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Beowulf Later in his life, Beowulf becomes king of the

Beowulf (/ˈbeɪoʊwʊlf/ Old English: [ˈbeːo̯ˌwulf]) Geats, and finds his realm terrorized by a dragon,
some of whose treasure had been stolen from his
is an Old English epic poem consisting of
hoard in a burial mound. He attacks the dragon
3,182 alliterative lines. It may be the oldest with the help of his thegns or servants, but they do
surviving long poem in Old English and is not succeed. Beowulf decides to follow the dragon
commonly cited as one of the most important to its lair at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish
works of Old English literature. A date of relative Wiglaf, whose name means "remnant of
composition is a matter of contention among valour",[a] dares to join him. Beowulf finally slays
scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the the dragon, but is mortally wounded in the struggle.
He is cremated and a burial mound by the sea is
manuscript, which was produced between 975 and
erected in his honour.
1025.[2] The author was an anonymous Anglo-
Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the Beowulf is considered an epic poem in that the
main character is a hero who travels great distances
"Beowulf poet".
to prove his strength at impossible odds against
The full poem survives in the manuscript known as supernatural demons and beasts. The poem also
begins in medias res or simply, "in the middle of
the Nowell Codex gaining its name from 16th-
things," which is a characteristic of the epics of
century scholar Laurence Nowell.. It has no title in antiquity. Although the poem begins with
the original manuscript, but has become known by Beowulf's arrival, Grendel's attacks have been an
the name of the story's protagonist.[4] In 1731, the ongoing event. An elaborate history of characters
manuscript was badly damaged by a fire that swept and their lineages is spoken of, as well as their
through Ashburnham House in London that had a interactions with each other, debts owed and
collection of medieval manuscripts assembled repaid, and deeds of valour. The warriors form a
kind of brotherhood linked by loyalty to their lord.
by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton.[5] The Nowell Codex What is unique about "Beowulf" is that the poem
is currently housed in the British Library. actually begins and ends with a funeral. At the
beginning of the poem, the king, hero, Shield
First printed edition Thorkelin (1815). Shiefson dies (26-45) and there is a huge funeral
for him. At the end of the poem when Beowulf
Genre Epic heroic poetry dies, there is also a massive funeral for
Many suggest that Beowulf was first composed in Beowulf.(3140-3170)
the 7th century at Rendlesham in East Anglia, that
the Sutton Hooship-burial also shows close
connections with Scandinavia, and that the East
First battle: Grendel
Anglian royal dynasty, the Wuffingas, may have
been descendants of the Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who
constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and
Geatish Wulfings.[7][8] Others have associated this his warriors. In it, he, his wife Wealhtheow, and his
poem with the court of King Alfred the Great or warriors spend their time singing and celebrating.
with the court of King Cnut the Great. Grendel, a troll-like monster said to be descended
from the biblical Cain, is pained by the sounds of
Summary joy.[19] Grendel attacks the hall and kills and
devours many of Hrothgar's warriors while they
The protagonist Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, sleep. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against
comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, Grendel, abandon Heorot.
whose great hall, Heorot, is plagued by the
monster Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel with his Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of
bare hands and Grendel's mother with a giant's Hrothgar's troubles and with his king's permission
sword that he found in her lair. leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar.[20]
Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot.
Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he
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holds himself to be the equal of Grendel.[21] When heirloom. The events prompt a long reflection by
Grendel enters the hall, Beowulf, who has been the king, sometimes referred to as "Hrothgar's
