?Beowulf begins with the story of the first king in the Danish dynasty, Scyld Sceafing. The kingwas abandoned as a baby and later went on become a successful, powerful leader of the Danishpeople. Following the death of Scyld Sceafing, his son Beowulf (not the Beowulf of this story)becomes ruler of the Spear-Danes and much like his father, Beowulf is respected and beloved byhis subjects. After a reign of many years, Beowulf dies and his son Healfdene inherits the throne.Healfdene fathers four children including Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halfga.
Hrothgar succeeds hisfather and after achieving much glory and fame as ruler of the Danes, he decides to build a greatmead hall as a monument to his success and symbol of his greatness. He names it Heorot. Afterthe completion of Heorot, Hrothgar holds a banquet for his subjects where scops sing of thecreation of the Earth by God and the Danes celebrate the peaceful, festive times in which theylive.After the festivities continue for many years, the singing and music awakens an evil, part-humanmonster named Grendel who is a descendant of the biblical Cain.
Angered by the noise andapparent happiness of the Danes, Grendel travels to Heorot at night when the soldiers within aresound asleep after their day celebrations. Grendel kills thirty warriors and escapes into the nightsatisfied with his evil deed. Hrothgar is deeply saddened by the deaths and fears the attack maybe the beginning of a long war with the monster.
Grendel continues his murderous rampage thefollowing night and a war with Grendel ensues which lasts twelve years. Stories of the Danes’suffering at the hands of Grendel spread to foreign lands. The Danes exhaust all means ofdefense against Grendel and attempts to pay the monster to cease his harassment are useless. TheDanes’ desperation becomes so great, they abandon their Christian beliefs and begin worshippingancient deities from their pagan past.When news of the Danes’ troubles reaches Geatland, Beowulf, thane of Hygelac, gathersfourteen of his strongest, bravest men to voyage across the seas to help Hrothgar and his people.Upon arriving, Beowulf and his men are greeted by a Danish coast guard sentinel.
The sentinel isalarmed to see armed men approaching the Danish coast and directly asks Beowulf to state hisbusiness. The guard is clearly impressed by the Geat’s armor and weapons and conveys hisrespect for the noble men.4Beowulf informs the soldier that he and his men are followers of Hygelac from the clan of theGeats and explains that he is the son of Ecgtheow, a respected and renowned leader knownthroughout the land. Beowulf explains that he has come to help Hrothgar and the Danes. Afterlearning that the Geat’s intentions are noble, the guard agrees to escort the men to Hrothgar. 5Wulfgar, a Danish soldier and advisor to Hrothgar, interrupts the men’s journey to see Hrothgarand interrogates them about their identity and intentions.
Beowulf introduces himself andexplains his purpose. Wulfgar, impressed by Beowulf’s confidence and the appearance of hismen, welcomes the visitors and encourages Hrothgar to meet them.6While receiving Beowulf, Hrothgar explains that he remembers Beowulf as a boy and recountsseveral experiences shared with Beowulfs father, Ecgtheow. Hrothgar views Beowulf’sprescence as a blessing for the Danes because of his reputation as a great warrior and his nobleancestry. He offers treasures to Beowulf and the Geats if they can end Grendel’s terror and returnHeorot to its previous glory. Beowulf expresses his desire to challenge Grendel to a battle to thedeath and says he will trust in God and will thus refuse weapons or shields.7Reassured by Beowulf’s confidence, Hrothgar recalls further stories of Ecgtheow. He explainshow while new to his throne he helped Ecgtheow avoid a battle by sending treasures to hisenemies.
Hrothgar then immediately begins discussing his troubles with Grendel and explainshis displeasure in seeing his mead hall abandoned by his warriors. The Danes and the Geatwarriors then go to Heorot where they are entertained by scops and drink mead.8, 9During the banquet, a courtier of Hrothgar named Unferth is overcome by jealousy of Beowulf’sreputation and challenges the merit of his courageous feats. Unferth tells of a swimmingcompetition from Beowulfs past in which Beowulf was defeated by a warrior named Breca.
