[lines 2672b-2708a in sections XXXVI and XXXVII and 8th line from the bottom of folio 189A197r, through folio 189A197v to 3rd line from the top of folio 189r on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD]
Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.
In this part of the story Beowulf, who is now the king of his own people, decides to fight a hopeless battle with a fire-breathing dragon which has been killing Beowulf's people after one of those people stole a chalice from a treasure-filled cave which the dragon had been guarding for three-hundred years. In what will be the last fight of his life, Beowulf is abandoned by all of his men except Wiglaf, who overcomes his own fear and runs into the flames to be by Beowulf's side. Beowulf is failed by his sword "Nægling" (his strike is stronger than any sword ever made - it is interesting that the two swords in the story which failed in their task both have names while the two swords which succeeded do not) and the dragon is killed by a swordstrike by Wiglaf combined with a knifestab from Beowulf. As the dragon is struck by Wiglaf it bites Beowulf on the neck and Beowulf dies from poison from the bite.
In this passage, Wiglaf allows his hand to be severely burned in order to strike at the dragon at a critical moment, and where it is most vulnerable. We might recall that when Beowulf first saw Grendel at Heorot, it was when Grendel was killing and eating one of Hrothgar's men. When Grendel reached out to grab his next victim, he felt Beowulf's grip on his arm. That was Beowulf's moment of truth, when he decided to step up and do what was necessary: he was going to fight Grendel, despite what he had just witnessed. The moment in which Wiglaf allows his hand to be burned is his own moment of truth, and it is by this act that the mantle is symbolically passed from Beowulf to Wiglaf -- it is Wiglaf's right of passage into a position of leadership and moral authority.
When you read later of Wiglaf scolding the soldiers who ran into the forest, remember that while they listened to him talk, they must have been looking at his hand, and thinking about how courageous he had been.
At this moment, Wiglaf has just run into the flames to be by Beowulf's side and the dragon has charged at them both, incinerating Wiglaf's shield.
Beowulf and Wiglaf Kill the Dragon -- Audio: beowulf-audio-2672b-2708a-benslade.mp3
138 seconds, 2.2Mb, Sampling Rate=22,050, 16bit -- lines 2672b-2708a
Click to hear Ben Slade read about Beowulf and Wiglaf fighting the dragon in Old English (or right click and "Save-As" to save to your hard drive)
Ben Slade's Beowulf page is at http://www.heorot.dk.
After those words, the furious serpent, a cruel demon of malice, came blazing with surges of fire to attack its foes, the men it hated, a second time. His shield was burned to the rim by the waves of fire; his shirt of mail could not possibly have helped the young warrior, but the young man managed with daring to get behind his kinsman's shield when his own had been burnt to ashes by the flames. Then once more the king of battles fixed his mind on renown. With all his might and main, he struck so hard with his war-sword that it stuck in the serpent's head, driven in by the force. Nægling fell to pieces. Beowulf's old and iron-colored sword failed him in the fight. It was not granted him that the edge of any iron might help him in battle. The hand was too strong and, as my story has it, sought too much in its swing from every kind of blade. Even when he bore into battle a weapon tempered by blood, he was not the least bit better off for it.
Then the destroyer of that people, the ferocious fire-dragon, was bent on attack a third time. It rushed at the brave man, when the chance was given it; hot and vicious in battle, it took hold of his whole neck with its sharp teeth. He was soaked with his life's blood; his blood welled out of him in waves.
Then I have heard that the good soldier of that great king standing beside him made plain in his lord's time of need the daring, the skill and the courage that was his by nature. He paid no heed to the dragon's head; the hand of the great-hearted man was badly burned when he came to his kinsman's aid. Soldier-like in his armor, he struck the vicious demon a little below the head, so that the sword sank in deep, bright and plated with gold, and the fire then began to slacken. Then the king himself once more came to his senses: he drew the murderous knife, keen and sharpened for battle, which he wore on his mail-shirt. The bulwark of the Weders cut the serpent in half. They had struck down their enemy-- their daring had driven the life out of it -- and they both had killed it, princes bound by ties of blood. ---
[Wiglaf's] shield was burnt up . . . . . by the fiery waves; his corselet might not furnish help to the young warrior. But the young man hastily went under his kinsman's shield, as his own was destroyed by the flames. Then still the warrior-king bethought him of his deeds of fame; with all his might and force he struck with his good sword, so that it descended on [the Dragon's] head, by fury urged. Nægling, Beowulf's own sword, old and grey-bladed, was shivered in pieces; it failed in the conflict; it was not granted to him that the edges of steel blades might help him in the fight; the hand was too strong which, from what I could learn, with its swinging stroke over-tasked every blade; when he to the conflict bore a weapon, wonderously hard, it was not a whit the better for him.
Then, for the third time, the great scather, the fierce Fire-drake, was minded to attack; he rushed on the bold [chief], then he amply requited him, hot and exceedingly fierce; he clasped him round the neck in his horrid coils; he [Beowulf] was drenched in his life-blood; the blood spurted out in streams.
Then I learnt that at his true prince's need the earl displayed unceasing valour, strength, and energy, as to him was natural; nor did he keep clear of his [the Dragon's] head, but the hand of the valiant man was burnt, when he helped by his prowess; then (?) he, the armed soldier, beat down a little of the malignant enemy, so that the sword drove down, many-hued and with plated hilt, so that the fire began after that to abate. Then again the king himself recovered his senses, his deadly knife he drew, bitter and exceeding sharp, that he bore on his corselet. The protector of the Weders slashed the Serpent in the middle. They felled the foe: the valour expelled his life, and they both, the noble kinsmen, had despatched him;
Scarce had he spoken when the worm came on against his foes a second time in his wrath and wreathed with flame, and Wiglaf's shield caught fire and burned to the rim and his byrnie was of no help at all, wherefor the young warrior got him behind the iron shield of Beowulf when his own was consumed. Then once more the warrior king bethinking him of his renown struck with main strength that the sword, with all his hate behind it, stood in the dragon's head. But Nægling, the ancient sword of Beowulf, brake its grey and patterned blade, and failed him in the fight. Such was the strength of his hand that he got but little good of a sword in battle, so straining it with the stroke that he was no whit the better for it.
Then for a third time the dread fire-drake, as room served him, made a rush at the hero and in his neck the sharp teeth sank deep so that the blood gushed forth. Then it was that Wiglaf showed the valor that was in his race, for he paid no heed to the drake's head and though his hand was scorched as he came at close quarters he struck at the under parts of the beast and drove home his sword, whereat the fire began to abate. And the king himself then, who was still in his senses, drew the knife, battle-sharp, he wore at his byrnie and hacked the worm a-two at his middle.
They had felled their foe; their strength thrust forth his life;
And they both the twain utterly destroyed him,
kinsmen princes; so ought a man to be,
thegn when he is needed.
--- The buckler was burnt to the boss by the flames; his byrnie could not help the youthful warrior. But the young man quickly leapt under his kinsman's shield, for his own was consumed by the fire. Then again the warrior king was mindful of glory, smote mightily with his battle-sword, that it stuck in the serpent's head, driven by wrath. Nægling burst asunder; Beowulf's sword, old and gray of hue, failed in the fight. It was not granted to him that blades of iron should help him in the battle. The hand was too strong and, I have heard, overtaxed every sword with its stroke when he bore to the fight the wondrously hard weapon. It was not at all the better for him.