feigning sleep, leaps up to clench Grendel's sermon", in which he urges Beowulf to be wary of
hand.[22] Grendel and Beowulf battle each other pride and to reward his thegns
violently.[23] Beowulf's retainers draw their swords
Third battle: The Dragon
and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce
Grendel's skin.[24] Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel's Beowulf returns home and eventually becomes
arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs king of his own people. One day, fifty years after
to his home in the marshes where he Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother, a slave
dies.[25] Beowulf displays "the whole of Grendel's steals a golden cup from the lair of a dragon at
shoulder and arm, his awesome grasp" for all to see Earnanæs. When the dragon sees that the cup has
at Heorot. This display would fuel Grendel's been stolen, it leaves its cave in a rage, burning
mother's anger in revenge.[ everything in sight. Beowulf and his warriors come
to fight the dragon, but Beowulf tells his men that
Second battle: Grendel's mother
he will fight the dragon alone and that they should
The next night, after celebrating Grendel's defeat, wait on the barrow. Beowulf descends to do battle
Hrothgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's with the dragon, but finds himself outmatched. His
mother, angry that her son has been killed, sets out men, upon seeing this and fearing for their lives,
to get revenge. "Beowulf was elsewhere. Earlier, retreat into the woods. One of his men, Wiglaf,
after the award of treasure, The Geat had been however, in great distress at Beowulf's plight,
given another lodging" his assistance would be comes to his aid. The two slay the dragon, but
absent in this battle.[27] Grendel's mother violently Beowulf is mortally wounded. After Beowulf dies,
kills Æschere, who is Hrothgar's most loyal fighter, Wiglaf remains by his side, grief-stricken. When
and escapes. the rest of the men finally return, Wiglaf bitterly
admonishes them, blaming their cowardice for
Hrothgar, Beowulf and their men track Grendel's
Beowulf's death. Afterward, Beowulf is ritually
mother to her lair under a lake. Unferth, a warrior
burned on a great pyre in Geatland while his people
who had doubted him and wishes to make amends,
wail and mourn him, fearing that without him, the
presents Beowulf with his sword Hrunting. After
Geats are defenceless against attacks from
stipulating a number of conditions to Hrothgar in
surrounding tribes. Afterwards, a barrow, visible
case of his death (including the taking in of his
from the sea, is built in his memory. (Beowulf lines
kinsmen and the inheritance by Unferth of
2712–3182).
Beowulf's estate), Beowulf jumps into the lake, at
the bottom of which he finds a cavern containing  The poem has been dated to between the
Grendel's body and the remains of men that the two 8th and the early 11th centuries, with some
have killed. Grendel's mother and Beowulf engage recent scholarship offering what has been
in fierce combat. called "a cohesive and compelling case for
At first, Grendel's mother appears to prevail. Beowulf's early composition."
Beowulf, finding that Hrunting cannot harm his  During the early 20th century, Frederick
foe, puts it aside in fury. Beowulf is again saved Klaeber's Beowulf and The Fight at
from his opponent's attack by his armour. Beowulf Finnsburg[55] (which included the poem
takes another sword from Grendel's mother and in Old English, an extensive glossary of Old
slices her head off with it. Travelling further into English terms, and general background
Grendel's mother's lair, Beowulf discovers information) became the "central source
Grendel's corpse and severs his head. The blade of used by graduate students for the study of
Beowulf's sword touches Grendel's toxic blood, the poem and by scholars and teachers as
and instantly dissolves so that only the hilt remains. the basis of their translations."
Beowulf swims back up to the rim of the pond
where his men wait in growing despair. Carrying  Andy Orchard, in A Critical Companion to
the hilt of the sword and Grendel's head, he Beowulf, lists 33 "representative"
presents them to Hrothgar upon his return to translations in his bibliography,[57]and it has
Heorot. Hrothgar gives Beowulf many gifts, been translated into at least 23 other
including the sword Nægling, his family's languages

