[lines 791-819a in section XII and 8th line from the top of folio 147r to 13th line from the top of folio 147v 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 is lying in wait in Heorot, waiting for Grendel to make another of his many nocturnal visits. Grendel crashes through the door of the hall and begins to attack and devour one of the sleeping men. Beowulf holds back and observes for a few moments in order to guage Grendel's strength and tactics. Grendel finishes eating his first victim and as he reaches for another person Beowulf grabs him and they begin to wrestle. Grendel is much larger than Beowulf but Beowulf is incredibly strong and brave. They struggle with each other and make an incredible amount noise as they crash around the hall. Beowulf eventually tears Grendel's arm off with his bare hands and Grendel runs away. Beowulf nails Grendel's arm onto the wall above the hall door to celebrate his victory.
The comic book by Gareth Hinds is especially interesting in the way it depicts the fight between Beowulf and Grendel. Gareth understood that if Beowulf was going to tear Grendel's arm off that he would have had to focus his efforts on weakening the arm during the fighting. Gareth's drawings are very dramatic in depicting the lead-up to tearing off the arm. He has taken a little bit of artistic license with the story in portraying Beowulf as focusing on tearing off Grendel's arm (in the story Beowulf says later that he wanted to kill Grendel in the hall and that Grendel foiled that plan by pulling away from Beowulf with such strength that he ran out of the hall leaving his own arm in Beowulf's grasp, whereas in Gareth's depiction Beowulf pins Grendel down and pulls off his arm intentionally) but this is more than acceptable in order to gain Gareth's insights into what Beowulf and Grendel might have looked like, and what sort of moves Beowulf might have made in order to win the match.
At this moment Beowulf and Grendel are fighting and Grendel is howling and screaming and wishing to escape but Beowulf has grabbed Grendel's arm and is using his incredible hand-strength to hold on to him.
T.A. Shippey, on page 48 of his 1978 book, points out something about this scene which I had never noticed (despite the fact that I have read it dozens of times) -- it is fifteen lines before we are told how Beowulf could have maintained his iron grip on Grendel's arm, and yet Grendel still escaped from his grasp:
So how does Grendel manage to flee to the fens? At the crucial moment the poet evades us, slipping from the physical bursting of bones in line 818 to the abstraction of guðhreð, success and glory in 819. The answer is held in suspense for fifteen lines. Then the poet says it was 'a clear sign' [tacen sweotol] when Beowulf laid down the hand and arm and shoulder 'beneath the vaulted roof'. The hero's grip has not weakened, we see; instead it was the monster's fear which proved stronger than his flesh.
Beowulf Fights Grendel -- Audio: beowulf-audio-0791a-0819a-benslade.mp3
98 seconds, 1.5Mb, Sampling Rate=22,050, 16bit -- lines 791-819a
Click to hear Ben Slade read about Beowulf's fight with Grendel 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.
The protector of noble warriors would not have let that murderous visitor off alive for any payment of amends; nor did he feel that the days of his life were of use to people of any kind. Then one noble warrior of Beowulf's after another drew old swords that had been handed down to them. Each was bent on defending the life of the prince their lord, their famous captain, at whatever point they could. They did not know when they were putting up that fight, those tough-minded veterans, and meaning to hack at him from every side, to flush out his soul, that not one single choice iron on earth, no war-sword at all, could ever touch him, for he had laid a spell on glorious weapons, on everything with an edge.
The running out of his time in that day of this life was fated to be wretched, and the dying demon fated to journey far, into that fiend's dominion. Then he who but a little before had in joy of heart done so much wickedness to the race of men, feuding with God, realized that his body would not stand by him, for the brave kinsmen of Hygelac had him by the hand. Each hated the other to the death. The cruel, terrible creature was suffering bodily agony: it was clear that the wound in his shoulder was mortal. The sinews had sprung apart; the joints had snapped. It was to Beowulf that the victory in this battle had been granted;---
The shelter of earls [Beowulf] would not for anything have let that murderous assailant go away alive, nor counted he his life-days serviceable to any people. Then many an earl of Beowulf's drew his old sword; he would save the life of his lord and master, that great prince, so far as they might do so. They knew not, these stout sons of battle, when they encountered the strife, and thought to hew down on every side, to seek [Grendel's] life, [that] no iron on earth, though of the best, no war battle-axe, would make a dint on that foul ravager. But he [Beowulf] had forsworn the weapons of war, every edged blade. His [Grendel's] passing away from existence, on the day of this life, was doomed to be miserable, and the mighty spirit was to journey far away into the power of the fiends. [For] then did he, who many a time ere now, in mirth of mood, had wrought crimes against human kind (he was at variance with God), find that his bodily frame would do him no service; but the valiant kinsman of Higelac held him by the hand. Each was to the other hateful while living. The fiendish monster endured sore pain of the body; on his shoulder a gaping wound was apparent, the sinews started, the flesh burst. To Beowulf the glory of the fight was given;
Nor was Beowulf minded for anything to let the murderous visitor come off with his life, which he counted but a thing of small use to any. Then, one and all, the earls of Beowulf came on with swords drawn, if haply they might bring their lord succor, but little they knew that all their valorous strokes could avail nothing against a demon who laid a spell upon every manner of sword. Nevertheless he was destined to be wretchedly sundered from his life and to take the long journey back to the fiends whence he came. And of this he was ware, that he could no longer have joy in his enmity against God and man, for his body would not follow him, so gripped him the thegn of Hygelac by the hand. Each hated the other while there was life in him. The deadly hurt the monster had got in his shoulder was plain; the sinews snapped, the bones broken where they locked together in their joints. The fame of that fight was Beowulf's,---
The protector of earls would not for anything let one who came to bring death go from him alive; nor did he consider his life days good to any man. There full eagerly did Beowulf's earls brandish age-hallowed swords; they would protect the life of their lord, their renowned prince, if they could. They did not know when they engaged in fight, strong-hearted warriors, and thought to strike on all sides and seek Grendel's soul, that no war-blade nor any choicest of irons on earth would harm the fell spoiler; for he had cast his spell upon victory-weapons, on every kind of sword. His death must needs be miserable on that day of this life, and his spirit, parted from his body, must journey far in the power of fiends. Then he who of old through his soul's affliction did many wrongs to the race of men-- he strove with God-- found out that his body would not avail him, for the valiant one, Hygelac's kinsman, had him by the hand. Each, living, was hateful to the other. The fell wretch suffered bodily hurt; full evident on his shoulder was a grievous wound. The sinews parted, joints cracked. To Beowulf was granted glory in battle. ---
Beowulf, shelterer of earls, was not willing on any account to release the murderous intruder alive for he did not reckon that the days of his life were to anyone's advantage. Repeatedly, one of Beowulf's earls would draw his ancient sword there, wanting to protect the life of their lord and famed prince wherever they could. There was something they did not know when they joined in the struggle, those sternly motivated fighting-men, and thought to chop at him from every side and seek his life: no battle-blade nor any iron sword, not the choicest on earth, would touch that evil spoiler, for he had made himself impervious by magic to weapons customarily victorious, to any sword whatever -- yet his severance from life at that time in this mortal existence was to be a wretched one and this alien was to journey far away into the power of devils.