Then for the third time the folk-ravisher, the fell fire-dragon, was mindful of the feud, and rushed upon the man of renown when chance offered, --hot and battle-grim, clasped him all about the neck with his sharp tusks. He was bloodied with his life-blood. The blood surged forth in waves.
Then at the king's need, as I heard tell, the earl, upstanding, showed valor, strength and courage, as was his nature. He did not attack the head; nevertheless the bold warrior's hand was burnt when he helped his kinsman by striking the fell stranger sonewhat lower. Thus did the warrior in arms, so that the sword plunged in, shining and gold-adorned; wherefore the fire afterwards began to grow less. Then the king himself still had control of his senses, drew the war-knife, keen and battle-sharp, that he wore on his byrnie. The protector of the Weders slashed the serpent in the middle. They cut down the fiend-- strength drove out life; together the warrior kinsman had destroyed him. ---
The fire advanced in waves and burned Wiglaf's shield to the boss. His mail-coat could not afford the young armed warrior safety but the young man bravely carried on under cover of his kinsman's shield when his own had been destroyed by the fiery gobbets.
Still the warrior-king kept his mind on matters of glory: in the might of his strength he struck with his battle-blade so that, given impetus by his hatred, it stuck fast in the head.
Nægling broke; Beowulf's old and grey-coloured sword failed him in the struggle. It was not allotted him that the edges of iron weapons could assist him in the fight; that hand of his which, as I have heard, asked over much of every blade in the wielding, was too strong when he carried the weapon toughened by bleeding wounds into the struggle, and he was none the better off.
Then for a third time the ravager of the nation, the ferocious and fiery dragon, determined upon aggressive moves, and when the opportunity offered itself to him he rushed, hot and fierce in the assault, upon the renowned man and grabbed him right round his neck with his cruel tusks. Beowulf was smothered with blood, his life-blood; the gore welled out in pulsing streams.
I have heard that then, in the people's king's time of need, the earl at his side displayed courage, skill and daring, as was instinctive in him. He did not bother about the head but the brave man's hand was burnt as he helped his kinsman in that he, this man in his armour, struck the spiteful creature somewhat lower down, so that the sword, gleaming and gold-plated, plunged in; and forthwith the fire began to abate.
Still the king himself was in command of his senses; he unsheathed a deadly knife, cruel and sharp in conflict which he was carrying in his mail-coat. The protective lord of the Weder-Geats slashed the reptile apart in the middle. They had felled the foe -- their courage had ousted his life -- and the two of them together, noble kinsmen, had destroyed him.
... With waves of flame the shield burned up to the rim; the burny could give no help to the young spear-warrior: but the young man bravely went under his kinsman's shield when his own was burned away by the gledes. Then again the war king minded him of great deeds, struck with main strength with his battle-bill, so that it stood in the [dragon's] head, driven by hate. Nægling broke: Beowulf's swrod failed in the fight, ancient and gray-marked. It was not given him that edges of irons might help him in battle; that hand was too strong, which in its swing overtaxed every sword, as I have heard, when he bore to the fight a weapon wondrously hard: no whit was it the better for him. Then was the people-scather, the fierce fire-dragon, for a third time mindful of the feud-- rushed upon the brave one where room offered him, hot and battle-grim, and encircled all his neck with biting bones. He was made bloody with life-blood; the blood welled in waves.
Then I heard that at the folk-king's need the earl showed endless courage, craft and keenness, as was natural to him. He heeded not the [dragon's ] head (but the brave man's hand was burned where he helped his kinsman), so that he smote the spite-guest a little downwards, the man in armor, in such wise that the sword dived in, bright and plated, and the fire began to wane afterwards. Then the king himself again had use of his wits, drew his slaughter-knife, biting and battle-sharp, that he wore on his burny: the helm of the Weders cut the worm in two in the middle. They felled the foe, strength drove out life, and they had both killed him, the kinsman-athelings;...
After these words the dragon, the foe fell and fearful, came in wrath a second time, bedight with surges of flame, to seek the men, his loathing. The shield of the young spearsman burned to the boss in the waves of fire, and his burnie might yield him no aid. But the young retainer went him speedily under his kinsman's shield, for his own was consumed utterly by the fire. Then once more the war-king bethought him of the meeds of glory, and in the might of his strength struck with his war-sword, so that it drave into the dragon's head, urged by hate. Nægling was broken; the sword of Beowulf, old and gray-hued, betrayed him in the strife; it was not given him that edge of steel might help him in the battle. His hand was too strong, as I have heard tell, trying overmuch any sword by its blow; when he bore to the fight a weapon wondrous hard, no whit was he the better for it.
Then the spoiler of the people, the fell fire-drake, was of mind a third time for the strife, rushed, hot and battle-grim, upon the valliant one, when he gave him ground, and with his bitter fangs took in all the throat of the hero. Beowulf was bloodied with his life-blood; the blood welled forth in waves.
I heard tell that then in the folk-king's need his earl gave proof of lasting prowess, of the strength and boldness in him. He heeded not the head of the dragon, albeit the brave man's hand was burned in aiding his kinsman, so he might, the mailed warrior, smite the fell foe a little lower, in such wise the shining sword, decked with gold, sank in, and the fire thereafter began to fail. Then the king came to himself once more, and drew the war-dagger, bitter and sharp for battle, he wore on his burnie. The helm of the Weders cut the dragon in two in the middle. They felled the foe, their prowess cast forth his life, and they both, kinsman athelings, had overthrown him.
So fierce was the heat that the shield was consumed even to the boss. Nor could the coat of mail protect him. Under his lord's shield did Wiglaf shelter himself when that his own was in ashes. Then Beowulf remembered his strength and smote with all his might. Full on the head with mighty blow he smote the Worm. But Naegling his sword flew in splinters, good weapon though it was and famed in story. It failed him indeed, nor yet of its own defect. So strong was the champion's arm that it overtaxed all swords whatsoever. Let the edge be keen beyond all nature, yet it failed when Beowulf struck with all his strength.
Then for the third time the Worm came on, the fiery monster, wrought to rage beyond all bearing. For a space the King fell back, and the Worm seized his neck, compassing it round with savage teeth so that the blood of his life gushed out in a great stream.
And now the youth Wiglaf put forth all the valour and strength that were in him to help his kinsman the King. He heeded not the fire, though grievously it scorched his hand, but smote the Worm underneath, where the skin failed somewhat in hardness. He drove the good sword into the monster's body, and straightway the fire began to abate. Then the King recovered himself somewhat and drew his war-knife, keen of edge, that he wore upon his coat of mail, and gashed the Worm in the middle. So these two together subdued the monstrous inhabitant of the barrow.
--- His shield was burnt up to the boss by waves of fire, his corslet could afford the youthful spear-warrior no help; but the young man did valorously under his kinsman's shield after his own was destroyed by the flames. Then once more the warlike prince was mindful of glorious deeds. By main force he struck with his battle-sword so that it stuck in the head, driven in by the onslaught. Nægling snapped! Beowulf's old, grey-hued sword failed him in the fray. It was not granted him that iron blades should help him in the fight. The hand was too strong which, so I have heard, by its stroke overstrained every sword, when he bore to the fray a weapon wondrous hard; it was none the better for him.