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 Seamus Heaney's 1999 translation of the and his thanes sleep in the hall as they wait for
poem (referred to by Howell Chickering Grendel.
and many others as "Heaneywulf"[59]) was Eventually Grendel arrives at Heorot as usual,
widely publicized. Translating Beowulf is hungry for flesh. Beowulf watches carefully as
one of the subjects of the 2012 Grendel eats one of his men. When Grendel
publication Beowulf at Kalamazoo, reaches for Beowulf, Beowulf grabs Grendel's arm
containing a section with 10 essays on and doesn't let go. Grendel writhes about in pain as
translation, and a section with 22 reviews of Beowulf grips him. He thrashes about, causing the
Heaney's translation. hall to nearly collapse. Soon Grendel tears away,
leaving his arm in Beowulf's grasp. He slinks back
Gradesaver
to his lair in the moors and dies.
The poem begins with a brief genealogy of the
Danes. Scyld Shefing was the first great king of the The Danes, meanwhile, consider Beowulf as the
Danes, known for his ability to conquer enemies. greatest hero in Danish history. Hrothgar's minstrel
Scyld becomes the great-grandfather of Hrothgar, sings songs of Beowulf and other great characters
the king of the Danes during the events of Beowulf. of the past, including Sigemund (who slew a
Hrothgar, like his ancestors before him, is a good dragon) and Heremod (who ruled his kingdom
king, and he wishes to celebrate his reign by unwisely and was punished). In Heorot, Grendel's
building a grand hall called Heorot. Once the hall is arm is nailed to the wall as a trophy. Hrothgar says
finished, Hrothgar holds a large feast. The revelry that Beowulf will never lack for riches, and
attracts the attentions of the monster Grendel, who Beowulf graciously thanks him. The horses and
decides to attack during the night. In the morning, men of the Geats are all richly adorned, in keeping
Hrothgar and his thanes discover the bloodshed and with Hrothgar's wishes.
mourn the lost warriors. This begins Grendel's Another party is held to celebrate Beowulf's
assault upon the Danes. victory. Hrothgar's minstrel tells another story at
Twelve years pass. Eventually the news of the feast, the story of the Frisian slaughter. An
Grendel's aggression on the Danes reaches the ancient Danish king had a daughter
Geats, another tribe. A Geat thane, Beowulf, named Hildeburh; he married her to a king of the
decides to help the Danes; he sails to the land of Frisians. While Hnaef, Hildeburh's brother, visited
the Danes with his best warriors. Upon their his sister, the Frisians attacked the Danes, killing
arrival, Hrothgar's thane Wulfgarjudges the Geats Hnaef and Hildeburh's son in the process. Hengest,
worthy enough to speak with Hrothgar. Hrothgar the next leader of the Danes, desired vengeance,
remembers when he helped Beowulf's and in the spring, the Danes attacked the Frisians,
father Ecgtheow settle a feud; thus, he welcomes killing their leader and taking Hildeburh back to
Beowulf's help gladly. Denmark.
Heorot is filled once again for a large feast in honor After this story is told, Wealhtheow presents a
of Beowulf. During the feast, a thane necklace to Hrothgar while pleading with her
named Unferth tries to get into a boasting match brother-in-law Hrothulf to help her two young sons
with Beowulf by accusing him of losing a if they should ever need it. Next she presents many
swimming contest. Beowulf tells the story of his golden treasures to Beowulf, such as necklaces,
heroic victory in the contest, and the company cups, and rings. Soon the feast ends, and everyone
celebrates his courage. During the height of the sleeps peacefully.
celebration, the Danish queen Wealhtheow comes In the night, Grendel's mother approaches the hall,
forth, bearing the mead-cup. She presents it first to wanting vengeance for her son. The warriors
Hrothgar, then to the rest of the hall, and finally to prepared for battle, leaving enough time for
Beowulf. As he receives the cup, Beowulf tells Grendel's mother to grab one of Hrothgar's
Wealhtheow that he will kill Grendel or be killed in counselors and run away. When Beowulf is
Heorot. This simple declaration moves summoned to the hall, he finds Hrothgar in
Wealhtheow and the Danes, and the revelry mourning for his friend Aeschere. Hrothgar tells
continues. Finally, everyone retires. Before he Beowulf where the creatures like Grendel live‹in a
leaves, Hrothgar promises to give Beowulf shadowy, fearful land within the moors.
everything if he can defeat Grendel. Beowulf says Beowulf persuades Hrothgar to ride with him to the
that he will leave God to judge the outcome. He moors. When they reach the edge of the moors,