Then he who hitherto perpetrated much heartfelt affliction and violence against humankind -- he being antagonistic towards God -- found that his body would not perform for him, for Hygelac's courageous kinsman was restraining him by means of his hands. Each was loathsome to the other as long as he remained alive. The terrible monster suffered a bodily wound -- in his shoulder a great lesion became conspicuous. The sinews were snapping apart, his joints were bursting. To Beowulf was granted the battle-triumph;
The stronghold of earls would not for anything let the death-dealing comer go alive, nor deemed he his life-days of any use to any folk. There many an earl of Beowulf's brandished an old heirloom-sword, wanted to guard the life of their lord and chief, mighty leader, wheresoever they might. They knew not when they went through the strife, hardy-hearted battle-men, and thought to hew him upon each side and seek his soul, that not even the pick of irons upon earth, no war-bill, could touch that unresting scather, but he had foresworn victory-weapons, every edge. His life-parting was to be wretched in the day of this life, and his ghost, gone elsewhere, must journey afar to the rule of fiends. Then he found out, he who before had wrought many a crime against mankind in mirthful mood, he, foe to God, that his body would not last him, but Hygelac's brave kinsman had him by the hand; each was hateful to the other, living. The dire monster endured a body-sore: a clear wound not to be eased was on his shoulder; his sinews sprang apart, his bone-lockers burst. To Beowulf war-glory was given:...
The protector of earls would not in any wise let him that came with the murder in his heart go from him alive; he counted not his life's day of price to any. Earls of his a plenty made play with their tried swords, handed down from their fathers, to save their lord's life, if in any wise they might; they knew not, those bold-hearted warsmen, when they went into the fight and thought to new Grendel on every side and find out his soul, that not any pick of blades on earth, none of battle-bills, could touch that fell spoiler, for he had laid his spell on weapons of victory, on every keen edge. Woeful was his last end to be in this life's day, and his outlawed ghost must fare far into the fiend's grip. Then found he, that before in mirth of mood had wrought mankind many evils (he was under God's ban), that his body would avail him not, seeing that the brave kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand; hateful to each was the other live. The grisly monster suffered hurt of body. In his shoulder a fearful wound began to show; the sinews sprang apart, the bone-frame cracked asunder. Fame of the battle was given to Beowulf.
Nevertheless there was now come upon him a woeful end, fit recompense for one that had wrought such woe to men. He could not by any means free himself from the strong hand-grip of the Earl. And as he strove, there came in his shoulder a great crack, and the sinews sprang apart and the joints of the bones burst asunder. Then at last he fled to his hiding-place in the moors; but he had suffered a deadly loss, for his arm he left behind him in the champion's grip.
The defender of nobles would not by any means let the murderous visitant escape alive,-- he did not count the days of Grendel's life of use to any of the peoples. There many a noble of Beowulf's company brandished an ancient ancestral weapon-- they wished to protect the life of their lord, of their famous chief, if they could. They did not know, brave-minded warriors, when they took part in the contest, and thought to hew at him on every side, and to hunt out his life, that no war-bill on earth, not the best of iron swords, could touch the cursed foe, for that he used enchantment against conquering weapons, every sort of blade.
In this world his parting from life was to be wretched-- the alien spirit was to journey far into the power of fiends. Then he who for long before had been doing crimes, wicked in heart, against mankind, he, the rebel against God, discovered that his bodily frame was no help to him, but that the bold kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand. While he lived, each was hateful to the other. The horrible monster suffered deadly hurt, on his shoulder gaped a mighty wound, the sinews sprang asunder-- the tendons burst. Glory in fight was granted to Beowulf; ---
The hero, resolutely bent on destroying his fiendish antagonist, "whose life (adds the poet with a remarkable simplicity of phrase) he though of no use to anyone," continued to press his advantage, and, although unarmed, (for he had not forgotten that the Grendel's flesh was invulnerable by earthly weapons) proved ere long that his bodily strength alone was sufficient for his purpose.
Soon the dark wanderer's ample shoulder bore
A gaping wound, each starting sinew crack'd
And from its socket loosed the strong-knit joint. --
The victory was with Beowulf, and the foe
Howling and sick at heart fled as he might,
To seek beneath the mountain shroud of mist
His joyless home; for well he knew the day
Of death was on him, and his doom was seal'd.
Thus were the injuries of Hrothgar avenged, and the arm and hand of the aggressor remained with the conqueror as evidence of his triumph.
