Note that there is also an excellent 2,000-word story summary on pages 7-12 of John Grigsby'sBeowulf & Grendel: The Truth Behind England's Oldest Legend. Watkins Publishing, London, 2005, ISBN: 1-84293-153-9.
(Buy this book at:
Amazon.comChapters/IndigoWHSmith(UK) There are also Beowulf books available at www.chegg.com/search/beowulf/
It was long believed (and still reported by many translators and commentators) that the alliterative Old English poem Beowulf was originally composed by a single, very skilled individual in perhaps the early eighth century and delivered orally (from memory), then passed down through various oral and written forms, and then written down in the late tenth, or early eleventh century. A more contemporary (but still controversial) view, lead by Professor Kevin Kiernan, who has examined the physical manuscript extensively, is that it was composed at around the same time that it was written down, shortly after 1016, that it may have originally been written as at least two separate poems (which may have come from an earlier oral tradition -- although not necessarily as early as the eighth century), which were later joined by modifying the description of Beowulf's return to his homeland, and that one of the scribes who wrote it down continued to modify it for many years afterwards.
The story refers to events which would have happened in probably the early sixth century (there does not seem to be much controversy over the date of the story events, only the date of composition). In the early eleventh century it was written down on vellum (parchment made from specially treated sheepskin, or perhaps calfskin) by two scribes. That manuscript was damaged in a fire in Ashburnham House in Little Dean's Yard, Westminster on October 23, 1731 (details of the fire, and the aftermath, are in an excellent article by Andrew Prescott, in the file CD\help\ajp-pms.htm on CD number 1 of Kevin Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD, as well as online at Kevin Kiernan's website at http://www.uky.edu/~kiernan/eBeowulf/ajp-pms.htm) and two written copies of it were commissioned by Grimur Thorkelin in 1787. The history of the original manuscript (which is one section in a manuscript now called "Cotton Vitellius A.xv.") is described in detail at several of the websites listed on the "Other Beowulf Links" page as well as in Kiernan.
As the story of Beowulf opens the ferocious monster Grendel has spent twelve years killing and eating people in King Hrothgar's hall "Heorot" in Denmark. The exceptionally brave and strong Geat hero Beowulf and his men sail from what is now the southern part of Sweden to help Hrothgar, who had once helped Beowulf's father Ecgtheow. In a fierce one-on-one fight Beowulf uses his great hand-strength to tear Grendel's arm off and Grendel runs away to his mother's under-water cave to die. The next night Grendel's mother comes to Heorot seeking revenge and she takes one of Hrothgar's men back to her cave. The next day King Hrothgar askes Beowulf to go after her. He pursues her into her cave and there he fights her and kills her with her own sword. After he kills her he wanders through her cave and finds Grendel lying dead and he uses Grendel's mother's sword to cut off Grendel's head. He returns home to his own country and eventually becomes king there. Fifty years later a dragon, furious over the fact that one of Beowulf's people has stolen a chalice from the treasure which it had guarded for three hundred years, goes on a fire-breathing rampage through the countryside. Beowulf confronts the dragon and, with the help of his protégé Wiglaf, kills the dragon. The dragon bites Beowulf on the neck during the fight and Beowulf dies from poison from the bite.
The Danish king Hrothgar, descendant of the legendary Scyld, has built a magnificent hall Heorot, but the hall is invaded night after night by a marauding beast or demon named Grendel (sec. I-II). A young warrior of the tribe of the Geats named Beowulf hears of Hrothgar's troubles and comes to his rescue; after a series of challenges and boasts he faces the monster unarmed, and tears off his arm in a wild wrestling match (III-XII). Celebration is lively but short-lived; the next night the monster's mother attacks the hall in revenge for the death of her son, killing one of Hrothgar's most trusted retainers (XII-XIX). Undaunted, Beowulf follows her tracks to an underwater lair and after a difficult fight kills her with an extraordinary sword which he finds in her cave (XX-XXIII). He returns to the Danish hall to much praise, celebration, and gift-giving; soon he returns to his native land and recounts his adventures to his own king and uncle Hygelac (XXIV-XXXI).