Then a third time the people's foe, the dread fiery dragon, was intent on fighting. He rushed upon the hero, when occassion favoured him, hot and fierce in battle, and enclosed his whole neck between sharp teeth; he was bathed in life-blood-- the gore gushed out in streams.
I am told that then in the dire need of the people's king, the noble warrior stood up and showed his courage, his skill and daring, as his nature was. He cared not about the head: but the brave man's hand was scorched the while he helped the kinsman, so that he, the man in armour, struck the vengeful stranger a little lower down, in such wise that the sword, gleaming and overlaid, plunged in, and the fire began thenceforth to abate.
Then the king himself once more gained sway over his senses, drew the keen deadly knife, sharp in battle, that he wore upon his corslet, and the protector of the Geats cut through the serpent in the middle. They had felled the foe: daring had driven out his life, and they, the kindred nobles, had destroyed him. ---
The warrior helm, and thro' the deadly steam
Press'd to his master's aid and shortly spoke.
"Now, much loved lord, think of thine early youth,
How thou didst pledge thyself, while life was thine,
To work the doom of justice. Now great Beowulf,
Now fearless chief, thy faithful thane is nigh."
The accession of so formidable an opponent, naturally provoked a yet fiercer attack on the part of the dragon. The contest which followed is but obscurely and confusedly described, the poet evidently wanting the power, or perhaps rather the means, of conveying a clear and intelligible picture of a struggle in which three several combatants were engaged at once. We learn, however, that after both this and the succeeding onset, the event was still doubtful.
Having gained both confidence and breathing time from the exertions of his youthful ally,
Once more the Goth,
Recall'd to sense and power, drew quickly forth
The shrewd and biting blade, untried as yet,
That o'er his corslet hung -- the Sea-Danes' seax.
The glorious Goth struck lustily: -- he hath smote
Full on the breast, and pierc'd his loathsome foe,
And work'd the vengeance of his kingly heart.
Thus the heroes were left victorious; but to the elder this triumph was destined speedily to prove fatal.
Note here that Cox and Jones have Beowulf grabbing the dragon by the neck and strangling it, they have Beowulf's hand being burned, it is Wiglaf who makes the fatal cut, and Beowulf is poisoned by "fiery blood" rather than from a poisoned bite on the neck.
The flame burnt up his linden shield, but Wigláf ran boldly underneath the shield of his master and fought at his side. Then Beówulf, jealous for his single fame, though heat-oppressed and wearied, swung his great war-sword and drave it down mightily upon the head of the fire-drake. But Nagling failed him, and brake in sunder with the blow; for Beowouf's hand was too strong and overpowered every swordblade forged by mortal man, neither was it granted to him at any time that the edges of the smith's iron might avail him in war. Wildly he spurned the treacherous sword-hilt from him, and furious rushed upon the fiery worm and clutched it by the neck in the terrible gripe of his naked hands. There upon the plain he throttled it, while the burning life-blood of the fire-drake boiled up from its throat and set his hands aflame. Yet loosened he never his gripe, but held the twining worm till Wigláf carved its body in twain with his sword. Then Beówulf flung the carcase to the earth and the fire ceased.
But the fiery blood was on his hands; and they began to burn and swell; and he felt the poison course through all his veins and boil up in his breast. Then Beówulf knew that he drew nigh the end of this poor life;
The dragon welcomed Wiglaf with a blast of flame that set fire to his shield. The young warrior sweltered and crouched behind Beowulf's huge iron shield.
As the dragon wheeled, dragging its monstrous body over the scree, Beowulf stood up and crashed Naegling against its head. The sword point stuck in its skull! Then the serpent writhed and bucked and Naegling was not strong enough; it bent and it snapped.
Beowulf stared in dismay at his old grey-hued sword and at once the dragon lunged forward. It gripped Beowulf's neck between its sharp teeth. The old king was bathed in blood; it poured out of his arteries and veins.
Quickly Wiglaf took three strides and sank his sword into the dragon's belly. He buried it up to the hilt. The dragon gasped, and let go of Beowulf's neck, and at once the flames began to abate.
Then Beowulf fumbled for the deadly knife fastened to his corslet. He closed his eyes and swayed, then he launched himself forward, fell against the dragon and slit its throat.
The serpent gargled. It jerked and shuddered; it lay still.
Fire advanced in waves; shield burned to the boss; mail-shirt might give no help to the young spear-warrior; but the young man went quickly under his kinsman's shield when his own was consumed with flames. Then the war-king was again mindful of fame, struck with his war-sword with great strength so that it stuck in the head-bone, driven with force: Nægling broke, the sword of Beowulf failed in the fight, old and steel-gray. It was not ordained for him that iron edges might help in the combat. Too strong was the hand that I have heard strained every sword with its stroke, when he bore wound-hardened weapon to battle: he was none the better for it.
Then for the third time the folk-harmer, the fearful fire-dragon, was mindful of feuds, set upon the brave one when the chance came, hot and battle-grim seized all his neck with his sharp fangs: he was smeared with life-blood, gore welled out in waves.
Then, I have heard, at the need of the folk-king the earl at his side made his courage known, his might and his keenness - as was natural to him. He took no heed for that head, but the hand of the brave man was burned as he helped his kinsman, as the man in armor struck the hateful foe a little lower down, so that the sword sank in, shining and engraved, and then the fire began to subside. The king himself then still controlled his senses, drew the battle-knife, biting and war-sharp, that he wore on his mail-shirt: the protector of the Weather-Geats cut the worm through the middle. They felled the foe, courage drove his life out, and they had destroyed him together, the two noble kinsmen.
After these words were spoken, the Worm came on in fury, the fell malignant monster came on for the second time, with fire-jets flashing, to engage his enemies, hated men; with the waves of flame the shield was consumed all up to the boss; the mail-coat could not render assistance to the young warrior; but the young stripling valorously went forward under his kinsman's shield when his own was reduced to ashes by the gleeds. Then once more the warlike king remembered glory, remembered his forceful strength, so smote with battle-bill that it stood in the monster's head, desperately impelled. Nægling flew in splinters, Beowulf's sword betrayed him in battle, though old and monumental gray. To him was it not granted, that edges of iron should help him in fight; too strong was the hand of the man who with his stroke overtaxed (as I have heard say) all swords whatsoever; so that when he carried to conflict a weapon preternaturallly hard, he was none the better for it.
Then for the third time was the monstrous ravager, the infuriated fire-drake, roused to vengeance; he rushed on the heroic man, as he had yielded ground, fiery and destructive, his entire neck he enclosed with lacerating teeth; he was bloodied over with the vital stream; gore surged forth in waves.
Then I heard tell how, in the glorious king's extremity, the young noble put forth exemplary prowess of force and daring, as was his nature to; he regarded not that (formidable) head, but the valiant man's hand was scorched, while he helped his kinsman, insomuch that he smote the fell creature a little lower down, the man-at-arms did, with such effect that the sword penetrated, the chased and gilded sword, yea with such effect that the fire began to subside from that moment.