Beowulf explains that both warriors were armed only with swords to protect them from seamonsters and that after match had lasted five nights, the two men became separated. Beowulfwas then attacked by a monster and was forced underwater where he slayed the monster with hissword and later killed nine additional monsters before ending the competition. Beowulf assertsthat the hindrances with which he was forced to contend during the race justified his late finishand that his acts of strength and courage validate his reputation. Beowulf also accuses Unferth ofmurdering his brothers and explains that he will assuredly suffer the fires of Hell for his crimes.After being offered mead by the Hrothgar’s wife, Beowulf once again affirms his desire to eitherdefeat Grendel or lose his life in the battle. Hrothgar is encouraged by Beowulf’s boastfullnessand confidence and proclaims his willingness to put the fate of Heorot in the hands of such aworthy and noble warrior.
He also offers treasures to Beowulf if he is victorious. 10The Danes then leave Beowulf and his men alone in Heorot to face the monster. To prepare forthe confrontation, Beowulf expresses his confidence in God, removes his armor, andrelinquishes his weapons. Beowulf’s men, who do not share his confidence, join him in retiringto bed to await the monster’s arrival.
11-12After breaking down the door, Grendel enters the hall and immediately seizes one of the sleepingGeat warriors and dismembers and consumes him. Beowulf rushes to attack. He firmly graspsGrendel’s arm and the creature instantly realizes the strength of his attacker. As Grendel tries toescape, his deafening shrieks frighten the Danes outside the hall.The Geat warriors, now awakened by the battle, rush to Beowulf’s defense but find theirweapons useless due to a spell cast on their swords by Grendel. In the struggle to escape, themonster loses his arm to Beowulf’s mighty grip.
Aware that his wound is fatal, Grendel retreatsinto the night to die. To commemorate his victory, Beowulf places the arm on the wall of themead hall and the triumphant Beowulf celebrates his victory.13, 14Upon learning of Beowulf’s victory, Danish warriors travel to the hall to view the monster’ssevered arm and follow the monster’s footprints from the hall to the boiling, steaming swampwhich has become his grave.Hrothgar enters the hall to see the arm and is beside himself with gratitude.
He exclaims that hewill henceforth consider Beowulf a son and will provide him with whatever earthly possessionshe should desire. Beowulf tells of his struggle with Grendel and asserts his belief that themonster will suffer in Hell for his crimes against the Danes.15Damage to Heorot done during the struggle is repaired and the hall is prepared for a greatbanquet to celebrate the death of Grendel and the end of his reign of terror.
Hrothgar presentsBeowulf with various gifts including armor, weapons, horses and ornate saddles.16, 17Hrothgar also offers gifts to Beowulf’s men and offers compensation for the loss of the Geatwarrior to Grendel’s monster-sized appetite. A poet in the hall entertains the warriors with thestory of Finn, a Frisian king. The story begins with the death of many Danes including a mannamed Hnaef by followers of Finn. Finn’s wife, the sister of Hnaef and mother of yet anothervictim, is angered by the battle and pressures Finn to end the conflict .
The poet vividly describesthe cremation of the men and the sadness of the grieving survivors. Hengest, a follower ofHnaef, does not return home with the other Danish warriors after the battle. He stays and waitsall winter for reinforcements to return in the spring and avenges the killings by murdering Finn.18, 19Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s wife presents Beowulf with a valuable necklace and praises Beowulfand graciously asks Beowulf to mentor her two sons. After her oration about Beowulf’s courageand honor, the Danish warriors retire to the mead hall as they had often done before Grendel’sattacks.Grendel’s mother, enraged by the death of her son, enters the hall after the warriors are asleep,steals her son’s arm from the hall’s rafters and kidnaps a Danish warrior who is a closecompanion of Hrothgar.