Never before had Grendel met the gripe of hands so strong. He bent himself with all his might against Beówulf and dragged him from his bed, and toward the door; but Beówulf's fingers never slackened from their hold: he drew the Ogre back. Together they struggled upon the hall pavement till the palace rocked and thundered with their battle. Great wonder was it that the palace fell not, but it was made fast with well-forged iron bands within and without; yet many a mead-bench overlaid with twisted gold was torn from its place in the furious strife, and the ale spilled on the floor. But Grendel found the cluth of his enemy too strong; he could not loose it with all his wrestlings; and he knew that he must seek to flee away and hide himself in his marsh dwellings. But Beówulf griped him tight; and when the fiend would drag him down the hall he put forth all his strength into his clenched hands. Suddenly the Ogre's shoulder rift from neck to waist. The sinews burst asunder, the joints gave way, and Beówulf tare the shoulder and the shoulder-blade from out his body. So Grendel escaped from Beówulf's grasp and in his mortal sickness fled to the fens. There Death clutched him and he died.
Grendel tried to break free but Beowulf held him fast. The monster snorted and tugged, he could feel his fingers cracking in the Geat's grip.
Now the great room boomed. Clang and clatter shattered the night-silence Beowulf and Grendel lurched to and fro in their deathly tug-of-war. Tables and mead-benches were overturned, Grendel roared and snarled, and in the outbuildings Danes woke and listened in the darkness.
When the Geats saw that Grendel could not escape Beowulf's grip, they surrounded him and slashed at him with their swords.
Heorot flashed with battle-lights. Those warriors did not know that no kind of weapon, not even the finest iron on earth, could wound their enemy. His skin was like old rind, tough and almost hard; he had woven a secret spell against every kind of battle-blade.
Now Beowulf twisted Grendel's right arm behind his neck. He locked it and turned it, slowly he turned it, putting terrible pressure on Grendel's shoulder.
The monster bellowed and dropped to one knee. He jerked and his whole body shuddered and trembled. With superhuman strength he jerked again he tried to escape Beowulf's grip, he jerked and all at once, his right shoulder ripped. A ghastly tearing of muscle and sinew and flesh; a spurting of hot blood: the monster's arm came apart from his body. Grendel howled. He staggered away from Beowulf, and reeled out of the hall.
Not for anything would the protector of warriors let the murderous guest go off alive: he did not consider his life-days of use to any of the nations. There more than enough of Beowulf's earls drew swords, old heirlooms, wished to protect the life of their dear lord, famous prince, however they might. They did not know when they entered the fight, hardy-spirited warriors, and when they thought to hew him on every side, to seek his soul, that not any of the best of irons on earth, no war-sword, would touch the evil-doer: for with a charm he had made victory-weapons useless, every sword-edge. His departure to death from the time of this life was to be wretched; and the alien spirit was to travel far off into the power of fiends. Then he who before had brought trouble of heart to mankind, committed many crimes - he was at war with God - found that his body would do him no good, for the great-hearted kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand. Each was hateful to the other alive. The awful monster had lived to feel pain in his body, a huge wound in his shoulder was exposed, his sinews sprang apart, his bone-locks broke.
The shelter of eorlas was not by any means minded to let the murderous visitant escape alive; he did not reckon his life-days useful to any one of the Leeds. There did many an eorl of Beowulf's unsheath his old heirloom; -- would rescue the life of their master, their great captain; if so be they might. They knew it not, -- when they plunged into the fight, the stouthearted companions, and thought to hack him on every side, reach his life, -- that no choicest blade upon earth, no war-bill would touch that destroyer, but he had by enchantment secured himself against victorious weapons, edges of all kinds. His life-parting [in the day of this life] was destined to be woeful, and the outcast spirit must travel far off into the realm of fiends. Then discovered he that, he who erst in wanton mood had wrought huge atrocity upon mankind -- he was out of God's peace -- that his body was not at his command, but the valiant kinsman of Hygelac had got hold of him by the hand; to either was the other's life loathsome. A deadly wound the foul warlock got; on his shoulder the fatal crack appeared; the sinews sprang wide, the bone-coverings burst. To Beowulf was victory given.
--- That was a dreadful struggle, as the combatants, in deadly conflict, swayed up and down the hall, overturning tables and benches, trampling underfoot dishes and goblets in the darkling wrestle for life. The men of the Geats felt for their weapons, but they could not see the combatants distinctly, though they heard the panting and the trampling movements, and occassionally caught a gleam from the fiend's eyes as his face was turned toward them. When they struck their weapons glanced harmlessly off Grendel's scaly hide. The struggle continued for some time, and the hall was an utter wreck within, when Grendel, worsted for once, tried to break away and rush out into the night; but Beowulf held him fast in the grip which no man on earth could equal or endure, and the monster writhed in anguish as he vainly strove to free himself-- vainly, for Beowulf would not loose his grip. Suddenly, with one great cry, Grendel wrenched himself free, and staggered to the door, leaving behind a terrible blood-trail, for his arm and shoulder were torn off and left in the victor's grasp. ---
Beowulf, shield of heroes, would on no account let that deadly visitant go alive, for he held that his life would bring no good to any man.
Many of Beowulf's followers brandished some weapon, some ancient heirloom, wishing to defend the life of their noble lord and renowned prince wherever they could. One thing they did not know, as these comrades in battle, filled with stern purpose, joined in the struggle, thinking they would hack him from every side and threaten his life-- this wicked ravager was one whom no sword on earth, not the choicest of steel blades, could touch; he had cast a spell to blunt the edges of all victorious weapons. Yet his death was to be a wretched one in that day and age, and the being from the overworld was to pass far awar into the power of fiends.