Then once more the beloved king recovered his senses, drew the war-knife, biting and battle-sharp, which he wore on his mail-coat; the crowned head of the Storm-folk gashed the Worm in the middle. They had quelled the foe, death-daring prowess had executed revenge, and they two together, cousin ethelings, had destroyed him;
The sound of another voice roused the dragon to greater fury, and again came the fiery cloud, burning up like straw Wiglaf's linden shield, and torturing both warriors as they stood behind the iron shield with their heated armour. But they fought on manfully, and Beowulf, gathering up his strength, struck the dragon such a blow on the head that his ancient sword was shivered to fragments. The dragon, enraged, now flew at Beowulf and seized him by the neck with his poisonous fangs, so that the blood gushed out in streams, and ran down his corslet. Wiglaf was filled with grief and horror at this dreadful sight, and, leaving the protection of Beowulf's iron shield, dashed forth at the dragon, piercing the scaly body in a vital part. At once the fire began to fade away, and Beowulf, mastering his anguish, drew his broad knife, and with a last effort cut the hideous reptile asunder. ---
--- In these waves of flame Wiglaf's shield was burnt up to the boss, nor could the corselet afford aid to the young spearman; but the youthful warrior valiantly took his place behind his kinsman's shield when his own had been utterly destroyed by coals of fire.
Then once again the warrior king set his mind upon glory, and in his mighty strength he dealt such a stroke with his warlike sword that it stuck fast in the head, driven deep by his violence. Nægling broke in two; Beowulf's ancient sword with its grey glinting blade had failed him in combat. It had not been granted him that steely edges might help in battle; his was too strong a hand-- so I heard tell-- which would overtax every blade by its stroke, whenever he carried into combat some wondrously hard weapon, so that for all that he was no better off.
Then for the third time, when his opportunity came, the perilous fire-dragon, the scourge of the nation, with his mind set on some bloody deed, rushed hot and fiercely grim against the bold hero and gripped his whole neck between cutting teeth. Beowulf was stained with his own dripping life-blood; gore gushed out in floods.
I have heard how in the king's hour of need the hero at his side showed the valour, strength and boldness which were his birthright. He took no heed of the head, though the hand of this brave man in his armour was burnt as he helped his kinsman by striking rather lower down at the spiteful creature, so that his gleaming gold-plated sword plunged in so well that from that time the fire began to die down. By then the king himself was master of his senses once more, and he drew a deadly knife, sharp and biting in battle, which he wore with his corselet; the helm of the Wederas ripped the serpent open in the middle. They had felled the foe, their valour taking his life by force; both these high-born kinsmen had struck him down together.
Note that John Gibb does not describe the fight in exactly the same way as the other translators: here Beowulf is the one who has his hand burned, and Wiglaf's stabbing of the dragon "lower down" is not mentioned.
But the serpent again came upon them vomiting forth fire, and the shield of Wiglaf was quickly burned up. It was but a wooden shield that the hero bore. Then was he fain to take refuge behind the shield of his lord. The serpent pressed hard upon the two warriors, but Beowulf, mindful of his old deeds, fought mightily with his sword, and kept it off. But at length Naegling, Beowulf's sword, broke in his hand, and he could not longer keep the serpent at a distance. The foul beast drew near to him and clasped him in its horrid coils, so that the blood spouted from the body of the old King. And the fiery breath of the creature burned his hand. But Beowulf yielded not his life. He bethought him of the knife which he bore by his side, and drawing it he plunged its sharp edge into the serpent's belly. It fell dead, and the King was released from its embrace.
The shield was burnt away to the rim by waves of fire. The corslet could not give help to the young shield-warrior; but the youth fought mightily beneath his kinsman's buckler, when his own was consumed by the flames. Then again the warlike king was mindful of fame; he struck with his battle-sword with mighty strength, so that, urged by the force of hate, it stuck in his head. Nægling burst apart; Beowulf's sword, ancient and grey, failed in fight. It was not granted to him that the edges of swords might aid him in the struggle, when he bore to battle the weapon hardened by blood of wounds; his hand was too strong, he who, as I have heard, tried every sword beyond its strength. He was in evil plight.
Then for the third time the enemy of the people, the bold fire-dragon, was mindful of fighting; he rushed on the mighty man, when a chance offered, hot and fierce in fight; he clutched his whole neck with sharp teeth; Beowulf grew stained with his life-blood; the gore welled out in surges.
Then I hear that, in the peril of the people's prince, the exalted earl showed courage, strength and daring, as was his nature. he guarded not his head, but the brave man's hand burned when he helped his kinsman, so that he, the man in his armour, beat down a little the hostile creature; and the sword sank in, gleaming and plated; and the fire after began to abate. Then once more the king himself was master of his thoughts; he brandished the battle-knife, keen and sharp for the fray, which he wore on his corslet; the protector of the Weders cut through the dragon in the midst. They felled the foe; force drove out his life; and then they both had slain him, the noble kinsmen.
Waves of fire advanced toward them. The linden shield burnt to the rim, and the young warrior's mail could give him no help: but when his own was destroyed by flames, the youth boldly went under his kinsman's shield. The warlike king was still intent on glory, and he struck with his sword, using such great strength that it drove into the dragon's head. But the force of the blow completely shattered Beowulf's sword, Nægling: the bright heirloom failed in battle. It was not granted to him that any sword could help him in battle, for his hand was too strong. I have heard that his stroke overtaxed every sword; no matter how hard a weapon he bore to battle, it did not help him at all.
Now the enemy of men made up his mind to fight for the third time; the terrible, fiery dragon rushed at the hero when it saw its chance. The red-hot ferocious beast encircled Beowulf's neck with its bitter tusks, bathing him in his life's blood; blood flowed in streams.
But then, I have heard, in this moment of need, the noble warrior at the king's side showed his valor, the skill and boldness which was his nature. The brave man paid no attention to the dragon's head, although his hand burned as he helped his kinsman, and he struck the hostile creature lower down; the shining sword sank in so that the fire began to die down at once. Now the king himself collected his wits and drew the deadly knife, keen and battle sharp, which he wore on his armor; the protector of the Geats slashed through the serpent in the middle. They had felled the enemy - valor had driven out its life, and the two kindred noblemen had killed it.
After these words the dragon came forth in great anger. The fiery flames burned the broad wooden shield of Wiglaf. Then the young, brave hero fought from behind the great iron shield of his leader, Beowulf. Now this warlike king called to mind the glorious deeds of his youth. With all his strength he struck with his sword, but it broke in his hand. Then rushed out for the third time the deadly dragon and wound himself about his kingly foe.
To help the king in his great need did Wiglaf strike the dreadful foe. The king drew his deadly knife and together they destroyed the fiery creature. Then both rejoiced.
As he spoke, the dragon came on once again, a fearful foe, made with hate, breathing fire. The shield of the young spearsman burned to the boss in the waves of flame and his breastplate gave him no shelter. Quickly he went under his kinsman's shield, since his own was consumed by the fire. Again Beowulf remembered his deeds of glory and with a mighty blow drove his sword into the dragon's head, a blow made strong with hate. But the sword broke. The sword of Beowulf failed him in the strife; it was not given to him that the edge of steel might help him much in battle. His hand was too strong and the weight of of his blow was often too great for the blade carried, no matter how sturdy the blade.
