As an epic tale of heroes and monsters, Beowulf gives its readers much excitement and adventure, but Beowulf's importance is more than just literary. It offers many insights into the beliefs and customs of seventh-century Anglo-Saxon culture. Among these insights is the Anglo-Saxon view of women and their role in society. Good Anglo-Saxon women are peaceful and unassertive, greeting guests and serving drinks to the warriors and other men in the meadhall. Wealhtheow, the queen of the Danes, represents a typical subservient Anglo-Saxon woman. As a foil to Wealhtheow, Grendel's mother is a strong and combative monster whom Beowulf must kill. By analyzing these two characters in Beowulf, we can understand the treatment and mistreatment of women in Anglo-Saxon society. The author of Beowulf generally supports the traditional Anglo-Saxon views of women by praising Wealhtheow, condemning Grendel's mother, and showing the need to suppress feminine forces like Wyrd; however, he does offer some criticism of these views by creating sympathy for Grendel's mother, allowing Wealhtheow to assert herself in the interest of her husband and children, and revealing masculine fear of feminine power.
The author creates Wealhtheow to embody the role of a traditional Anglo-Saxon woman, and he presents this role as the only appropriate one for Wealhtheow to fulfill. She serves as a peacekeeper in the ever-tumultuous Heorot meadhall. When the author first introduces Wealhtheow to his audience, she immediately falls into her role as peaceful greeter and cocktail waitress. The author writes, "Then Wealhtheow came forth / folk-queen of the Danes daughter of Helmingas / and Hrothgar's bedmate. She hailed all of them / spoke her peace-words stepped to the gift-throne / fetched to her king the first ale-cup" (ll. 612-6). Wealhtheow then proceeds through the meadhall "offering hall-joy to old and to young / with rich treasure-cups" (ll.