When a warrior vowed loyalty to his lord, he became not so much his servant as his voluntary companion, one who would take pride in defending him and fighting in his wars. In return, the lord was expected to take care of his thanes and to reward them richly for their valor; a good king, one like Hrothgar or Beowulf, is referred to by such poetic epithets as “ring-giver” and as the “helmet” and “shield” of his people (25).
Abrams, M.H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors 7th. ed. W.W.Norton and Co. 2001