Then for the third time the fiery dragon rushed on the hero. Its bitter fangs sank in his neck, and the waves of blood gushed over Beowulf's breast.
It was now, when his prince was hard beset, that Wiglaf made known his skill and enduring courage. Heedless of danger, though his hand was burned, he came to his kinsman's aid. On the lower side of its body, beneath the scales, he smote the dragon with his sword and drove in the bright and and burnished steel. It was a telling blow and the flames of the dragon weakened. Then Beowulf gathered his strength once more and drew his war-knife, a sharp and biting dagger that hung from his breatsplate. And the king of the Geats cut the dragon in two through the middle. So they felled their foe and flung forth its life. Thus they killed the dragon, the two kinsmen together.
... Wiglaf's shield was burned up to the boss by the fire waves; the mail-coat could afford no aid to the youthful spear-fighter; but the young man went bravely on under his kinsman's shield when his own was destroyed by the flames. Then once more the war-king remembered his renown; struck with main strength with his battle-sword so that it stood fast in the head, driven in with hostile force. 'Naegling' snapped asunder -- Beowulf's sword, ancient and grey-marked, failed in fight! It was not granted to him that edges of iron should help him in the strife. Too strong was the hand which, as I have heard, overtaxed every sword with its swing; it was no whit the better for him when he took into battle a weapon wondrous hard.
Then for the third time was the Destroyer of people, the dread Fire-drake, mindful of the feud, he rushed upon the hero, when he yielded room to him; hot and battle-fierce he enclosed his whole neck with sharp teeth. He was all bloodied over with life gore; the war-sweat welled forth in streams.
Then, as I have heard, in the need of the people's king the hero showed unceasing courage, skill, and keenness, as was natural to him; he heeded not the head -- albeit the brave man's hand was burned while he helped his kinsman -- but he struck the evil beast a little lower down -- man-at-arms that he was! -- so that the shining and gold-adorned sword plunged in, and the fire began to abate forthwith. Then, once more, the king himself got possession of his senses, drew the slaying-knife, keen and battle-sharp, which he wore on his coat-of-mail. The Weders' Protector cut through the Dragon in the middle.
They felled the foe; their might drove forth his life, and they two, the kinsmen-nobles, had then destroyed him. ...
with fire-waves he burnt up the shield by the margin; the byrnie could not give any assistance to the young warrior, but the young man boldly went under his kinsman's shield, since his own was burnt to pieces by the fires. In turn the war-king remembered his fame, his mighty strength, he struck with his war-bill, so that it driven with force stood upon the head of the worm; Nagling burst insunder, it failed in the battle Beowulf's sword old and grey-spotted; that was not granted to him, viz. that edges of iron might help him in the war; the hand was too strong, which as I have heard overpowered every sword, every blow, when he to fight bore weapons hardened in wounds; it was none the better for him. Then was the mighty plague, the fierce fire drake a third time, mindful of the feud: he rushed upon the famous prince; there he largely repaid him; hot and warlike fierce, he clutched the whole neck with bitter banes; he was bloodied with life-gore, the blood boiled in waves.
Then heard I that the earl displayed fitting valour, strength and courage, at the need of his great king as it was natural for him to do, nor cared he for the mail-hood, but the hand of the bold man burned as he helped his kinsman, when he struck the hostile-stranger downwards; the warrior in his trappings struck so that the sword plunged, variegated and solid; so that afterwards the fire began to abate: in turn the king himself wielded his wits; he brandished his fatal sword, bitter and sharp in war, which he wore upon his byrnie: the helm of the Westerns carved the worm in the midst, (they felled the foe), he punished his deadly courage, and they two, the related thanes had destroyed him;
--- And the wood of the shield was burnt up with the waves of flame, and his byrny could not help the young spear-warrior; yet did the youth bravely advance under the shield of his kinsman when his own had been destroyed by the flames. Then again the war-king bethought him of glory, and struck a mighty blow with his battle-sword so that it fixed itself in his head, forced in by violence. And Naegling, Beowulf's sword old and grey, broke in pieces, and failed in the contest. It was not given to him that sharp edges of swords should help him in battle. His hand was too strong, so that it overtaxed every sword, as I have been told, by the force of its swing, whenever he carried into battle a wondrous hand-weapon. And he was nowise the better for a sword. Then for the third time, the scather of the people, the terrible Fire-dragon, was mindful of feuds, and he rushed on the brave man when he saw that he had room, all hot and battle-grim, and surrounded his neck with bitter bones. And he was all be-bloodied over with life-blood, and the sweat welled up in waves.
Then I heard tell that the Earl of of the King of the People showed in his time of need unfailing courage in helping him with craft and keenness, as was fitting for him to do. He paid no heed to the head of the dragon (but the brave man's hand was being burnt when he helped his kinsman), but that warrior in arms struck at the hostile sprite somewhat lower in his body so that his shining and gold-plated sword sank into his body, and the fire proceeding therefrom began to abate. Then the good King Beowulf got possession of his wits again, and drew his bitter and battle-sharp short sword that he bore on his shield. And the King of the Geats cut asunder the dragon in the midst of his body. And the fiend fell prone; courage had driven out his life, and they two together had killed him, noble comrades in arms. ---
Then came the dragon to attack a second time. Brightly flamed the fire against his hated human foes. The young hero's wooden shield was burnt up, and behind Beowulf's he shielded himself.
Again Beowulf smote the dragon, but his grey sword, Naegling, snapped in twain, whereat the monster leapt on the lord of the Geats, and took that hero's neck in his horrible jaws, so that the king's life blood streamed over his armour. But Wiglaf smote low, and his sword pierced the dragon, so that the fire abated.
Beowulf drew his death dagger, and striking fiercely he cut the monster in twain. So was the dragon slain; so did the heroes achieve victory and renown.
Then came the dragon to attack a second time. Brightly flamed the fire against his hated human foes. The young hero's wooden shield was burnt up, and behind Beowulf's he shielded himself.
Again Beowulf smote the dragon, but his grey sword, Naegling, snapped in twain, whereat the monster leapt on the lord of the Geats, and took that hero's neck in his horrible jaws, so that the king's life blood streamed over his armour. But Wiglaf smote low, and his sword pierced the dragon, so that the fire abated.
Beowulf drew his death dagger, and striking fiercely he cut the monster in twain. So was the dragon slain; so did the heroes achieve great victory and renown.
--- The flame waves caught Wiglaf's shield, for it was but of wood. It was burned so utterly, so that only the boss of steel remained. His coat of mail alone was not enough to guard the young warrior from the fiery enemy. But right valiantly he went on fighting beneath the shelter of Beowulf's shield now that his own was consumed to ashes by the flames.
Then again the warlike king called to mind his ancient glories, again he struck with main strength with his good sword upon the monstrous head. Hate sped the blow.
But alas! as it descended the famous sword Nægling snapped asunder. Beowulf's sword had failed him in the conflict, although it was an old and well-wrought blade. To him it was not granted that weapons should help him in battle. The hand that swung the sword was too strong. His might overtaxed every blade however wondrously the smith had welded it.