Fifty years are passed over in a few verses, and Beowulf is now himself an aged king. His kingdom is attacked by a dragon who has been roused from his underground barrow when his horde of ancient treasure is plundered (XXXII-XXXIII). Beowulf, although old, ventures forth to fight the dragon, armed with a fireproof shield and accompanied by a troop of men. His companions flee in terror, but a young warrior named Wiglaf comes to the king's aid; together they kill the dragon, but in the fight Beowulf is mortally wounded (XXXIV-XXXVIII). He dies beside the heap of treasure he has won for his nation; amid gloomy predictions of the impending downfall of the Geats, he is buried with mourning and sad ceremony (XXXIX-XLIII).
The only national [Anglo-Saxon] epic which has been preserved entire is Beówulf. Its argument is briefly as follows: - The poem opens with a few verses in praise of the Danish Kings, especially Scild, the son of Sceaf. His death is related, and his descendants briefly traced down to Hroðgar, elated with his prosperity and success in war, builds a magnificent hall, which he calls Heorot. In this hall Hroðgar and his retainers live in joy and festivity, until a malignant fiend, called Grendel, jealous of their happiness, carries off by night thirty of Hroðgar’s men, and devours them in his moorland retreat. These ravages go on for twelve years. Beówulf, a thane of Hygelac, King of the Goths, hearing of Hroðgar’s calamities, sails from Sweden with fourteen warriors to help him. They reach the Danish coast in safety; and after an animated parley with Hroðgar’s coastguard, who at first takes them for pirates, they are allowed to proceed to the royal hall, where they are well received by Hroðgar. A banquet ensues, during which Beówulf is taunted by the envious Hunferhð about his swimming – match with Breca, King of the Brondings. Beowolf gives the true account of the contest, and silences Hunferhð. At nightfall the king departs, leaving Beówulf in charge of the hall. Grendel soon breaks in, seizes and devours one of Beówulf’s companions; is attacked by Beówulf, and, after losing an arm, which is torn off by Beówulf, escapes to the fens. The joy of Hunferhð and the Danes, and their festivities, are described, various episodes are introduced, and Beówulf and his companions receive splendid gifts. The next night Grendel’s mother revenges her son by carrying off Æschere, the friend and councilor of Hunferhð, during the absence of Beówulf. Hroðgar appeals to Beówulf for vengeance, and describes the haunts of Grendel and his mother. They all proceed thither; the scenery of the lake, and the monsters that dwell in it, are described. Beówulf plunges into the water, and attacks Grendel’s mothering her dwelling at the bottom of the lake. He at length overcomes her, and cuts off her head, together with that of Grendel, and brings the heads to Hunferhð. He then takes leave of Hunferhð, sails back to Sweden, and relates his adventures to Hygelac. Here the first half of the poem ends. The second begins with the accession of Beówulf to the throne, after the fall of Hygelac and his son Heardred. He rules prosperously for fifty years, till a dragon, brooding over a hidden treasure, begins to ravage the country, and destroys Beówulf’s palace with fire. Beówulf sets out in quest of its hiding place, with twelve men. Having a presentiment of his approaching end, he pauses and recalls to mind his past life and exploits. He then takes leave of his followers, one by one, and advances alone to attack the dragon. Unable, from the heat, to enter the cavern, he shouts aloud, and the dragon comes forth. The dragon’s scaly hide is proof against Beówulf’s sword, and he is reduced to great straits. Then Wiglaf, one of his followers, advances to help him. Wiglaf ‘s shield is consumed by the dragon’s fiery breath, and he is compelled to seek shelter under Beówulf’s shield of iron. Beówulf’s sword snaps asunder, and he is seized by the dragon. Wiglaf stabs the dragon from underneath, and Beówulf cuts it in two with his dagger. Feeling that his end is near, he bids Wiglaf bring out the treasures from the cavern, that he may see them before he dies. Wiglaf enters the dragon den, which is described, returns to Beówulf, and receives his last commands. Beówulf dies, and Wiglaf bitterly reproaches his companions for their cowardice. The disastrous consequences of Beówulf’s death are then foretold, and the poem ends with his funeral. - H. Sweet, in Warton’s History of English Poetry, Vol.II (ed. 1871). Cf. also Ten Brink’s History of English Literature.
Hrothgar, king of the Danes, or Scyldings, builds a great mead-hall, or palace, in which he hopes to feast his liegemen and to give them presents. The joy of king and retainers is, however, of short duration. Grendel, the monster, is seized with hateful jealousy. He cannot brook the sounds of joyance that reach him down in his fen-dwelling near the hall. Oft and anon he goes to the joyous building, bent on direful mischief. Thane after thane is ruthlessly carried off and devoured, while no one is found strong enough and bold enough to cope with the monster. For twelve hears he persecutes Hrothgar and his vassals.
