Beowulf, a mighty noble from Geatland (Sweden), arrives in Denmark to aid
King Hrothgar rid a monster called Grendel. He has fourteen hand-picked horsemen with him and the King who regards them as God-sent welcomes them warmly.
King Hrothgar lives in a Mead Hall called Heorot. It is a symbol of
warmth and comfort during the winter when the outside is cold and harsh.
The Danes love to feast and this has annoyed Grendel and he visits the hall
at night and slaughters the King’s men.
Beowulf tells his host to feast as normal so as to attract Grendel. The plan works and the monster is drawn to the hall by the noise and the delicious odors of the meat. Grendel has a particular taste for men and he thinks he will feast well again tonight. Grendel arrives at the hall and Beowulf springs the trap. He is so confident, that he faces this monster without weapons, but unknown to him, the monster is immune to man’s weapons. Beowulf will rely on his almost superhuman strength.
However, Grendel is a formidable force and he flies out with his feet and
fists, knocking half a dozen of Beowulf’s men to the floor. Grendel is now very angry. He sees one of the men struggling on the ground and he picks him up and crushes him in his mouth and eats him.
Beowulf grasps Grendel’s wrist and his fingers close round like a
vice. He pulls with such force that he pulls the monster’s arm off. Grendel flees the hall, moaning, clutching his injured shoulder.
Beowulf’s men are bruised and dazed, but once they recover, they set off in
pursuit of the monster. By the light of the moon, they follow the trail of blood that leads to the edge of a small lake. The water is red and they assume that the monster has drowned.
The lake is the home of the monster and he has died, but Grendel’s mother vows revenge on the killers of her son.
King Hrothgar holds a great feast in celebration of the victory over
Grendel. Poets recite verses praising Beowulf and his companions.
Suddenly, there is a mighty roar and at first they think it is Grendel that
has returned, but it is his mother who roars at the men, cursing them for killing her son.
She quickly kills one of the Thanes and retreats to her lair. Beowulf follows and dives into the lake after her, and is then dragged down by Grendel’s mother. The monster takes Beowulf to her lair under the water and although she is not as powerful as her son, she is highly motivated.
Inside the dry cave, Beowulf regains his senses and finds, to his surprise,
that he still has his sword. He draws this and attacks the monster, but his sword has no effect on the ogre.
The mother moves to stab Beowulf with her knife, but he wears stout armor and this protects him. Suddenly, Beowulf sees another giant sword and this weapon is magical, and he succeeds in decapitating the monster. The sword melts to its hilt and Beowulf returns to the lake’s surface carrying the head and the hilt of the sword.
Finally, the Danes can celebrate the death of two monsters.
Beowulf returns to Geatland, having enhanced his reputation.
On the death of King Hygelac, and also his son, Beowulf is named King of the
He rules successfully for fifty years and then in his twilight years, a
fiery dragon ravages his land. The dragon carries out a campaign of burning because someone has stolen part of his treasure, in particular a valuable cup.
Beowulf sets out with eleven men to find the whereabouts of the dragon’s
barrow. He insists on challenging the dragon alone, but is soon in trouble and one of his Knights, Wiglaf, aids his master.
The pair kills the dragon, but the mighty King is mortally wounded. Beowulf leaves his Kingdom to Wiglaf, the only Knight to come to his aid.
Beowulf is cremated on his funeral pyre overlooking the sea,
and then he is buried in a barrow containing the dragon’s treasure.
It is said that he still lies there with his gold.