LINES 702 – 852 : The Monster Comes
Beowulf prepares to do battle with Grendel. All the other warriors are
asleep, recovering from the feast.
The door of the hall is barred, but this is of no consequence to Grendel,
who bursts into the High Hall.
He grabs a sleeping Thane and consumes him, drinking his blood and biting his bones, but then Beowulf grabs him. Grendel has never felt such a force laid on him before. He had come to the hall expecting another easy feast. He planned to devour all the sleeping warriors there. Now he only wishes to retreat to his fen lair, but Beowulf will not let go his grasp. This grip destroys Grendel. He has to flee without his arm, which Beowulf keeps as a trophy of his victory. He nails it on the hall wall for everyone to see.
When the sun rises, the warriors follow the bloody trail to the lake, which
is red with the blood from Grendel.
This is probably the most dramatic and exciting section of the poem, and the
shadow that Grendel has cast over proceedings has suddenly been lifted.
Our anonymous poet uses vivid language in describing this scene, and it
still is full of power in its translated form.
“Gliding through the shadows came
the walker in the night; the warriors slept
whose task was to hold the horned building,
all except one. It was well-known to men
that the demon could not drag them to the shades
without God’s willing it; yet the one man kept
unblinking watch. He awaited, heart swelling
with anger against his foe, the ordeal of battle. ''
forward he stepped,
stretched out his hands to seize the warrior
calmly at rest there, reached out for him with his
unfriendly fingers: ''
Then Hygelac’s brave kinsman called to mind
that evening’s utterance, upright he stood,
Fastened his hold till fingers were bursting.
The monster strained away: the man stepped closer.
The monster’s desire was for darkness between them,
direction regardless, to get out and run
for his fen-bordered lair; he felt his grip’s strength
crushed by his enemy. It was an ill journey
the rough marauder had made to Heorot.”
If you can get a hold of the original passage in Anglo-Saxon it is worth an
overview in order to obtain a taste of the language.
Some of the words are lost to us, e.g. sceadugenga which means walker in the darkness; banlocan which means bone-locker; unlyfigende which means un-living. We also note the clever use of metaphors throughout this section, in particular when Grendel enters the hall and sees the whole band of warriors asleep he delights at the prospect of a feast and he is described thus, “In his heart he laughed then, horrible monster”.
The power that is involved in this battle is intense, and the famous Mead
Hall is in danger of destruction from these two adversaries, but we know (and so does the audience) the fate of the Heorot Hall is that it will be consumed by fire.
This has already been referred to earlier in the poem, and it comes about when the warring Heathobards destroy it some time later. They are a warring, Germanic tribe with whom Hrothgar seeks peace and offers his daughter in marriage to Prince Ingeld.