Beowulf Section Summaries
“The Wrath of Grendel” pg. 40-44 An evil demon, Grendel, an offspring of Cain is introduced Wallowing in his own misery, Grendel wishes to interrupt the joy at Herot hall He begins to scheme and work his wickedness
“The Wrath of Grendel” pg. 40-44 Grendel soon put his plan into action One night, after beer-drinking and feasting, everyone in the hall went to sleep Grendel proceeded to attack the hall, killing thirty thanes (the king’s warriors) in their sleep
“The Wrath of Grendel” pg. 40-44 The following morning -- great sorrow among the king and his men Surprised by the extent to which this stranger caused such damage Grendel is not finished with the destruction of everyone and everything at Herot The following night -- came back to the hall to commit more havoc and murder
“The Wrath of Grendel” pg. 40-44 King Hrothgar and his men fought Grendel for several more years; miserable Their time was taken up figuring out what to do about this menace The king’s council often sat for hours considering the best way to defend themselves Grendel did not want peace, nor did he compensate for his many killings (customary in this society) His ceaseless violence kept Hrothgar’s kingdom on their toes.
“The Coming of Beowulf” pg. 44 - 48 Meanwhile in Geat, Beowulf heard of the horrible attacks by Grendel at Herot Beowulf decided to offer his assistance to the Danish king He then chose fourteen of his bravest warriors to accompany him on his expedition
“The Coming of Beowulf” pg. 44 - 48 The warriors packed the ship with many weapons and supplies Set sail Eventually arrived off the Danish coast where a coastguard troop approached them
“The Coming of Beowulf” pg. 44 - 48 To the guard, Beowulf’s expedition looked peculiar—somewhat threatening (weaponry and troops aboard) Protected by chain mail, shields and weapons, the lone guard feared an attack by this force Immediately demanded to know their business exclaiming, “…haste would be best for you to make known your home and your nation”
“The Coming of Beowulf” pg. 44 - 48 Beowulf answered Told them they came to help the king, to counsel him on how the Danes could defeat Grendel Afterwards, the guard judged the expedition as friendly Proceeded to escort the Geats to see King Hrothgar
“The Coming of Beowulf” pg. 44 - 48 Beowulf greeted the king Continued to tell the king his plan to “cleanse Herot” of Grendel Since Grendel did not use conventional weapons—only his hands—Beowulf also informs the king that he will be fighting Grendel in hand-to-hand combat Beowulf thought his father might take even more pride in his son’s expedition
“The Battle with Grendel” pg. 49-51 Grendel attacked the hall that night He forced himself into the hall searching for prey Before Beowulf could engage in a fight with the monster, Grendel devoured one sleeping warrior Next, he came for Beowulf Beowulf leaned up from his bed and placed a tight grip on Grendel’s fingers The creature never experienced such pain before With fingers broken, Grendel tried to flee, but Beowulf pursued A great fight ensued until Grendel finally succumbed to his fatal wounds
“The Battle with Grendel” pg. 49-51 Beowulf's followers are all ready to fight, but their weapons are no match for Grendel Grendel's arm is torn off his body by Beowulf and he flees, wounded Beowulf hangs the arm high in the hall as proof that he has defeated Grendel
“The Battle with Grendel” pg. 49-51 The Danes celebrate Beowulf’s victory That night, Grendel’s mother kills Hrothgar’s closest friend in vengeance and carries off Grendel’s claw Next day, Hrothgar tells Beowulf about the monsters and their underwater lair
“The Monsters’ Lair” pg. 51-52 Hrothgar realizes that Grendel's mother is bound to avenge the death of her son Hrothgartells Beowulf about a legend among the local people ---two huge monstrous demons, one male and one female, who roam the countryside together. Grendel and his mother live on the moors, where streams disappear into the mist A strange, eerie lake; it's bottomless, and at night the water burns Hrothgarthinks this lake must be the place where Grendel's mother lives Puts his faith in Beowulf, asking him to seek the monster if he dares, and offering more treasures as a reward if he succeeds in killing it and coming back alive Beowulf swears to track down Grendel's mother and kill her.
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 Beowulf says goodbye to Hrothgar, reminding him that he promised to take care of the Geat warriors if Beowulf is killed in battle and to send the treasures Beowulf won to the Geatking Beowulf also announces that, if he is killed, Unferth will get Hruntingback Beowulf leaps into the churning lake; takes most of a day before he can see the bottom
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 GM senses that a human being has penetrated her lair; catches him His body is protected by his chain-mail armor, which she can't tear GM touches the bottom of the lake, she carries BW to her "court“; doesn't have a chance to fight her with his sword Clusters of sea-monsters attack BW, tearing his chain-mail BW isn't impeded by the water, because the roof of Grendel's mother's lair protects him from the force of the current (might be in a pocket of air in an underwater cave, perhaps, although the poem is ambiguous on this point)
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 BW catches sight of Grendel's mother again, and swings his sword down onto her head with a blow of great force; fails to cut her Remembering his reputation, BW throws his sword aside and fights Grendel's mother with his bare hands BW and GM wrestle and struggle together; BW stumbles and falls GM whips out a huge knife and stabs at BW’s shoulder, but the chain-mail turns the blade and saves his life BW spots a huge, heavy, ancient sword from the days of the giants; swings it toward GM in a wide arc, cutting deeply into her neck and killing her.