Over sea, a day's voyage off, Beowulf, of the Geats, nephew of Higelac, king of the Geats, hears of Grendel's doings and of Hrothgar's misery. He resolves to crush the fell monster and relieve the aged king. With fourteen chosen companions, he sets sail for Dane-land. Reaching that country, he soon persuades Hrothgar of his ability to help him. The hours that elapse before night are spent in beer-drinking and conversation. When Hrothgar's bedtime comes he leaves the hall in charge of Beowulf, telling him that never before has he given to another the absolute wardship of his palace. All retire to rest, Beowulf, as it were, sleeping upon his arms.
Grendel comes, the great march-stepper, bearing God's anger. He seizes and kills one of the sleeping warriors. Then he advances towards Beowulf. A fierce and desperate hand-to-hand struggle ensures. No arms are used, both combatants trusting to strength and hand-grip. Beowulf tears Grendel's shoulder from its socket, and the monster retreats to his den, howling and yelling with agony and fury. The would is fatal.
The next morning, at early dawn, warriors in numbers flock to the hall Heorot, to hear the news. Joy is boundless. Glee runs high. Hrothgar and his retainers are lavish of gratitude and of gifts.
Grendel's mother, however, comes the next night to avenge his death. She is furious and raging. While Beowulf is sleeping in a room somewhat apart from the quarters of the other warriors, she seizes one of Hrothgar's favorite counsellors, and carries him off and devours him. Beowulf is called. Determined to leave Heorot entirely purified, he arms himself, and goes down to look for the female monster. After traveling through the waters many hours, he meets here near the sea-bottom. She drags him to her den. There he sees Grendel lying dead. After a desperate and almost fatal struggle with the woman, he slays her, and swims upward in triumph, taking with him Grendel's head.
Joy is renewed at Heorot. Congratulations crowd upon the victor. Hrothgar literally pours treasures into the lap of Beowulf; and it is agreed among the vassals of the king that Beowulf will be their next liegelord.
Beowulf leaves Dane-land. Hrothgar weeps and laments at his departure.
When the hero arrives in his own land, Higelac treats him as a distinguished guest. He is the hero of the hour.
Beowulf subsequently becomes king of his own people, the Geats. After he has been ruling for fifty years, his own neighborhood is wofully harried by a fire-spewing dragon. Beowulf determines to kill him. In the ensuring struggle both Beowulf and the dragon are slain. The grief of the Geats is inexpressible. The determine, however, to leave nothing undone to honor the memory of their lord. A great funeral-pyre is built, and his body is burnt. Then a memorial-barrow is made, visible from a great distance, that sailors afar may be constantly reminded of the prowess of the national hero of Geatland.
The poem closes with a glowing tribute to his bravery, his gentleness, his goodness of heart, and his generosity.
Part I. Beówulf the Young Hero
(His exploits in Denmark)
I. The Fight With Grendel
1-188.Introductory. The building of Heorot by Hroðgar; the ravages of Grendel. The poem opens with the story of Scyld, the mythical founder of the Scylding dynasty, whose glorious reign and magnificent sea-burial are vividly set forth. -- (53-85.) His line of descendants is carried down to King Hroðgar, who builds the great hall Heorot for feasting and dispensing of gifts. -- (86-188) Before long a fiendish monster, Grendel, angered by the daily sounds of rejoicing, comes to destroy the happiness of the Danes. One night he surprises them in their hall and kills thirty of the sleeping men. He repeats his murderous attack on the following night. For twelve years he continues his ravages. No one may with safety sleep in the hall. Hroðgar, the good king, is bowed down by grief, his councilors can devise no help, his warriors are unable to check the visits of the demon.