And now a third time the fell Fire-Dragon was roused to wrath. He rushed upon the king. Hot, and fiercely grim the great beast seized Beowulf's neck in his horrid teeth. The hero's life-blood gushed forth, the crimson stream darkly dyed his bright armour.
Then in the great king's need his warrior showed skill and courage. Heeding not the flames from the awful mouth, Wiglaf struck the Dragon below the neck. His hand was burned with fire, but his sword dived deep into the monster's body and from that moment the flames began to abate.
The horrid teeth relaxed their hold, and Beowulf, quickly recovering himself, drew his deadly knife. Battle-sharp and keen it was, and with it the hero gashed the Dragon right in the middle.
The foe was conquered. Glowing in death he fell. They twain had destroyed the winged beast.
Beowulf halted his men when they came to the crack that led to the Firedrake's den. He had them set the hives down in the entrance. Then he sat for a while, muttering to the bees in each hive. No one could make out what he said. It sounded like nonsense.
At last, just as the sinking sun came level with the crags behind them, he motioned for Wiglaf to go forward.
The lad, acquainted with his master's plan, slipped into the crack. He carried the white stake in his left hand. In his right hand, and very carefully, as though it contained something infinitely precious, he carried the giant glove.
The others were too puzzled to protest. They noticed that the bees in each hive buzzed busily as Wiglaf wriggled past them. Beowulf stooped and murmured soothingly and the noise subsided.
Once inside the narrow passageway, Wiglaf moved on tiptoe, deftly. He was a small person, slim and agile, which was partly why Beowulf had chosen him for the job. When he came to the bright treasure-chamber he skipped into it like a shadow. As it happened, the Firedrake was asleep-- worn out by its night's havoc-- and did not see him hide himself amid the gold.
Beowulf was watching the sun. When he judged that enough time had elapsed for Wiglaf to have performed the first part of the plan successfully, he crept into the crack himself. He set his horn to his lips and blew a loud, rude blast.
"Halloo," he cried. "Halloo, old fire-belcher! I am Beowulf, come to quench you!"
The Firedrake's golden eyes snapped open. It could not believe that anyone would be so foolhardy as to shout at it inside the mountain.
Beowulf sounded another mocking note on his horn. "Ho, you, old smoky-guts! Where are you hiding?"
The Firedrake hissed with rage. No one had ever spoken to it like this before. Its tail began to flog the rock. Its body started to swell in the usual way.
Peeping from his hiding-place, little Wiglaf waited anxiously for the right moment. He could hear the grumbling fire beginning in the creature's belly. Smoke was whistling from its nostrils. It was getting bigger every moment. Wiglaf crouched, ready to pounce.
"Call yourself a dragon?" shouted Beowulf. "You look more like a glowworm!"
The Firedrake had reached full size. When it heard this final insult, it swallowed hard in its fury.
Wiglaf seized his chance. He leapt.
Quick as lightning he thrust the big stake into the Firedrake's jaws, jamming them open even as the creature gaped wide to let loose the first foul gust of flame. The golden eyes glared at this new surprise. The barbed tail thrashed and twisted to be at him. But Wiglaf dodged, danced, flitted out of range. And as he went threw the giant glove into the open mouth.
The firedrake coughed. A hail of cinders flew out. For a terrible moment Wiglaf that the glove had come out too-- but, no, it was still there, caught on a tooth that looked like a scythe.
As Wiglaf watched, the glove flapped and bulged.
Beowulf made a high-pitched buzzing sound.
The Firedrake took a deep breath...
... And swallowed a big Queen Bee that emered from the glove as in in answer to Beowulf's call!
"They follow the Queen Bee anywhere!" This, whispered to Wiglaf on the way up the mountain, was the essence of Beowulf's plan. Now, in response to another noise he made, sawing at his lips with his square-tipped fingers, all the twelve hives came alive. The bees poured out, a singing angry stream, orange, brown, black, yellow. They buzzed into the crack in the mountain.
They whirled past Beowulf. And on into the brightness of the treasure-chamber.
The Firedrake saw them coming. Its gold eyes bulged with fright. It tried to shut its mouth, but the stake between its jaws prevented this.
The bees poured down the monster's throat like a stream of honey, in pursuit of their queen. But when they reached the Firedrake's stomach their effect was like no honey in the world.
The began to sting!
Hundreds of bees, stinging it from the inside!
The Firedrake roared with pain and fury.
It tried to spit out bees. But there were too many.
It tried to spew up fire. But its own insides were burning.
Little Wiglaf danced with glee.
But Beowulf had collapsed in the entrance to the treasure-chamber. His armor came undone. It was all too big and heavy for him.
Some men said, long afterward, that Beowulf was killed by the burning breath of the Firedrake. But, in truth, the monster managed only the merest tiny little cough of smoke before turning over on its side and giving up the ghost. Beowulf's bees had stung it to death.
--- Clear to the boss he burned the shield with waves of flame, the mail-coat gave the young spear-warrior no aid; but brave he passed beneath his kinsman's shield, his own consumed by fire. Again the battle-king recalled renown and struck so fiercely with sword that, driven by hate, it stood in the dragon's head. Nægling burst; the sword of Beowulf, old and gray-marked, failed in fight; it was not granted that its edges help him in the fray; his hand was over-strong who by his stroke, as I have heard, drove every sword too hard when he took a wound-hardened weapon to the wars. He was none the better for it.
A third time the people's harrier, bold fire-dragon, set his mind on strife; when chance allowed, he rushed against the famous man, war-grim and hot, and sank his sharp fangs fiercely in the neck. The king was bloodied to the death, his life-stream spilled.
Then I heard that in the people-prince's need the warrior always at his side showed courage, strength, and daring, as his nature prompted. The brave man gave no heed to the dragon's head, but his hand was burned when, to help his kinsman, he struck the malice-guest a little lower down; the armored warrior's sword sank in, plated, shining, and the fire, after, began to wane. Once more the king himself comtrolled his mind and drew the death-knife, keen, and battle-sharp, he wore upon his mail; the Weders' helmet sliced the worm in two. They felled the foe-- daring drove his life out-- and they killed him, both the noble kinsmen. ---
After these words the great serpent came lunging out of his den with such a blast of great enveloping heat that he drove us back from the entrance, in one breath burning the shield of Wiglaf right down to the boss. The light lime wood withered and vanished like a dead leaf dropped into the hearth fire. Wiglaf stepped closer then and ducked beneath my broad iron shield, and we waited for a chance to strike.
The head came lunging towards us, the sharp teeth parted, and I swung Naegling above the shield with what strength I had left. The sword broke in two -- as good a patterned sword as I had ever seen -- but that had happened to me before. The strength in my arms was too much for the blade.
Then came the dragon for the last time and made such an angry rush that the shield was no help. The great beast sank his long teeth into the back of my neck and I could feel the hot poison moving into my body as the blood gushed forth from the wound. But Wiglaf at the same moment leapt in under the dragon's head, burning his hand as he drove his sword deep into the soft underbody. At once the fiery breath diminished and the dragon moved more slowly; then I drew the battle knife at my waist and cut the body in two. Between us, we had killed him.