Beowulf, unaware of what has transpired, is called to Heorot andpolitely and innocently asks the king if he has had a quiet night.20, 21Hrothgar is visibly overcome with emotion over the loss of his friend and relates to Beowulf thatthe troubles of the Danes have begun again. Hrothgar tells Beowulf of the abduction of his friendand of the bottomless pool where legends say the two monsters lived for many years. Hrothgaragain calls upon Beowulf to save the Danes and promises riches for avenging the attack.The warriors travel to the pool and find the head of the kidnapped Dane and discover seaserpents swimming in the pool. After killing one of the serpents, Unferth offers Beowulf hissword called Hrunting and apologizes for questioning Beowulf’s courage22, 23After explaining to whom his treasure should be sent if he perishes in the pool, Beowulfdescends for several hours displaying no apparent ill effects from lack of oxygen and uponreaching the bottom is confronted by the monster. She grasps him and forces him into her lairwhere Beowulf learns his sword has no effect on his attacker.
Beowulf, near death, then miraculously discovers a giant sword and beheads the monster. Hefinds Grendel’s body and also severs its head. The toxic blood of the dead monster dissolves thegiant sword. Beowulf chooses Grendel’s head from his new collection of severed heads andreturns to the surface with the head and the hilt of his dissolved sword. Beowulf discovers theDanes had given up hope that he was still alive and had returned home. The hero then returns toHeorot and presents his trophies to Hrothgar.24, 25Hrothgar examines the sword hilt and learns that it was created by a race of giants from beforethe biblical flood.
He delivers a long sermon to Beowulf in which he praises him and warns thehero not to let his success inflate his ego beyond its already unfathomable proportions. He alsotells the story of the king Heremod and warns Beowulf not to end up like this evil king. Thegrateful Hrothgar holds another banquet and Beowulf returns Hrunting to Unferth with hisgratitude.26, 27The following day Beowulf thanks the king for his generosity showing a new found modesty andgraciousness learned from Hrothgar’s sermon.
He tells the king he will come to the king’s aide ifever again his assistance is required. Hrothgar thanks the hero for saving the Danes from the twomonsters and expresses his profound sorrow about Beowulf’s imminent departure. As the Geats travel to their ship with their treasures, they again meet the coast guard sentinelwho wishes the men well and assures them that their homecoming will be greatly anticipated bytheir friends in Geatland.
Beowulf rewards the kind words with the gift of a sword and the menboard their ship.Upon returning home, Beowulf gives the treasure to Hygelac, Beowulf’s lord. We then learn ofHygd, the queen of Hygelac, a benevolent queen who divides the treasure among her subjects.Their daughter Offa, however, is sadistic and cruel until marrying Thryth of the house ofHemming. The marriage ends her evil ways and makes her a fair and respected princess.
28Hygelac and his queen welcome Beowulf home and express their elation in his safe return. Theking then asks Beowulf to describe his adventures with the Danes. Beowulf recounts his feats ofcourage and describes several of gifts given to he and his warriors and begins to explain ofHrothgar’s efforts to end a conflict with the Hathobards, a rival clan.
29, 30Hrothgar continues telling of Hrothgar’s plan to make peace with the Hathobards. The King,Beowulf explains, has offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to Ingeld of the Hathobard clan.Beowulf fears, however, that the two people’s differences are too great and that Hrothgar’sstrategy with fail.31Beowulf then expresses his eternal loyalty to his Hygelac and explains that the king is one of hisfew close companions. His fondness and respect for Hrothgar, he explains, is overshadowed byhis allegiance to Hygelac, his true king. The treasures obtained for the king in Denmark are thenbrought before the king and formally and presented to him.
Beowulf’s devotion is rewarded bythe gift of a sword, a mead hall of his own, and other lavish gifts.After the death of the king and his son, Heardred, Beowulf inherits the throne of Geatland. Aftera successful reign of fifty years, a dragon begins to terrorize the Geats much like Grendel’saggression against the Danes.32The Dragon’s hatred for the Geats begins when a thief, who is a transient serf, enters the dragon’scave and steals a jeweled cup from his hoard of treasures within. The theft awakens and angersthe dragon.