189-661.Beówulf’s voyage, reception in Denmark, and entertainment in the royal hall. When Beówulf, the nephew of Hygelác, king of the Geats, hears of the doings of Grendel, he resolves to come to the assistance of Hroðgar. An eminently fit man he is for that enterprise, since he has the strength of thirty men in his hand-grip. With fourteen chosen warriors he sails to the land of the Danes. On their arrival they are challenged by the coast-guard; but when the leader makes known their peaceful purpose, they are readily shown the way to Heorot. Beówulf announces his name to the King’s herald, Wulfgár, who in turn tells his lord. Hroðgar bids that they be welcomed; Wulfgár bears the message. The Geats enter the royal hall. Beówulf greets Hroðgar and offers to cleanse Heorot. The king replies graciously and invites the Geats to the feast. -- (499-661.) Incidents at the banquet. A dispute started by the Danish courtier, Unferð, gives Beówulf an opportunity to narrate the true story of his daring swimming adventure with Breca and to predict his victory in the coming contest. In response to the courteous greeting of the queen Wealhþéow he avows his determination to conquer or to die.
662-709.The watch for Grendel. At nightfall the Danes retire; Beówulf with his men remains in charge of the hall. All the Geats fall asleep except for Beówulf. He watches for the demon. -- 710-836.The fight. Grendel sets out from the moor, approaches the hall, swings the door open, and quickly devours one of the Geats, Hondscióh, but on seizing Beówulf finds himself in the power of the hero’s mighty grip. Long and bitter is the wrestling between the two; the hall rings with the sound of their fighting and seems on the point of tumbling down. Grendel gives forth a terrible howl of pain. Beówulf by sheer strength tears off Grendel’s arm. The demon escapes to his joyless abode, mortally wounded.
837-924.Rejoicing of the retainers. In the morning many of the warriors follow the tracks of the Grendel and ride to see the blood-stained pool into which he had plunged. As they return, a court singer recites lays about Sigemund and Heremóde. 925-990.The king’s blessing. Hroðgar, who has proceeded to the hall, views the arm and the claw of Grendel (hung up as a trophy) and utters a speech in praise of the hero’s deed, to which Beówulf makes appropriate reply. -- 991-1250.Royal entertainment. A feast is prepared in the hall. Rich presents are bestowed upon Beówulf and his band; the scop relates the Finnsburg tale; Wealhþéow taking part in the entertainment; presents Beówulf with costly gifts and bespeaks his kindness for her sons. After the banquet Hroðgar as well as the Geats leave the hall, which is once more placed in the guard of the Danish warriors.
2. The fight with Grendel’s mother
1251-1320. Attack by Grendel’s mother. That night Grendel’s mother makes her way into the hall to avenge her son; she carries off Æschere a favorite thane of Hroðgar, and taking Grendel’s arm with her, escapes to the fenland. In the morning Beówulf is sent for by the king.
1321-1398. Conversation between Hroðgar and Beowulf. Hroðgar bewails the loss of Æschere, describes graphically the weird haunt of the demons, and appeals to the Geat for help. Beówulf, like a true hero, is ready to meet the monster at once.
1399-1491.The expedition to Grendel’s mere. With a troop of Danes and Geats the king and the hero proceed to the lake. Beówulf arms himself and addresses a few parting words to Hroðgar. 1492-1590.The fight. He plunges into the water, at length reaches the bottom, and is carried by the troll-wife into her cavern. There they have a desperate struggle. The creature has him all but in her power, when he finds a curious giant-sword, with which he puts her to death. With it he also cuts off the head of the dead Grendel. -- 1591-1650.The sequel of the fight and the triumphed return to Heorot. In the meanwhile many of those on the shore having surmised Beówulf’s death from the discoloring of the water, the Danes depart to their hall. Beówulf’s faithful followers wait for him, until swimming upwards he comes to the surface, carrying with him Grendel’s head and the golden hilt of the wondrous sword, whose blade has melted in the poisonous blood. They march with their trophies back to Heorot.
1651-1784.Speeches by Beówulf and Hroðgar. Beówulf recounts his thrilling experience and assures the king of the completeness of the delivery. Hroðgar replies by a lengthy moralizing discourse. 1785-1887The parting. After the feast Beówulf enjoys a much needed rest. In the morning Friendly farewell speeches are exchanged, whereupon the Geats start for the shore.
3. Beówulf’s Home Coming and Report to Hygelác
1888-1962.Homeward Voyage. The fourteen warriors embark and in due time reach the land of the Geats. The mention of queen Hygd leads the poet to intersperse the legend of the haughty and cruel Pryð.
1963-2151.Beówulf’s narrative. Arrived at Hygelác’s court, Beówulf relates his adventures and weaves in the account of events which are bound to happen in connection with the engagement of Fréawaru to Ingeld.