Then at last to his aid came Wiglaf the faithful, and Beowulf's ears were gladdened by the sound of his dear friend's shout, and new strength streamed through his veins. Together they fought, side by side, and the dragon gave way to their onslaught.
But in one wide sweep of the dragon's tail Beowulf was caught, and he sank to the ground broken, at last, in body. But Wiglaf, fresh in the fray, with a great cry of rage, found the weak spot in the dragon's armor, and into the heart of the beast sank his good sword to the hilt.
No sound came from the dragon. But he rose to his full and terrible height in great majesty of dying, and fell prone beside Beowulf.
Fire waves enveloped the shield; it burned to the boss; his mail shirt was of no use to the young fighter, but he was courageous -- he dove under his kinsman's shield, his own in ashes from the fire.
Then the war king recollected his former honor, and with great fervor wielded his blade, dealt his sword's edge, hard; it stuck in the head; Naegling burst asunder -- the sword of Beowulf, ancient and shining.
It was not granted that iron edges would help him in the fight; the hand was too strong, as I have heard, that swung each sword, wound-tempered weapon, that he brought to war; thus he was no better for it.
The folk hounder, that fire dragon, for the third time lunged at the famed fighter, saw his chance, hot and war grim, caught him and sank bitter fangs into the neck; he wore blood, the blood of the king, life's blood in waves welling.
Then I have heard that, at the folk king's need, his warrior stood hardly beside him, with craft and boldness as was his birthright. Nor did he go for the head, he whose worthy hand was burnt up when, to aid his kinsman, the armed hero pierced that hateful barrow holder lower down -- gleaming, golden, the sword drove in. Only after that did the flames abate.
The king, the help of the Weders, once more pulled himself together, yanked his death gnawer, that battle-keen knife, from his chained shirt, and cut the beast in two.
Imprudence had seized his soul, but together the two noble warriors had felled their foe, had ravaged him.
The dragon roared and sent out billows of smoke and flame from his mouth toward Wiglaf. The fire burned the young warrior's wooden shield out of his hand. His breastplate could not protect him. Quickly, he ducked behind Beowulf's shield, and the iron guarded them both.
The dragon moved his head toward the two warriors. With a mighty effort, Beowulf raised his sword and plunged it into the dragon's head.
But the king's arm was too strong. He drove his sword at the dragon with too much might, and Naegling shattered in his hand. The blade broke into two pieces against the dargon's skull. It clattered to the floor of the cave and lay there on its side.
The dragon was furious. Roaring, he leapt across the stream of fire as far as he was able. He swung his huge head low and seized Beowulf's neck and shoulder between his teeth. The king fell to the ground. He was covered with blood.
Then Wiglaf stepped forward, holding Beowulf's shield before him. His hand had been burned by the dragon's fire, but he raised his sword. He was going to help his lord and kinsman.
The dragon was stretched across the stream. Most of his body still filled the back of the cave. But now his forelegs rested on the bank of the stream where the warriors stood.
The dragon dipped his head toward Wiglaf, roaring and spitting flame. Quickly, Wiglaf sprang between the dragon's forelegs. He raised his sword and plunged it into the dragon's belly, where there were no scales to protect it.
The dragon gasped and stood still. The flames from his mouth and nostrils grew weaker. He began to shake his head slowly from side to side.
Then Beowulf opened his eyes. He rose on his knees and grasped a dagger that dangled from his breastplate. He raised the dagger above his head and drove it with all his might into the dragon's heart.
This time the blow struck its mark. The dragon groaned and fell on its knees. Streams of boiling blood poured out of the monster's wounds. A few last puffs of smoke burst from his nostrils. His flaming eyes flashed for a second, and then became dim.
With a great crash, the dragon's gigantic body fell to the floor of the cave. Then it lay still. Together, the two kinsman had killed the evil beast that had brought terror to the homes of the Geats.
the flame came forth in waves,
burned shield to the boss; the byrnie could not
to the young spear-fighter lend support
but the young man, under his kinsman's shield
courageously advanced, when his own was
consumed by fire. Then again the war-king
remembered his strength, with mighty force struck
with his battle-bill, so that it stood in (the serpent's) head
driven by violence; Naegling burst asunder,
failed in the fight Beowulf's sword
ancient and silver-streaked; it was not granted to him,
that for him irons' edges could
help in battle: the hand was too strong,
that each one of the blades --I heard--
in stroke he over-taxed; when he bore to battle
a weapon hardened by wounds, it was not any better for him.
Then the scourge of people a third time,
the fierce fire-drake enmity in mind,
rushed at the brave man, when he was yielded space,
hot and battle-fierce, (Beowulf's) whole neck he clamped
between sharp fangs; he was drenched
in life-blood; gore gushed in waves.
I heard that then at the need of the folk-king
the nobleman alongside displayed courage,
strength and boldness, as was natural to him;
he did not heed (the dragon's) head, though the hand was burned
of the spirited man, there he his strength helped,
that he the hostile outsider struck somewhat lower,
the warrior in his war-gear, so that the sword sank in
gleaming and golden so that the fire began
to weaken after that. Then again the king himself
gathered his wits, drew a slaughter-seax
bitter and battle-sharp, that he wore on his byrnie;
The Helm of the Wederas cut through the wyrm in the middle.
The foe they felled --their courage driving out life--
and then the both of them him had destroyed,
the noble kinsmen;
--- The fire advanced in waves, burned the shield right up the boss; coat of mail could afford the young spear-fighter no help; but the young man courageously went behind his kinsman's shield when his own was destroyed by coals of fire. Then the war-king was again mindful of glorious deeds, struck with the war-sword in great strength so that, driven by violence, it stuck in the head. Nægling shattered; Beowulf's sword, old and patterned grey, failed in combat. It was not granted him that edges of iron might help him in the battle; the hand was too strong which, as I heard, over-taxed every blade with its stroke, when he carried into combat a weapon hardened with wounds; it was none the better for him.
Then a third time, when it had opportunity, the scourge of the nation, the dangerous fire-dragon, was mindful of feuds, rushed upon the brave man, hot and battle-grim, clenched his entire neck between sharp tusks; he became ensanguined with life-blood; gore welled up in waves.
Then, as I have heard, at the need of the nation's king the warrior by his side displayed courage, skill and daring, as was natural to him. He did not bother about the head, so the hand of the brave man, warrior in armour, was burned as he helped his kinsman by striking the spiteful creature somewhat lower down, so that the sword, shining and plated, sank in, so that thereupon the fire began to abate. Then the king himself, again in control of his senses, drew the deadly knife, keen and battle-sharp, that he wore on his mail; the protector of the Weders cut the serpent open in the middle. They felled the foe-- courage had driven out its life-- and they had cut it down together, kindred noblemen.---
No sooner were the words spoken than the furious dragon, flecked with smoke and flame, came out again against his foe. Swiftly was Wiglaf's wooden shield burned up in the glow, but the young warrior fought under the shield of his kinsman, and failed not in valorious deed, although his buckler was all consumed.