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Beowulf calls for his armor, takes a sword from treasure and stole a cup as an offering to his lord.
Unferth, and dives into the lake. After a long time, The dragon awakened to find something missing
Beowulf reaches the bottom of the lake, where from his treasure, and began his rampage upon the
Grendel's mother is waiting to attack. Beowulf Geats.
swings his sword, but discovers that it cannot cut
her, so he tosses it away. They then wrestle until One day, Beowulf learns that this dragon has
Beowulf spies a large sword nearby. He grabs it by destroyed his own great hall. This attack sends him
the hilt and swings‹killing Grendel's mother by into deep thought. Soon he orders a shield to use
slicing off her head. Still in a rage, Beowulf finds for battle, but not without a heavy heart at what
the dead Grendel in the lair and cuts off his head as may happen to him. He recalls Hygelac's death in
a trophy. battle and his own narrow escape from this battle.
He recalls a number of battles he has seen as he
As they wait, the Danes have given up all hope for travels to the dragon's lair with eleven of his
Beowulf because he has been underwater for such a thanes. The servant who stole the cup leads them to
long time. They are shocked when Beowulf returns the lair.
with Grendel's head and the hilt of the sword
(which melted with the heat of Grendel's blood). As they wait to attack the dragon, Beowulf
They bear the hero and his booty back to Heorot, recounts the Geat royal family's plight, in which
where another celebration takes place. Beowulf Hygelac's oldest brothers killed each other and left
recounts his battle; Hrothgar praises him and gives their father to die of a broken heart. Beowulf says
him advice on being a king. A grand feast follows, he served Hygelac well, and a sword
and Beowulf is given more priceless treasures. The (named Naegling) that he won while serving
next morning, the Geats look forward to leaving Hygelac will help him save the kingdom once
Denmark. Before they leave, Beowulf promises aid again. Beowulf leads the charge to the dragon's
for Hrothgar from the Danes. Hrothgar praises cave. The shield protects him from the dragon's
Beowulf and promises that their lands will have an flames, but his men flee in fear, leaving only one
alliance forever. As the Geats leave, Hrothgar finds man behind. This man is Wiglaf, Beowulf's
himself wishing Beowulf would never leave. kinsman through Ecgtheow. Wiglaf becomes
angry, but swears that he will stay by Beowulf's
The Geats return with much rejoicing to their side.
homeland, where their king Hygelac and his queen Just then the dragon rushes up to them. Beowulf
Hygd greet them. In an aside, the narrator and the dragon swing at each other three times,
compares Hygd to the queen of the ancient Offa, finally landing mortal blows upon each other the
who is not tamed until Offa comes to subjugate her. last time. The dragon is beheaded, but Beowulf is
Beowulf tells his lord the events of his trip to bitten and has a mortal poison from the dragon
Denmark. In the process, he tells another story that flowing through his body as a result. Wiglaf bathes
had previously been unmentioned. Hrothgar his lord's body as Beowulf speaks on the treasure.
betrothed his daughter Freawaru to a prince of the He says that Wiglaf should inherit it as his
Heathobards in order to settle an old feud. Beowulf kinsman; then he dies.
speculates that someone will goad this Heathobard
prince to take vengeance upon the Danes for all After his death, the cowards return, to be severely
their past wrongs. Hygelac praises Beowulf for his chastised by Wiglaf. He sends a messenger to tell
bravery and gives him half the kingdom. They rule the people of their king's death. The messenger
the kingdom together in peace and prosperity. envisions the joy of the Geats' enemies upon
Hygelac is killed in a battle soon after, so Beowulf hearing of the death of Beowulf. He also says that
becomes king of the Geats and rules the kingdom no man shall ever have the treasure for which
well. Beowulf fought. Wiglaf and Beowulf's thanes toss
In the fiftieth year of Beowulf's reign, a monster the dragon's body into the sea. They place the
arises to terrorize the Geats. A treasure trove was treasure inside a mound with Beowulf's body and
left by an ancient civilization, which guarded it mourn for "the ablest of all world-kings."
jealously until only one member of the race was
left. After the last person's death, a fire-breathing
dragon found the treasure and guarded it for three
hundred years. One day, a slave stumbled upon the Characters
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Scyld Shefing Sigemund
He is known as one of the first great kings of the He is an ancient Germanic hero whose story is
Danes. Upon his death he is given a remarkable recounted after the fight with Grendel. He was
burial at sea. Eventually he becomes the great- known as the famous dragon slayer.
grandfather of Hrothgar, king during Grendel's Heremod
attacks upon the Danes. He was an ancient Danish king who went from
Beow (Beowulf) being a good king to a ruthlessly evil king.