2152-2199. Beówulf and Hygelac. The presents he has brought from Denmark he shares with Hygelac and Hygd and receives liberal gifts in return. He makes his home in Geatland, greatly honored and beloved by the king his uncle.
Part II Beówulf’s Death
(The Fight with the Dragon)
2200-2323.The robbing of the hoard and the ravages of the dragon. After the death of Hygelác of his son Heardréd, Beówulf has ruled over the Geats for fifty years. Then it happens that the rich hoard (the early history of which is narrated in part) of a dragon is robbed by a fugitive slave, and the enraged monster in revenge lays waste the country by his fire.
2324-2537.Preparation for the fight. The veteran warrior-king, still young in spirit, resolves to meet the enemy single-handed. He has a strong iron shield made for this purpose and, accompanied by eleven men, sets out for the cave of the dragon. -- (2417-2537) Filled with forebodings of his end, he in a long speech reviews the days of his youth, especially the events at the Geat court and the feud with the Swedes and bids farewell to his comrades.
2538-2711. The fight. He calls the dragon out of the barrow and attacks him stoutly with his sword, but finds himself overwhelmed by deadly flames. His terrified companions flee to the wood, all save Wígláf, who, mindful of the obligations of his loyalty and gratitude, hastens to the assistance of his kinsman. Together they contend against the dreadful foe. Wígláf deals him a decisive blow in the lower parts, and Beówulf cuts him in two. But the king himself has received a fatal wound. -- 2711-2820.Béowulf's death. Wígláf tends his dying lord, and at his biddings brings part of the precious hoard out of the cave. Béowulf gives thanks for having won the treasure for his people; he orders that a mound be built for him on the headland, and, after bequeathing his battle-gear to his faithful kinsman, he passes away.
2821-3030 The spread of the tidings. Wígláf, full of sorrow and anger, rebukes the cowardly companions and sends a messenger to announce the king’s death. The envoy foretells the disaster that will follow this catastrophe, recalling at length past wars with Franks and Swedes. -- 3030-3136.Preliminaries of the closing scene. The Geat warriors repair to the scene of the fight -- the ancient curse laid on the gold having been grievously fulfilled -- and at Wígláf’s command carry out the remaining treasure, push the dragon into the sea, and bear the king’s body to the headland.
3137-3182. The funeral of Beówulf. A funeral pyre is built. The hero is placed upon it and given to the flames amid the lamentations of his people. Then they erect over the remains a royal mound in which they hide the dearly bought dragon’s hoard. Twelve noble warriors ride round the barrow, lamenting their lord and praising his deeds and kingly virtues.
Benjamin Thorpe's original translation was published in 1865. The Barron's Educational Series 1962 reprint (which does not include Thorpe's original 13-page Preface, or his 8-page Introduction) included this outline written by Vincent F. Hopper (pages viii-xvii).
I have inserted the beginning and ending line numbers for each section using my Howell D. Chickering Jr. translation. The Thorpe version gives a line number to each half-line whereas the Chickering version gives a line number to each pair of half-lines so that the Thorpe version has twice as many lines counted. The other versions seem to use the Chickering method though so I have used that one here.
There seems to be a difference between the Thorpe and Chickering versions as to whether it is part of section XXVIIII which is missing from the original manuscript or whether it is parts of section XXX which is missing. Kevin Kiernan, in his book on pages 265-270, discusses the fitt numbers in the manuscript. He believes that the section number for fitt XXIIII was left out by the first scribe, perhaps by mistake, and that XXV was put there instead. Then the numbering of the fitts continued from there. He also says that the section number XXX was left out because the second scribe was trying to fit a lot of text onto the page, and had no room to write it. He goes on to say that someone, working long after the creation of the manuscript (but before the Thorkelin transcripts) sloppily changed the XXV to XXIIII (which is easily seen in images of the manuscript), and then changed XXVI to XXV, XXVII to XXVI, XXVIII to XXVII, and XXVIIII to XXVIII. He apparently did not want to go through the rest of the manuscript doing this, and so he stopped where the original XXX was missing. This, Kevin Kiernan says, accounts for there being no XXVIIII or XXX numbers in the manuscript. It is notable, though, that Professor Kiernan also speculates that the poem might have been revised after the original section XXVIIII was written, which resulted in the page with XXVIIII on it being removed from the manuscript. In any case, there seems to be a lot of paleographical (analysis of old handwriting) and codicological (old manuscript construction techniques) information to go through before you can say anything for sure about the numbering of the sections from XXVIIII to XXXI.
