The Ring Givers were rulers of the Heroic Age, when the basic social ideas were those of the duty of loyalty and of revenge. This novel tells simply and excitingly the story of one of the most splendid and terrible periods of history, when the remote forbears of the English were still largely in Scandinavia or North West Europe, although the invasion of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes had already started. This is the story of a man who may or may not have existed, Beowulf the Great, known as the hero of the greatest of all Old English epics but whose deeds are here combined with those of Rolf Karaki and other figures of the 6th Century.
Beowulf lived in a predatory world, presented here in all its greatness and horror. It was great because its stern code often called out the best in men: but the twin over riding duties caused strange and terrible conflicts, leading to incest, witchcraft and murder of kinsfolk.
Gold was the need of the Ring Giver and the power of the vast gold hoard king Froda, which had an uncanny influence on men's fates, binds together the mythical, historical and some fictitious elements in this book, in an attempt to bring the Heroic Age to life. It was clear that the old ideas and aspirations were growing inadequate; and Beowulf, seeing clearly though belatedly that peace was best, was forced into war, simply to live up to the ideals of the Ring Giver.
The question he posed was 'How can a man be true to himself if he has to break that faith in order to be true to his people?' and Beowulf's tragedy was that the answer to the question has already been given, over five hundred years before, on Calvary.