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 The lair becomes brighter after GM dies, and Beowulf is able to inspect his surroundings Finds Grendel's body and, to take further revenge, he decapitates the corpse Back on the surface, the Geat and Dane warriors are watching the surface of the lake, waiting for BW’s return or a sign of his fate When Beowulf cuts off Grendel's head, the water heaves and surges, and they can see blood They bow their heads and assume that Beowulf has been killed Danes go home, but the Geat warriors stay where they are, waiting and wishing for BW to return
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 The giant sword that Beowulf found melts (apparently, the blood of Grendel is so poisonous that it destroys metal) BW sees enormous amounts of treasure in GM's lair, but all he takes are the jewel-inlaid hilt of the melted sword and Grendel's severed head BW swims back to the surface of the lake, where his warriors are overjoyed to see him Geatsreturn to HerotHall, taking Grendel's enormous severed head with them -- so large that they need four strong men to carry it BW tells Hrothgarall about his fight with Grendel, giving most of the credit to God for helping him
“The Battle with Grendel’s Mother” pg. 52-56 After being honored by the king, BW returns home; eventually becomes king; rules for 50 years Dragon menaces his kingdom BW is determined to slay dragon
“The Last Battle” pg. 56-61 BW makes his last boast (Boasting was a formal part of warrior culture and especially important for great men) Says he won battles often in his youth and that even in his old age he is going to fight the dragon "for the glory of winning” Before leaving them, BW says a few words to his followers; he wishes he could fight the dragon hand-to-hand, the way he fought Grendel when he was young, instead of using his sword However, even BW realizes that would be suicide, so he goes out to fight with a sword, a mail-shirt, and a shield
“The Last Battle” pg. 56-61 BW steels himself and goes into the barrow to fight the dragon; shouts out a challenge and the dragon, recognizing a human voice, bursts forward, breathing fire BW tries to use his shield, the dragon writhing around and trying to burn him to a crisp BW swings his sword; a minor cut; angers the dragon; BW has to retreat, humiliated Dragon hits BW with another blast of fire Ten of BW's hand-picked men break ranks and run for their lives into the woods nearby One remains – Wiglaf, who remembers how well Beowulf has treated him and his family; bearing his father's sword and mail-shirt, Wiglaf will enter battle for the first time at BW’s side, fighting the dragon
“The Last Battle” pg. 56-61 Before rushing to Beowulf's aid, Wiglaf lectures his companions, reminding them of how good a king BW has been and how generously he rewarded them for their loyalty Wiglafsays that, even though Beowulf wanted to face the dragon alone, he clearly needs their help Says he would rather die fighting the dragon than go home to the rest of the Geats in cowardly safety Goes to BW's side and encourages him, reminding him of his boasts, his great deeds, and his fame
“The Last Battle” pg. 56-61 Wiglaf and BW kill the dragon (Wiglaf stabs stomach with sword; BW stabs side with daggar) BW mortally wounded (dragon bit his neck; blood rushed everywhere) As he dies, BW asks Wiglaf to bring him the treasure that the dragon was guarding
“The Spoils” pg. 61-62 BW orders Wiglaf to go into the barrow (mountain), look at the treasure, and bring back some of it for him to see before he dies Wiglafobeys BW's dying wish and goes down into the barrow, where he finds amazing piles of treasure, all of it rusting and decaying He's able to see everything because of a glowing golden standard high overhead.
“The Spoils” pg. 61-62 Wiglaf fills his arms with gold and treasure and takes the standard, too; hurries back to BW Wiglafbegins to clean the king's wounds again as BW gazes on the treasure; thanks God for his last glance of the treasure and the fact that he is going to die "well endowed" with gold BW orders Wiglaf to build a barrow for him on the coast after his body has been burned on a funeral pyre; barrow will be visible to ships and remind people of BW's great deeds BW takes off his golden collar and gives it to Wiglaf, the last member of his clan now that BW is dying BW dies
“The Spoils” pg. 61-62 Wiglaf denounces the warriors who deserted BW Geats burn BW’s body on a funeral pyre and mourn his death
“The Farewell” pg. 63-64 After the pyre burns down, the Geats build a barrow over it The barrow is an enormous memorial to BW which takes ten days to build, and it can be seen from the sea The Geats bury jewels, gold, and treasures in the barrow to honor BW Twelve Geat warriors ride around the tomb singing dirges, honoring BW by describing his heroic deeds