Then he who for so long had wrought many violent deeds against mankind out of a murderous heart, he who was at feud with God, found that his own body would not obey him, for Hygelac's valiant kinsman kept a hold on his hand. each would be foe to the other as long as he lived. The fearsome monster felt agony in his own body; on his shoulder a vast gash appeared, pain to see; the sinews were tearing apart, the muscles that bound the bones were splitting. To Beowulf was granted triumph in the fray; ---
Terrible was the struggle betwen Grendel and Beowulf. The hall shook with it, the ale was spilt, and all the benches fell. The Geatas awoke from their slumber; they drew their swords and hastened to the help of their Lord, but no steel, however sharp, could pierce the hide of Grendel. Presently there was heard a wild yell of pain throughout the hall, and Grendel fled away, having escaped the grasp of Beowulf; but when the heroes looked, behold, the arm and hand of Grendel were in Beowulf's hand. It was torn from his shoulder. Sore wounded and sick unto death, the evil monster hastened to the dark pool among the fens where he had his dwelling-place.
The protector of earls was minded in no wise to release the deadly visitant alive, nor did he count his life as useful to any man.
There most eagerly this one and that of Beowulf's men brandished old swords, wished to save their leader's life, the famous prince, if only they could. They did not know, when they were in the midst of the struggle, the stern warriors, and wished to strike on all sides, how to seek Grendel's life. No choicest of swords on the earth, no war-spear, would pierce the evil monster; but Beowulf had given up victorious weapons, all swords. His parting from life at that time was doomed to be wretched, and the alien spirit was to travel far into the power of the fiends.
Then he who before in the joy of his heart had wrought much malice on mankind -- he was hostile to God -- found that his body would not follow him, for the brave kinsman of Hygelac held him by the hand. Each was hateful to the other while he lived. The foul monster suffered pain in his body. A great wound was seen in his shoulder, the sinews sprang apart, the body burst open. Fame in was granted to Beowulf.
The last thing the chief of heroes wished was to let the murderous intruder go alive; he did not consider Grendel's life to be useful to anyone. Now Beowulf's noble companions were drawing their ancient swords, wishing to defend the life of the lord, their glorious leader, in any way they could. The stouthearted warriors engaged in combat and tried to hew at the monster from every side, seeking his life, but what they did not know was that no sword could touch the evildoer, not even the choicest steel on earth: for he had cast a spell which made weapons useless, every blade!
But he was to make a miserable parting from life on that day; the alien spirit was destined to travel afar in the power of fiends. Now he who had afflicted the hearts of mankind so much in earlier days and had committed so many crimes - he was at odds with God - discovered that his body was of no use to him, for Hygelac's brave kinsman had him in his grip.
Neither could bear to see the other stay alive. The horrible monster felt mortal pain as a huge wound tore apart his shoulder; his sinews sprang open and muscle ripped from bone.
--- Not for anything would he let the dreadful one escape that day.
The warriors sought to help their leader, but he would not use any weapon. With his hands, with his bare hands, he held fast the fearful foe. On the shoulder of Grendel was a horrid wound, and Beowulf tore the arm from the body. Well knew the monster then that his life's end had come.
--- Caught in Beowulf's fierce grip, Grendel cried aloud in anguish. Beowulf would not suffer that murderous one to live.
Now many of Beowulf's warriors drew their weapons to aid their lord. They did not know, as they came close to Grendel, striking at him from every side with their swords, that no blade fashioned on earth could do him harm. He laid his spell on every weapon and none could hurt him. But the evil one, who had wrought murder many a time in days past, found that his strength had failed him. The bold kinsman of Hygelac held him fast. As they struggled the monster took a fearful hurt; a great wound showed on his shoulder, his sinews cracked and the bones broke. Now was the victory given to Beowulf, and Grendel, sick unto death, fled to his den in the dark moor. He knew that his wound was mortal-- that the end of his days had come, the last of his life on earth.
He held him fast -- he who was strongest of men in the day of this life. The Defender of the Earls would not on any account let the death-bringer escape alive -- he did not account Grendel's life days useful to any people! There did many an earl of Beowulf's draw an old ancestral sword, wished to defend the life of the dear lord, the famous chief -- if so they might. They knew not, indeed, when they risked the contest -- stout-hearted battle heroes -- and thought to hew him on every side to seek out his soul, that not any of the choicest weapons on earth, no war-sword, was able to touch the ceaseless destroyer, because he had laid a spell upon the victorious weapons, upon every kind of blade. His life-parting from the days of this life was to be miserable, and the alien spirit was to journey far into the power of fiends. Then he who formerly in mirth of mood had devised many crimes against mankind hostile to GOD found out that his body would not last, for the brave kinsman of Hygelac had him by the hand. Each while he lived was hateful of the other. The evil monster suffered pain of body; on his shoulder was manifest a spreading wound; the sinews sprang asunder, the flesh burst. To Beowulf was given the battle-glory;...
The protector of earls would not on any account dismiss alive the murderous guest; nor did he account the days of his life useful to any person. Then at once did Beowulf's earl brandish his old inheritance (sword); he would defend the life of his lord, of the famous prince, since there they might so do. They, the brave-thoughted sons of battle, knew not, when they endured this labour, and on every side thought of striking, of seeking his life, that not the costliest steel throughout the earth, or any war-bill would take effect upon the mighty plague. But he (Beowulf) had forsworn victorious weapons, every sword: his (Grendel's) divorce from life was doomed to be miserable in the day of this life, and the hateful spirit to depart afar into the power of fiends. Then did he, who before in mirth of mood had committed many a crime against the race of men, (he was God's foe!) discover that his body would not serve him; but him Hygelac's proud kinsman held in his hand; each while living was hateful to the other: the foul wretch awaited the mortal wound; a mighty gash was evident upon his shoulder; the sinews sprung asunder, the junctures of the bones burst: success in war was given to Beowulf.
Beowulf clutched the monster's wrist. "If you want this dinner, you'll have to fight for it."
Grendel writhed and twisted, trying to free himself. "Who are you? You cannot be mortal. Never have I encountered such strength in a human being. Tell me your name!"
"I am Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow," Beowulf answered, tightening his grip.
"Release my arm!"
"I will let go when you are dead."
Beowulf's companions joined the fight. They struck at Grendel with sword and ax, spear and dagger. But they made no wound, not even a scratch, for the scales covering Grendel's body were enchanted by witchcraft. No iron blade forged by human hands could pierce them.