Here are images from the middle of folio 166r (from the Electronic Beowulf CD, by Kevin Kiernan). They show the overwriting of XXV with XVIIII, in what, Professor Kiernan assures us, is a much later hand.
Here are images from the middle of folio 171r (from the Electronic Beowulf CD, by Kevin Kiernan). They show the erasing of the final I in XXVIII to make it into XXVII (there is a large black and white image called u171r15.jpg on the Electronic Beowulf CD which makes this erasure even more evident).
Here is an image of the bottom of folio 174v (from the Electronic Beowulf CD, by Kevin Kiernan). The section number XXX is left out, due to lack of space (Professor Kiernan explains in detail in his book why the second scribe was short of space when he wrote his text), but the beginning of section XXXI (which is in the last 3 lines seen here) is clearly indicated by the uppercase "O" at the left edge of the page (the "O" is two and a half lines high).
In the original manuscript the Roman numeral 4 is written asIIIIand the 9 is written asVIIIIrather than usingIVandIXas is the current convention.
[lines 1-52 are before section I and are sometimes referred to as the Preface or Prologue].
CONCERNING SCYLD THE SHEAF-CHILD. The poem opens with a prefatory section which gives the ancestry of the Danish king Hrothgar whose mead-hall is the scene of the first adventure of the poem. The founder of the line is Scyld Scefing, or Scyld Sheaf-Child, so named because of the tradition that as a child he had drifted, lying on a sheaf of wheat, in a boat filled with arms until the boat landed on the island of Skaney. From this frail child there developed a mighty king who ruled valiantly and well, respected by his own people and feared by his tribute-giving neighbors. After many years a son was born to him named Beowulf (probably the scribe's confused rendering of Beow or Beowa of the Anglo-Saxon genealogies and not the Beowulf of this poem). After mentioning the fame of this child, the preface concludes with an account of the death and elaborate funeral of Scyld, describing how he was laid in a ship loaded with parting gifts of arms and treasures and the ship set adrift on the waters which had borne him to the country's shores as a child.
I [lines 53-114].
The genealogy continues with a reiteration of the fame of Scefing's son Beowulf, his son Healfdene, and Helfdene's four sons Heorogar, Hrothgar, Halga, and Ela. Heorogar, as is implied later, ruled for a time but then turned over the government to his brother Hrothgar who build the great hall Heorot, a symbol of his fame and glory. But tragedy lurked in the darkness where the demon Grendel, one of the evil descendants of Cain, listened to the gleeman chanting lays of the glory of God.
II [lines 115-188].
Filled with rage, Grendel comes at night to Heorot, kills the thirty thanes sleeping there, and returns home with their slaughtered corpses. Daybreak brings woe to the ruler and his people upon their discovery of the monster's vengeance. The next night Grendel returns, the hall soon stands deserted (at night), and for twelve years, refusing to parley or to make peace, the demon prowls over the fen, raiding and destroying. The tale is soon noised abroad by the gleemen.
III [lines 189-257].
News of the calamity reaches the Jute Beowulf, a nephew of Hygelac, king of the opposite territory of West Gothland. Strongest and boldest of men, Beowulf chooses a band of fifteen heroic followers and with them sails to Hrothgar's realm where he is challenged by the Scylding coast-guard who is stationed on a cliff to keep watch.
IIII [lines 258-319].
Beowulf identifies himself as the son of Ecgtheow and describes his followers as Goths and hearth-companions of Hygelac. His mission, he says, is to assist Hrothgar, lord of the Danes, in overcoming his demon-foe. The coast-guard welcomes them, promises to guard their ship, and speeds them on their way to King Hrothgar.
V [lines 320-370].
Up the stone-paved street march Beowulf and his men. Arriving at the hall they are greeted with admiration by a noble Dane Wulfgar who asks them who they are. Beowulf again identifies himself, Wulfgar goes to Hrothgar, and, in courtly fashion, asks a hearing for the strangers.
VI [lines 371-455].
Hrothgar recalls that he had known Beowulf as a child and that he has heard of Beowulf's matchless strength. He bids Wulfgar to welcome the strangers and bid them approach. Beowulf introduces himself to King Hrothgar, explains his mission, and, as evidence of his capability, mentions his night of wrestling with the sea-monsters. If he loses his battle with Grendel, he remarks, there will be no need to bury his body or to feed him longer.
