethel, was king of the Geats, and uncle of Beowulf, his sister s son. He was the reigning king of Beowulf s fellow countrymen the Geats during the greater part of the action of the poem. Beowulf is often called Hygelac s kinsman, and when he went forth to his battle with Grendel s mother (Chapter XXII.), he bade Hrothgar in case of his death send the treasures he had given to him to Hygelac. Hygelac married Hygd, who is presented to us as a good Queen, the daughter of H履th. She was very young, of noble character, and wise. She is compared, to her advantage, with Thrytho, who was a shrewish woman. No one dared to look upon her except her husband. However, her second husband, Offa, seems to have tamed the shrew (see p. 120). Hygelac has been identified with Chocilaicus, who was killed in the famous raid on the Chatuarii referred to in the Historia Francorum and the Gesta Regum, who are identified with the Hetware of this poem (see p. 143 and Appendix I.).
The famous raid of Hygelac upon the Hetware in which he met his death is referred to five times in the poem, as follows: Chapters XVIII., p. 83; XXXI., p. 134; XXXIII., p. 142; XXXV., p. 151; XL., p. 172.
On the death of Hygelac his son Heardred succeeded to the throne (Chapter XXXI., p. 134); and, after a brief interval, he was killed in battle by Onela (see Appendix IX.). Then Beowulf succeeded to the throne of the Geats (Chapter XXXI., p. 134). Hygelac died between a.d. 512 and 520. Beowulf died about 568. He reigned fifty years.