"Leave him to me!" Beowulf cried. "We will share the fruits of victory, but the battle is mine."
Grendel felt himself weakening. "Let me go," he snarled. "I have treasures beyond imagining hidden in the marsh. They are yours, if you release me."
"I care nothing for your treasures," said Beowulf, feeling his strength increase. He tightened his hold.
"If you let me go, I will leave Heorot Hall tonight and never return."
"You will never return because you will be dead," Beowulf replied. "Fight if you wish to live, cowardly monster. But only one of us will see the sun rise."
"Then I will fight!" roared Grendel. He and Beowulf wrestled the length of Heorot Hall, overturning benches, ripping down tapestries, splintering the gilded furniture that was Hrothgar's pride. Making one last effort to break that mighty grip, Grendel threw himself against Beowulf with all his strength.
Beowulf held firm. Grendel's shoulder burst. The monster shrieked as his whole arm came away from his body. ---
The Prince of earls would not at all let go alive the murderous comer, nor did he count his life as of use to any of the peoples. And many an earl of Beowulf's brandished the old heirloom, and were wishful to defend the life of their far-famed liege-lord, if they might do so. And they knew not, when they entered the battle, they the hard-thinking ones, the battle-men, and they thought to hew on all sides seeking out his spirit, that not any choice iron over the earth nor any battle weapon could be greeting the foe, but that he had foresworn all victorious weapons and swords. And miserable should be his passing on the day of this life, and the hostile sprite should journey far into the power of devils. Then he found out that, he who did crimes long before this with mirthful mind to human kind, he who was a foe to god, that his body would not last out; but the proud kinsman of Hygelac had him in his hands. And each was loathsome to the other while he lived. The terrible monster, sore with wounds was waiting. The gaping wound was seen on his shoulder. His sinews sprang open; and the bone-lockers burst. And great victory was given to Beowulf. ---
Beowulf held fast; he would not suffer the man-eating fiend to escape alive.... Of little account was Grendel's life to the world of men....
The battle heroes in the hall sought to help their lord. They fell upon the monster without fear, and smote him with their war swords, but without avail, for Grendel's body was charmed against weapon wounds, and they could do him no hurt.
But miserable was to be the life ending of the fiend; his alien spirit was fated to travel afar to be bound by devils. The crime worker, the devourer of men, the enemy of God, realized that his body would endure not or give him help or sure defence. Brave Beowulf had him in his power; each loathed the other with fierce hate.
In agony was Grendel.... A wound gaped on his shoulder; it was torn wider and wider; the sinews snapped; the flesh burst.... The glory of battle was given to great Beowulf....
Beowulf held fast; he would not suffer the man-eating fiend to escape alive.... Of little account was Grendel's life to the world of men....
The battle heroes in the hall sought to help their lord. They fell upon the monster without fear, and smote him with their war swords, but without avail, for Grendel's body was charmed against weapon wounds, and they could do him no hurt.
But miserable was to be the life ending of the fiend; his alien spirit was fated to travel afar to be bound by devils. The crime worker, the devourer of men, the enemy of God, realized that his body would endure not or give him help and sure defence. Brave Beowulf had him in his power; each loathed the other with fierce hate.
In agony was Grendel.... A wound gaped on his shoulder; it was torn wider and wider; the sinews snapped; the flesh burst.... The glory of battle was given to great Beowulf....
Then Beowulf, remembering his boast that he would conquer this ruthless beast, stood upright, gripping the Ogre yet more firmly.
Awful was the fight in the darkness. This way and that the Ogre swayed, but he could not free himself from the clutch of those mighty fingers.
The noise of the contest was as of thunder. The fair Hall echoed and shook with demon cries of rage, until it seemed that the walls must fall.
The wine in the cups was spilled upon the floor. The benches, overlaid with gold, were torn from their places. Fear and wonder fell upon the Dane folk. For far and wide the din was heard, until the king trembled in his castle, the slave in his hut.
The knights of Beowulf awoke, arose, drew their sharp swords, and plunged into the battle. They fought right manfully for their master, their great leader. But though they dealt swift and mighty blows, it was in vain. Grendel's hide was such that not the keenest blade ever wrought of steel could pierce through. No war-axe could wound him, for by enchantments he had made him safe. Nay, by no such honourable means might death come to the foul Ogre.
Louder and louder grew the din, fiercer and wilder the strife, hotter the wrath of those who strove.
But at length the fight came to an end. The sinews in Grendel's shoulder burst, the bones cracked. Then the Ogre tore himself free, and fled, wounded to death, leaving his arm in Beowulf's mighty grip.
But all at once the light had caught him. It had him by the claw. It was beowulf!
The creature gave a dreadful squeal as Beowulf touched him. Ten strong fingers locked about his hairy wrist. To Grendel, it was as if the sun itself had caught him in its clutch. Made of wickedness as he was, the good in this man burned him. The mortal fingers were like ten red-hot nails driven into his skin. Grendel had never known strength like this. He roared and shook to be free, to crawl away, to escape into the ruins of the night. But Beowulf would not let him go.
Now Beowulf began to talk. His voice was quiet, and there was hullabaloo in the hall, what with the soldiers rushing about confusedly in the dark, and Unferth screaming, and the monster threshing about to get loose-- yet Grendel heard every word like thunder in his brain. He did not know what was worse: Beowulf's grip or what Beowulf said.
Beowulf said: "Light holds you, Grendel, Light has you in its power. You who have shunned the sun, meet me, once stung by bees that drank the sun. There's honey in my veins, Grendel, a liquid sunlight that can kill you quite. These fingers that you feel are ten great stars. Stars have no fear. I do not fear you, Grendel. I do not fear, therefore I do not fight. I only hold you, child of Cain. I only fix you fast in your own evil, so that you cannot turn it out on any other. It is your own evil, Grendel, that undoes you. You must die, creature of night, because the light has got you in a last embrace."