VII [lines 456-498].
Hrothgar continues to reminisce about Beowulf's father and his great feat, while apparently a warrior with the Wylfings, of killing Heatholaf. This account is followed by an obscure passage concerning his own settling of a quarrel with the Wylfings. He then turns abruptly to a description of the ravages wrought by Grendel and then, with equal abruptness, invites Beowulf to speak his own mind and welcomes Beowulf and his company as guests. The ale flows and the minstrel sings.
VIII [lines 499-558].
Hunferth [referred to in other translations as "Unferth"], jealous of Beowulf's glory, asks Beowulf if he is the one who was defeated by Breca, prince of the Brondings, in a swimming contest and dares him to spend a night in the vicinity of Heorot. Beowulf angrily replies with his own version of that youthful exploit, telling how, with naked swords to defend themselves from the sea-monsters, they swam together for five nights in the icy waters, then became parted, and Beowulf was attacked by a monster who dragged him to the bottom of the sea where Beowulf dispatched him with his sword.
VIIII [lines 559-662].
Continuing the story Beowulf describes successive slaughters until he killed nine of the monsters whose bodies were washed to the shore. He himself, fatigued by battle, was borne by the tide to the land of the Finns. Breca, he boasts, never achieved the equal of this feat. He rails an Hunferth as a murderer of his own brothers and as helpless before the fury of Grendel. He concludes by boasting that he will rid Heorot of the monster. Amidst the ensuing revelry Wealtheow, Hrothgar's queen, passes the cup first to her lord and then to all the people. Giving the cup to Beowulf she thanks God for his arrival. Beowulf's reply that he will conquer or dies pleases the queen. The celebration continues until Beowulf begs leave to retire. They all leave Beowulf alone in the hall after a parting speech by Hrothgar expressing his confidence in the hero.
X [lines 663-709].
Beowulf removes his armor and gives his sword to his thane, boasting that he will meet the unarmed monster on its own terms. He then lies down to sleep with his companions around him, none of whom expected to see home again. From afar in the night Grendel approaches.
XI [lines 710-790].
Grendel smashes open the door, bites and swallows one of the thanes, and springs at Beowulf who seizes the monster's arm. Grendel, never having felt such a grip, attempts to flee to the fen. The mead-hall barely withstands the vibration caused by his struggle to escape. The Danes are smitten with terror at Grendel's wail of defeat.
XII [lines 791-836].
Beowulf's companions draw their weapons and hack at the monster with their blades without effect. Finally, the monster's arm is wrenched from its socket. Bleeding to death Grendel escapes over the moor to his lair. Beowulf fastens the arm high up near the roof of the hall.
XIII [lines 837-924].
The next morning warriors gather from far and near to applaud the victory and to trace the monster's footprints across the moor to a blood-stained pool. The valor of Beowulf is praised by all. One of the thanes introduces a tale from the Nibelungen legend, recounting how Sigmund the Volsung with his son and nephew slew wild beasts in the forests and how, thereafter, when the nephew Fitela was not with him, Sigmund destroyed a great dragon with his sword and gained a great treasure. When this story is concluded all return to Heorot to view the wonder, the king and his queen with her maidens joining them there.
XIIII [lines 925-990].
Hrothgar praises Beowulf's achievement and gives glory to God. He promises to cherish Beowulf hereafter as his own child. Beowulf responds by acknowledging his chagrin that the dead body of Grendel is not in the hall, says that he had intended to hold his arm until his other hand could strangle him, regrets that he broke away, but expresses his agreement that the monster could not escape his doom by ripping loose his arm. Hunferth is silent as all declare that no weapon could perform what Beowulf has done with his bare hands.
XV [lines 991-1049].
The hall is cleansed, repaired, and refurnished with new golden tapestries. A great feast is held, and Hrothgar bestows a banner, breast-plate, and helmet upon Beowulf. After Beowulf drinks the king's health, eight stallions are brought into the hall, each bearing a jewelled saddle, to be added to Beowulf's trophies.
XVI [lines 1050-1124].
Hrothgar gives gifts to all of Beowulf's mean and offers to pay gold for the man whom Grendel had killed. The gleeman sings of a feud between the Frisians and the Danes (mentioned also in "The Fight at Finnesburg") in the course of which the Danish Hnaef (mentioned in "Widsith") is killed. Finn, the Frisian king, loses the battle to the Danish Hengest and concludes a truce. A funeral pyre for Hnaef is prepared on which Hildeburh, Danish wife of Finn, places her own sons with great lamentation.
