Hrethel (Old English: Hrēðel; Proto-Germanic: *Hrōþilaz) was the king of the Geats, in Beowulf. He was the son or son-in-law of Swerting and he had three sons Hæþcyn, Herebeald and Hygelac. He also had a daughter who married Ecgþeow and had the son Beowulf.
Hrethel fostered Beowulf (his grandson) by taking him into his royal household aged seven. Fostering was a common Anglo-Saxon practice and does not indicate Beowulf's father, Ecgþeow did not want to raise him; indeed, the practice was intended to further improve relations between families and family members, and create close ties of obligation, affection and shared responsibility. As an adult, Beowulf expressed his gratefulness to his grandfather explicitly:
'That open-handed lord beloved by the people received me from my father I was seven years old; King Hrethel kept me and fostered me, gave me treasure and table-room, true to our kinship. All his life he [loved me as his own three sons]’ - lines 2425-
Hreðel died of grief when his oldest son Herebeald was killed by his own [brother]sister Hæþcyn in a hunting accident, a death that could not be avenged. He was succeeded by Hæþcyn.
|King of the Geats||Succeeded by