Grendel was in a fury. He bellowed and lashed. He wanted above all else to get away from this thing that was so contrary to himself. He tried every vicious trick he knew. But Beowulf stood firm, holding the monster in a grip so tight that it almost made his own big fingers crack and the bones poke out of the straining flesh. Hall Heorot rocked down to its roots with the rage of the demon's struggling.
Somewhere deep in Grendel's hellish heart a memory stirred. It grew and spread and flooded his whole being with despair. Something to do with light and another of these children of day-- one who had flung herself between him and his food, and by her love had thwarted him, so that he had felt powerless to approach and had slunk away, abashed by mystery. Grendel did not know the word "love" or the word "good." To him, they were part of the light he hated. There had been such light about that woman in the blue cloak. He had to get away from it. But the light in the woman was as nothing to the light in this man Beowulf. And try as he would, he could not get away.
Grendel grew angrier and angrier. He shook his arm about and dashed it against the wall. Beowulf, badly bruised, refused to relinquish his hold. When shaking did not work, Grendel tried jerking his arm. But Beowulf wound his own legs round a pillar. He took the full force of the monster's pull-- and still held on.
There was a fearful snapping of bones and tearing of sinews and muscles.
Then hot stinking blood fountained everywhere.
Bewoulf had pulled Grendel's arm out of its socket!
The Protector of Warriors would not in any way let the murder-guest escape alive or reckon his life useful to the folk. Beowulf's earls most bravely brandished heirloom swords; they wished to guard their famous prince's life, if so they might. The strong-souled warriors did not know, when they attacked and thought to hew him on all sides and reach his soul, that no choice iron, no battle-blade on earth, would harm wide-scathing Grendel: he had bewitched the victory weapons, every edge. His farewell was fated to be wretched on that day of mortal span; the alien soul was to travel far into the power of fiends. When he who, murderous hearted, once in feud with God wrought ill to mankind, found his body would not serve and Hygelac's brave nephew had him by the hand-- then each live, was hateful to the other. The horrid monster met with body-hurt; a wound showed wide and clear along his shoulder; sinews sprang apart, bone-locking muscles burst. To Beowulf was given the battle-fame. ---
I could feel the surprise moving into his mind as I tightened my grip. He pulled away towards the door and tried to twist his hand free, and I used that motion to stand up straight and get a good lock around his arm. He gave a great tug then and a deep moan rose in his throat. I tightened my grip. I could feel the fingers cracking under my fist. Grendel jerked frantically towards the door, pulling me along with him. He hissed and tugged, yearning towards the dark fens and meres beyond the world of men, afraid now that he might never return to that region.
He summoned up the last reserves of his strength then and howled to shake the timbers of Heorot. I howled back at him with all the rage in my heart and we rolled jerked, bounced and careened about the hall breaking the guilded benches and sending them crashing against the walls, ripping the tapestries and scattering the stones of the hearth, setting up such a dense din of awful sound that the Danes huddled together outside the walls in cringing terror at the sound of it. We smashed against the walls until I thought they must surely come down, but the great forged bands of iron held them together. Now Grendel's howling grew higher and more frightened, a horrible sound, and he fought with the added strength of terror, lunging ever towards the doors as I tried to brace my heels to hold him back, knocking pillars from beneath the roof and jerking beams down upon our heads.
All this time my men, very much awake now and ready for battle, kept hacking away when they could get a chance at the lunging fiend -- but none of us knew at that time how Grendel had cast a spell upon all battle-weapons so that none of them could touch him with harm, no sword could bite that flesh. And so we tumbled and twisted and banged against the walls as swords came ringing down upon the impervious head.
Then something began to give. As Grendel pulled towards the door his arm seemed to grow longer and longer and then I could feel the sinews snapping and the tendons shredding and the ligaments pulling loose as the huge arm bone broke loose from the shoulder, leaving me with the great arm like a log in my embrace as Grendel, a horrible hole where his right shoulder had been, was free at last to lurch bleeding his life out across the moor to find his home again before he died.
SILENTLY they fought in the fog-strewn hall of Heorot. Silently their bodies twisted and bent, this way and that, and Beowulf kept Grendel's huge hands with their long claws of sharp bone from him, and Grendel in turn sought to tear apart the quick body that slipped so easily through his arms and legs.
All about them lay the sleeping earls, and not one moved in the deep magic slumber as the two fought that silent fight.
Their bodies wove in and out among the sleepers, and Beowulf felt the hot reek of Grendel's breath upon his cheek, and the sweat stood out on Beowulf's broad brow and ran into his eyes and blinded him. And Grendel's huge hands sought over and over again to clasp his opponent's head, to crush it in their iron grip.
Then the fight became a deadly struggle in one far corner of the hall, and neither one gained any advantage over the other. Then Beowulf slipped. On the earthen floor of Heorot they fell together and the force of their fall made the earth tremble, as when two giants fight in mortal combat.
But Grendel's hold lessened, and fear smote the heart of the fiend. He strove only to free himself from Beowulf's grasp and flee into the night, away from this white youth whose strength was the strength of thirty men.
And now Beowulf had the upper hand, and flew at the giant's throat. But here his hands clutched at thick scales upon which he could get no grip. Grendel nearly took advantage, but before he could seize Beowulf, the lord of Geatsland had fastened both mighty hands upon the monster's arm, and with a sudden twist that forced a groan of agony from Grendel's lips, leaped behind him, forcing the imprisoned arm high up Grendel's back, and the beast fell prone on the floor.
Now came the final struggle, and sweat poured from Beowulf, while from Grendel there oozed a slimy sap that smelled like vinegar, and sickened Beowulf. But he clung to the monster's arm, and slowly, slowly he felt its great muscles and sinews give way, and as his foot found Grendel's neck, he prayed to all the gods for help, and called upon his father Ecgtheow for strength to sustain him in this desperate effort.