The treasure, which had existed for hundreds of years, had previously belonged to anoble race and had been discovered by the dragon. The beast spreads his fury over the Geatishcountryside and Beowulf is deeply disturbed by the suffering of his people inflicted by the evildragon.33The dragon’s wrath soon reaches Beowulf’s home which is destroyed by its fiery breath.
Beowulfimmediately vows vengeance and prepares for battle. We then learn of the circumstances bywhich Beowulf became ruler of the Geats. During a war with the Frisians, Hygelac is killed andhis kingdom is offered to Beowulf. The hero graciously refuses the throne, believing the rightfulheir to be the king’s son, Heardred.
In a war with the Swedish king Ongentheow, however, thenew king is killed and Beowulf agrees to take his place on the throne.34Ready for battle, Beowulf instructs the thief who had stolen the dragon’ s cup to lead he andtwelve warriors to the dragon’s lair. As the warriors reach the cave, Beowulf becomes fearfulthat his strength may have deteriorated in his old age and begins to fear that the battle with thedragon could bring about his death. His sorrow is compounded by his telling of the story of thedeath of Herebald. He explains that Herebald, the eldest son of Beowulf’s adoptive father, wasaccidentally killed by an arrow fired by one of Herebalds other sons. Beowulf regrets theinability of his beloved father to ever avenge the death of his son.35As if sensing that his death is at hand, Beowulf continues to tell stories of his past and relivesbattles with his companions in which he achieved glorious success. He then bids farewell to hisfellow warriors and enters the dragon’s cave to meet his fate.
The dragon attacks and Beowulffinds his specially made iron shield is little protection against the dragon’s breath of fire.Beowulf strikes the dragon with his sword but finds the dragon’s scale armor too strong to fatallywound the beast.36, 37Wiglaf, one of the warriors outside the cave, realizes the peril which faces Beowulf and berateshis fellow warriors for failing to assist their king. He prepares for battle and rushes to the hero’said. The dragon responds with a burst of flames which destroys Wiglaf’s wooden shield.
AfterBeowulf’s sword breaks in the battle, the dragon advances upon the wounded hero and strikeshim in the neck with his poisonous fangs. Wiglaf skillfully strikes the dragon below the head where the dragon is defenseless and piercesthe beast’s skin. Realizing the dragon has been injured, Beowulf quickly slices the belly of thebeast with his dagger, delivering a mortal wound to his mighty foe. Wiglaf treats the wounds ofthe hero, but Beowulf knows he will soon die. He reflects on the worthiness of hisaccomplishments and asks to see the treasure he has gained in his struggle with the dragon.38, 39Wiglaf brings the treasure to Beowulf and the hero admires the immense fortune he has gainedfor his people. Beowulf orders the construction of a monument to honor his greatness andachievements. He then praises Wiglaf for his courage, gives him the helmet necklace, and armorhe is wearing, and dies.
As the Geat warriors return from the woods where they had run in cowardice, Wiglaf scoldsthem for abandoning their king who had armed them with superior weapons for the fight. Heexclaims that they will be forever known as traitors and cowards. 40, 41Wiglaf sends word of the outcome of the battle to the Geat soldiers awaiting the news. As themessenger informs the warriors of the death of Beowulf, he conveys his belief that their enemieswill assuredly take advantage of the news and attack. The messenger tells of the many conflictswhich have existed in the violent history of the Geats and predicts the conflict may begin againwith unfortunate death of their king. The warriors travel to the cave to see the corpses ofBeowulf and the dragon.42We learn that the nobles who had placed the treasure in the cave had placed a curse on it whichwould last until the last day of the earth.
Wiglaf orders the construction of a funeral pyre forBeowulf and selects seven strong men to throw the dragon’s body off a cliff and load the treasureonto a wagon.43After placing shields, helmets, and armor around Beowulf’s funeral pyre, the great king iscremated to the crying of his mourning people. They place the ashes of Beowulf and all of thedragon’s treasures inside a giant mound of sand where they would be safe from the enemies sureto attack after hearing of the tragedy. The Danes are left feeling uncertain about the future oftheir kingdom after the loss of their great king. English Essays