Beowulf is an upscale kind of guy: King of the Geats, killer of Grendel, dragon-slayer. What would a guy like that be doing in a thrift shop?
He almost certainly would have been looking for a sword. Since Goodwill didn’t exist back then, Beowulf had to go straight to the source and get his sword from a buddy.
Unferth, Hrothgar’s spokesman,
loaned: the hilted sword called
Hrunting, an ancient treasure
with edges of iron and adorned
with poison strips. That sword,
ardened in blood, had never failed
man who grasped it in hand
and dared a terrible journey,
battles in a hostile place.
You’ll notice that Beowulf’s sword had a name too (Hrunting). Fantasy afficionados are well-acquainted with the power of a name. Bilbo Baggins had Sting and King Arthur had Excalibur.
Unlike modern fantasy, named swords in the Beowulf epic aren’t explicitly magical. Instead, they have a more important quality: durability. In a time when smithing was a black art, your sword was just as likely to shatter on the first blow as it was to actually work. An ancient sword was worth naming to let people know that it was one of those rare ones that had been forged properly and could be depended upon to last.
So would Beowulf shop at Goodwill? You bet he would! Durability is just as important now as it was back then, although Goodwill stocks few swords. It’s hard to tell how durable something new is just by looking at it. By looking only at items that have already passed through a pair of hands or two, you know that they’ll last.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go name our two durable Goodwill lamps…