And the mighty arm of Grendel gave way in the terrible hands of Beowulf, and, with a piercing shriek that shook the gilded rafters of Heorot, Grendel stumbled forward, leaving in Beowulf's hands the gory arm.
That most powerful of men in his own lifetime hugged the monster to his breast. The savior of warriors would not let hell's visitor escape from death; he knew the murderer alive was useless to folk.
Beowulf's men drew forth their swords, heirlooms all; to defend their renowned captain's life was their wish. The loyal soldiers could not know as they brandished their weapons that the finest iron in this world, the sharpest edge, was nothing to him, the wide-destroying creature. Every weapon of war had been bewitched by him.
His breath was relinquishing, life forsaking, would be horrible to him; this alien soul would be forced to travel deep into the power of fiends.
Then he found, the one who carried torment to humans through his awful sins -- in contention with God -- that his skin was no shield to him, that the nephew of Hygelac owned his hand. Then each, alive, was abomination to the other.
The gruesome monster was body wounded by the warrior; his arm was torn from his shoulder; tendons quivered, muscles slid, separated from bones. Beowulf was given the victory;
--- Suddenly he spied beowulf against the wall, leaning on one arm and watching him calmly.
With a roar, Grendel sprang toward Beowulf. His sack, which was wondrously made of dragon-skins, he held open in his hand.
The monster reached for the warrior with a fiendish claw. But Beowulf, still propped on his arm against the wall, caught the claw in one hand. Then he leaped to his feet and squeezed the claw more tightly, until one by one he heard the fingers crack.
Grendel was astonished. Never before had he met a foe with a stronger handgrip than his. He broke away, but beowulf pursued him.
Around and around the hall they fought. The Geats had been wakened, and now they stood by their benches. They did not know what to do. Benches and tables were overturned. Carved cups and gold-banded tankards rolled on the floor. Barrels fell from their racks and burst open, spilling streams of wine and mead, beer and ale. Seats were knocked from the platforms. Even the king's throne toppled from its place in the fury of the combat.
Never was there such a fierce battle of strength. Beowulf was filled with rage. Grendel was desperate with fear. Madly they wrestled about the hall. They dashed against the walls, crashed through tables and benches, rolled from the platforms. Their struggle was so violent that the building shook on its foundations.
Outside the Danes had been wakened by the noise of the battle. They began to fear that Heorot would be destroyed. The hall where they went to drink and listen to the singing of minstrels, they thought, would be a heap of ruins when morning came. In his bower with Wealhtheow, Hrothgar the king clasped his hands in anxiety. He had believed that nothing but smoke and fire could bring his pleasure-house to the ground.
Watching the battle, the Geats felt they must do something to help their lord. Five or six of Beowulf's thanes seized their swords. Now one after another, now by twos and threes at a time and all at once, they attacked Grendel. From all sides, they sprang on the monster.
But not the keenest blade in all the world could hurt Grendel. By his spells of magic, he was safe from all weapons that men could use. The swords bent in two when they struck his skin, or bounded from the warriors' hands.
One managed to pierce his shoulder. It stuck there for a minute, swaying. But in the midst of battle, Grendel reached up and plucked it out and tossed it away.
Three hours passed. The fight grew more and more fierce. Heorot trembled and lurched against the moonless sky. Waiting in terror in their bowers, the Danes listened to the din in the hall. They heard frightful screams, shouts of victory, and the crashing of wood and metal. The Geats stood in the corners of the hall, not knowing what to do.
Now Beowulf had Grendel on the floor. He was holding the monster's arm in a grip of iron. Grendel was writhing and crying out in pain and terror. He knew that at last he had met a man who was his master in strength. At last the might of his body had failed him.
"Now!" cried Beowulf, settling back on his heels to look at his fallen foe. "Destroyer of men, at last you are paid for your cruel deeds!"
Grendel shrieked, and made a mighty leap. He thrust Beowulf aside and dashed across the room to open the door.
But the arm that Beowulf held in his grasp had burst from its socket. As the monster fled into the darkness, there was only a bloody wound in his shoulder where his arm had been.
--- Then it reached again for the next of the good companions, but by this time Beowulf had himself in hand. He sprang up and gripped the devilish creature's paw. For the first time, Grendel felt terror. Never in his evil life had he felt such a grip. There was no courage in him when he was brought to the test. At once he tried to get away, but no matter how hard he shook and dragged he could not pull loose from the iron-strong hand.
Then the young hero did not fear the foul breath and the fiery eyes. He did not seek to keep himself from the hairy beast. He grappled with the creature brow to brow and knee to knee. And their grappling was so fierce that they turned over benches and cracked wall timbers and pillars.
By this time the others were awake. Armed, they came to their chieftain's help, laying about them in the blackness with swords. But swords could do nothing against the monster. Only the grip of Beowulf, still holding him fast, could bring him harm.
In that grip Grendel threw himself about so wildly that it was a wonder he did not bring Heorot down. Surely the hall would have been shattered if it had not been held by the iron bands. And, just as Beowulf began to feel mortal weariness, just as the flesh began to split at his knuckles from the hardness of his grip, the monster uttered a blood-freezing yell. A crack had opened in Grendel's shoulder. The sinews there sprang wide. The covering of his bones spread into the night. But he left something behind him. His hairy paws, his forearm, his upper arm as high as the shoulder remained at Heorot, held fast in Beowulf's gripping hand.
The protector of earls had no wish for any reason
the murderous guest to release alive,
nor his life-days to any people
counted as advantage. There many brandished
warriors of Beowulf, old heirlooms,
they wished prince-lord's life defend,
the legendary leader's, if they could do so;
they did not know that, when they joined the fray,
the bold-minded battle-men,
and on each side thought to heaw,
to seek the soul: that the sin-scather
any on earth, of the choicest of irons,
of war-bills, none, could not at all greet him
but he victory-weapons had forsworn,
every blade-edge. His life-severing was bound to
on that day in this life
be wretched, and the alien-spirit
into the administration of fiends would journey far away;
then he found, he who before many,
miseries in his mind, on mankind
atrocities committed --he, who fought with God--
that him his body-shell would not obey,
but him the daring kinsman of Hygelac
had by the hand; each was by the other
loathed while living; body-pain he felt,
the awful ogre; on his shoulder was
a great wound apparent, sinows sprang asunder,
bone-locks burst; to Beowulf was
--- The warriors' defence did not wish that murderous visitant to leave alive on any account: he did not reckon his life of use to any people.