Then once more Beowulf summoned his strength; mindful of glory he struck out with his war bill, and drove it into the head of the foe; with that blow the sword broke, so that it was no further use to him. Mad with the wound, the dragon rushed at him for the third time, grasping his neck till he was almost choked and his life blood bubbled forth in streams.
But men say that in that hour of peril the good thane showed forth his might, his strength and cunning; and though his hand was scorched in the fire, he smote the monster lower down, so that his sword dived in its middle, and the flame and the smoke began to grow less. And as it abated the king made a desperate rally; he seized the short dagger that he war in his girdle and cut the worm in twain. Thus they had together felled the fiend and brought about his end.
...The flames advanced in waves: Wiglaf's shield burned to the boss, and the young warrior's mail shirt was useless. When his own shield was consumed in flames, the young man boldly stepped behind his lord's shield. Then the king again remembered his fame, and he struck the dragon's head a blow with all the force of his mighty spirit, so that his sword Naegling broke: The gleaming old sword failed Beowulf in the fight. It was not fated that any blade of steel might help him in combat, for his great strength overstressed any sword when he bore the forged weapon into battle: He was none the better for it.
Then for the third time the enemy of man, the fearful fire dragon, sought vengeance: When his chance came, hot and fearful he seized Beowulf's neck in his sharp fangs, and the hero was bathed in his own lifeblood, which flowed in streams.
It is said that the earl Wiglaf then showed his courage and helped his lord in his need. The brave man showed his strength and skill as he paid no heed to the dragon's fire-breathing head, so that his hand was burned as he helped his kinsman. The man in armor struck the hateful foe a little lower down, and the flashing engraved sword sank in, so that the fire began to subside. Then the king himself seized the moment and drew his deadly sharp battle-knife that he wore on his shirt of mail: The protector of the storm-braving Geats cut the dragon in half. Together the noble kinsmen felled the dragon and destroyed his life with their courage.
No sooner were the words spoken than the furious dragon, flecked with smoke and flame, came out again against his foe. Swiftly was Wiglaf's wooden shield burned up in the glow, but the young warrior fought on under the shield of his kinsman, and failed not in valorous deed, although his buckler was all consumed.
Then once more Beowulf summoned his strength; mindful of glory, he struck out with his war bill, and drove it into the head of the foe; with that blow the sword broke, so that it was no further use to him. Mad with the wound, the dragon rushed at him for the third time, grasping his neck till he was almost choked and his life blood bubbled forth in streams.
But men say that in that hour of peril the good than showed forth his might, his strength and cunning; and though his hand was scorched in the fire, he smote the monster lower down, so that his sword dived in its middle, and the flame and smoke began to grow less. And as it abated the king made a desperate rally; he seized the short dagger that he wore in his girdle and cut the worm in twain. Thus they had together felled the fiend and brought about his end.
...Wiglaf's shield was burned away to the boss in waves of fire; the byrnie could give no help to the young spear-warrior. But the youth went quickly under his kinsman's shield, since his own had been burned to ashes in the fire. Then again the war-king took thought for his glory; mightily he smote with his battle-sword so that it stood in the dragon's head, driven by force. Nægling was shivered in pieces; Beowulf's sword, old and gray-marked, weakened in the fight;-- it was not granted that the iron blade should help him in the strife. Too strong was the hand, as I have heard, which by its blow overtaxed all swords whatsoever, so that he fared none the better for it, when he bore into the fight a weapon wondrous hard.
Then the destroyer of people, the dread fire-dragon, for the third time was mindful of the feud. He rushed on the brave hero, when ground was yielded him. Hot and fierce, he seized upon Beowulf's whole neck with his sharp teeth. He was all bloodied over with his life-blood; the gore welled forth in streams.
THEN I have heard men tell how, in the king's great need, Wiglaf, the herp, showed forth unceasing courage, skill and valor, as was natural to him; he heeded not the dragon's head (though the brave hero's hand was burned as he helped his kinsman), but the armed man smote the evil beast a littler lower down, insomuch that the bright and plated sword drove into him, and the fire began to wane forthwith. Then the king recovered himself once more; he drew the short-sword, keen and sharp in battle, which he wore on his byrnie. The defence of the Weders cut the Serpent asunder in the middle. They struck down the foe; their might drove forth his life, and thus they twain, noble kinsmen, destroyed him.
Sharon Turner's 1805 version of the story ends around line 517, in the middle of Unferth's initial challenge to Beowulf. After line 517, all we get from the 1805 edition is this:
It would occupy too much room in the present volume to give a further account of this interesting poem, which well deserves to be submitted to the public, with a translation and with ample notes. There are forty-two sections of it in the Cotton MS., and it ends there imperfectly. It is perhaps the oldest poem of an epic form in the vernacular language of Europe which now exists.
In Sharon Turner's 1852 version of the story, the entire second half of Beowulf is summarized in the following paragraph:
The poem proceeds to describe Beowulf's return to Higelac. He engages in some further adventures, which are not of equal interest with the former. He succeeds Higelac in his kingdom; builds a city; fights thirty battles; and dies after a reign of fifty years. Such is the substance of this curious poem, which is quite Anglo-Saxon in the manners it describes, and corroborates several of those features, which in the preceding pages have been delineated. It seems to be the oldest poem, in an epic form, that now exists in any of the vernacular languages of modern Europe. Other Saxon poems still exist which deserve the student's notice.
--- His shield was burnt up in a twinkling, and he was obliged to seek shelter behind the king. Both heroes seemed lost. The dragon tore down Beowulf's iron shield, and caught him a second time in its great jaws, crushing him between its teeth with such force, that the iron rings of his coat of mail cracked like so much crockery, though they had been forged by Wieland himself. Then Wichstan seized his opportunity, when the beast's head was raised, the better to champ his prey, and plunged his sword into the fleshy part of its throat under the lower jaw. Upon this the dragon dropped the king, and encircled both its adversaries with its tail, but Beowulf at the same moment made a lunge at its open mouth, driving his weapon so deep that the point came out at the dragon's throat. After that they soon dispatched the monster, and then threw themselves on a ledge of rock, panting and exhausted.
The lad slipped quickly behind his kinsman's shield as soon as the flames had burnt his own to cinders.
But the king was still mindful of his fame and struck so hard with his sword that, driven by the impetus, it struck square in the Dragon's head. Yet Beowulf's patterned sword, Nægling, failed him. It shivered to splinters. Never had it been his luck that a sword should be of use to him during a fight. His hand, they say, was so strong that the force of his blows overtaxed any weapon. Even when he carried one which was hardened in battle he was no better off.
The flame-spitting Dragon screwed up its courage for a third attack. When it saw its chance it set savagely upon the hero, catching him around the neck with lacerating fangs. A torrent of gore gushed out, and Beowulf was spattered with his own life-blood.
But we are told that in the king's extremity his kinsman Wiglaf displayed his inherited skill and daring. Though he was protected by his armour, the brave fellow's hand was severely scorched in helping his kinsman; by not aiming at the head, he struck the creature slightly lower. His golden sword plunged in with such effect that from that moment the fire began to abate. Collecting his wits, the king pulled out a razor-sharp dagger which he wore at his corslet, and ripped open the belly of the Worm. Together the kinsmen killed their adversary.