He is the son of Scyld Shefing, and a strong king in Hrothgar uses him as an example of bad kingship
his own right. He is often confused with the hero of for Beowulf.
the poem. Hildeburh
Hrothgar Her story in recounted during the second feast for
He is the King of the Danes at the time of Grendel's Beowulf at Heorot. She is an ancient Danish
assaults. He builds the hall Heorot as a tribute to princess who was married into the Frisian royalty.
his people and his reign. Her brother and her son were both killed in a war
Heorot with the Frisians at Finnesburh.
This is the hall that Hrothgar builds in celebration Hrothulf
of his reign. It is the site both of many happy He is Hrothgar's nephew. Wealhtheow calls upon
festivals and many sorrowful funerals. him to protect her young sons if it should ever be
Grendel necessary to do so.
This man-monster is a descendant of Cain. He Grendel's Mother
attacks Heorot after hearing the sounds of revelry She is, of course, the mother of the man-monster
there. Beowulf eventually kills him, with his Grendel. She comes to Heorot seeking vengeance
severed arm hung as a trophy in Heorot. His for the death of her son. Beowulf kills her.
mother attempts to avenge his death. Aeschere
Beowulf Apparently he is one of Hrothgar's important
He is a thane of the Geat king Hygelac and officials and faithful thanes. Grendel's mother kills
eventually becomes King of the Geats. The poem him, and Hrothgar is inconsolable.
relates his heroic exploits over 50 years, including Hrunting
the fights with Grendel and his mother and with the Unferth gives this sword to Beowulf to use in
treasure-guarding dragon. killing Grendel's mother. It is unable to cut her,
Wulfgar however, so Beowulf discards it. Later he returns it
He is one of Hrothgar's faithful thanes. As the to Unferth with his thanks
watchman for the Danes, he is the first to greet Hygelac
Beowulf and his thanes to the land of the Danes. This King of the Geats is also Beowulf's uncle.
He also deems the Geat visitors as people worthy Upon hearing Beowulf's courageous exploits, he
enough to meet with Hrothgar. gives Beowulf nearly half his kingdom.
Ecgtheow Freawaru
He is Beowulf's father. He is a Waegmunding by She is the daughter of Hrothgar who is
birth and a Geat by marriage. When he was unmentioned until Beowulf tells Hygelac about
younger, Hrothgar helped him settle a feud with the her. Beowulf believes that her marriage to a
Wylfingas. Heathobard prince will do more harm than good for
Unferth the Danes.
A thane of Hrothgar's, he taunts Beowulf in the hall The Dragon
about his swimming contest with Breca. However, This is the third and last monster that Beowulf
Beowulf shames him in the boasting match. His must defeat. After a Geat slave steals from his
name means "discord." treasure, he goes on a rampage. Beowulf defeats
Wealhtheow him, but not before striking a mortal blow to him.
She is Hrothgar's queen and the mother of his two Naegling
sons. Her name comes from the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf won this sword in a fight between the
words for "treasure bearer." She actually has the Geats and the Frisians. He uses it in the battle with
duty of presenting necklaces and mead-cups at the dragon.
court.
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Wiglaf 5. O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.
This is Beowulf's kinsman through Ecgtheow's Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,
family, the Waegmundings. He is the only thane of eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.
Beowulf's that stays with him during the battle with For a brief while your strength is in bloom
the dragon.
but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow
Important Quotations
illness or the sword to lay you low,
or a sudden fire or surge of water
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
or jabbing blade or javelin from the air
and the kings who ruled them had courage and
or repellent age. Your piercing eye
greatness.
will dim and darken; and death will arrive,
...
dear warrior, to sweep you away.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many
(1758–1768)
tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among Q/A
foes.
...  according to Beowulf, is better than mourning
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on a death-Avenging a death
... 
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king. Quiz : only Sparknotes
(1–11)

And a young prince must be prudent like that,


giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line. Behaviour that’s admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.

Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better


to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.
(1384–1389)

Beowulf got ready,


donned his war-gear, indifferent to death;
his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail
would soon meet with the menace underwater.
It would keep the bone-cage of his body safe:
...
[His helmet] was of beaten gold,
princely headgear hooped and hasped
by a weapon-smith who had worked wonders. . . .
(1442–1452)
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