Then many a warrior of Beowulf's drew out an ancient heirloom, wished to defend the life of the noble leader, famous prince, if they could. One thing they did not know, stern-minded men of battle, when they joined in the struggle and thought to hack at him on every side, to seek his life -- no war-sword, not the choicest of iron in the world, would touch the evil ravager, for with a spell he had rendered victorious weapons, all blades, useless. His departure from life at that time was to be wretched, and the alien visitant would have to travel far away into the power of fiends. Then he who, wicked at heart, had committed crimes against mankind for so long-- he was in feud with God-- found that his flesh would not serve him, but Hygelac's bold kinsman had him by the hand. As long as he was alive, each was hateful to the other. The dreadful monster suffered bodily pain; a huge wound appeared plain on his shoulder; sinews sprang apart, the bones' links broke. Triumph in battle was allotted to Beowulf.---
--- In no wise would the hero allow him to escape unhurt, for he knew that his life was of no avail to any man.
Then Beowulf's men, thinking to protect their lord, drew out their ancient swords, for these brave comrades did not know that the best steel on earth was powerless to pierce the hide of the enemy. But the giant, who had formerly committed so many crimes with a mirthful mind, found that his covering would not avail him now that the valorous nephew of Hygelac had him fast in his hands; and as he struggled his sinews burst apart, and his arm was wrenched from its socket.
...Beowulf, protector of warriors, would not relese his murderous guest alive, for he did not consider Grendel's life of value to anyone. Then Beowulf's earls drew their ancient swords to protect their dear lord and glorious prince in any way they could. But when the valiant warriors entered the fight and sought to hew the monster on every side to take his life, they did not know that no battle sword -- not even the best steel on earth -- could touch the evil one: For he had made every weapon useless with a spell. Nevertheless, the alien spirit's departure from life to death was wretched, for he was to travel far away into the power of fiends: The evil one, who had afflicted the sons of men with his many crimes and was at war with God, now found that his body was no longer of use, for the bold kinsman of Hygelac had him in his grasp. The life of each was hateful to the other. The dread monster felt pain: A huge wound appeared in his shoulder and the sinews sprang apart. The muscles were torn apart: Beowulf was victorious in battle.
... In no wise would the hero allow him to escape unhurt, for he knew that his life was of no avail to any man.
Then Bewoulf's men, thinking to protect their lord, drew out their ancient swords, for these brave comrades did not know that the best steel on earth was powerless to pierce the hide of the enemy. But the giant, who had formerly committed so many crimes with a mirthful mind, found that his covering would not avail him now that the valorous nephew of Hygelac had him fast in his hands; and as he struggled his sinews burst apart, and his arm was wrenched from its socket.
THE defense of heroes would by no means let the murderer escape alive-- he counted his life of no avail to any of the people. There many a warrior of Beowulf's drew his old sword; they thought to protect the life of their lord, the great prince, if so they might. They knew not, those brave warriors, when they plunged into the fight, thinking to hack the monster on every side and take his life, that not the choicest blade on earth nor battle-axe could graze that foul destroyer; for he had bound by a spell weapons of war and every edged sword. Yet he was doomed to die a wretched death in the day of this life; the outcast spirit must needs journey far away into the power of fiends. There he found, that foe to God, who many a time ere now in mirthful mood had wrought mischief against the children of men, that his wound-proof body availed him not, for the valiant kinsman of Hygelac had got him by the hand. Hateful to each was the life of the other. The evil beast endured sore pain of body. Upon his shoulder a gaping wound appeared; the sinews sprang asunder, the flesh was rent apart. The glory of the fight was given unto Beowulf.
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.
Beowulf awakes as the Grendel is about to destroy him; a fierce contest ensues between them, which is described at some length; and the issue of it is the flight and escape of Grendel without effecting his full purpose.
--- He turned next to Beowulf. But the hero seized his outstretched arm in such a firm grip that he bellowed with pain. And now began a terrible struggle between the man and the demon. The hall trembled to its foundation, and threatened every instant to fall in ruins. The sleepers awoke. They drew their swords and fell upon the monster; but their weapons glanced harmlessly off his scaly hide, and they were fain to take refuge in out-of-the-way corners, that they might not be trampled under foot by the wrestlers. At length Grendel had to acknowledge Beowulf's mastery, and now only strove to escape. With a mighty effort he succeeded in freeing himself from the hero's grasp, but at the price of one of his arms, which, torn out at the socket, remained in his antagonist's hands. Then, with a howl of rage and pain, the demon fled back to his morass, leaving a trail of blood to mark the path by which he had gone.
The hero had no intention of allowing the murderous visitor to escape with his life, for it was of no use to anyone. Many of Beowulf's followers brandished their ancestral swords to defend, if possible, the life of their beloved leader. When they joined the struggle, meaning to hack at Grendel from every quarter until they found a vulnerable spot, these stout-hearted fighting-men did not realize that no earthly blade or sword of the finest metal could touch the miscreant, who had laid a spell on every kind of edged weapon. His death was to be a miserable one, and his outcast spirit to pass far into the power of devils. It was now that Grendel, the enemy of God who had wontonly committed numberless attrocities against the human race, discovered that his bodily strength was of no use when the valiant kinsman of Hygelac had got hold of him by the claw. Neither would give the other quarter. The fiend suffered excruciating pain. An enormous wound became visible in his shoulder; his sinews snapped, and tendons burst.