XVII [lines 1125-1192].
The Danish warriors return to their homes while Hengest remains all winter with Finn. When spring returns, aided by some of his men (who had either remained with him or had returned - the whole passage is very obscure) Hengest breaks the truce, kills Finn, and carries Hildeburh and much treasure back to the Danes. The gleeman concludes his song, the celebration continues, and Wealtheow takes the cup to Beowulf sitting between her sons Hrethric and Hrothmund.
XVIII [lines 1193-1250].
She presents Beowulf with gifts of corslet, rings, and a magnificent collar, subsequently given to Hygelac the Goth who wore it on his raid against the Frisians in which he was slain. She asks him to instruct her sons and wishes him joy, prosperity, and long life. At nightfall Hrothgar retires to his chambers while his thanes sleep in the hall, their armor by their sides, as they did before the ravages of Grendel.
XVIIII [lines 1251-1320].
While they are sleeping, Grendel's mother, seeking to avenge the death of her son, enters the hall. The warriors are roused and she departs, taking an old friend and counsellor of Hrothgar, named Aeschere, as well as the talon of her son with her. At dawn Beowulf, who had slept elsewhere, is summoned to attend Hrothgar.
XX [lines 1321-1382].
Hrothgar laments the death of Aeschere and recalls the tale, oft told, of the two monsters, male and female, whose home was a haunted pool in a wild and lonely fen. He promises Beowulf great rewards if he will succeed in finding the monster's abode and destroying Grendel's mother.
XXI [lines 1383-1472].
Beowulf nobly accepts the challenge. Hrothgar mounts a horse and, accompanied by Beowulf and a band of men, rides over the moor to a bloody pool where they see Aeschere's severed head. Sea-monsters swim in the pool; one of them is killed and dragged ashore. Beowulf dons his armor and grasps the sword Hrunting, loaned to him by Hunferth.
XXII [lines 1473-1556].
He makes a parting speech, asking that if he dies the treasures given him be bestowed upon Hygelac and the sword returned to Hunferth. Thereupon he plunges into the water. Nearly a day is required to reach the bottom where Grendel's mother seizes him and drags him to her lair. There, lit by the glow of firelight, he is able to see the monster. With a mighty blow he strikes her head, only to find the sword Hrunting powerless to wound her. Casting the sword aside he grips her shoulder with his hand, but by superior strength she throws him down, kneels upon him, and tries to thrust her dagger into his breast. Saved by his corslet, Beowulf springs to his feet.
XXIII [lines 1557-1650].
He espies a giant sword near by, seizes it, and thrusts it into the monster's throat, killing her. Hrothgar and his men waiting above see the pool stained with blood, conclude that Beowulf is slain, and return home, sick at heart. Beowulf's men remain, gazing hopelessly at the pool. Meanwhile, the blade of the giant sword is dissolved by the venomous blood of the monster. Beowulf, clutching the sword-hilt and the monster's severed head [here this summary of the story seems to mix up the fact that Beowulf has killed Grendel's mother with the fact that he cut off the dead Grendel's head -- the fact that it is Grendel's head is clear at line 1639 -- , that it is Grendel's blood which melt the sword and that it is Grendel's head that he brings to the surface of the pool -- the schoolbytes.com outline makes the same mistake in saying that it was Grendel's mother's head he carried to the surface --], rises to the top of the pool where he is joyously greeted by his companions. All return to Heorot where Beowulf lays the head down in front of the king and queen.
XXIIII [lines 1651-1739].
Beowulf relates his adventure to Hrothgar and presents him with the hilt of the sword, promising the king that all may now sleep safely in Heorot. The hilt is described as a giant's work, recording in runic letters the origin of the ancient war of the giants before the flood. Hrothgar praises Beowulf and preaches to him a sermon on the evil of pride.
XXV [lines 1740-1816].
The sermon against arrogance continues, with Hrothgar pointing out the transitory nature of earthly things. He concludes by inviting Beowulf to sit at the feast, promising him more treasures in the morning. Beowulf joins the feast until, as the night deepens, all retire to rest. Eager to return home Beowulf and his men rise early in the morning. Beowulf returns Hrunting to Hunferth without a word of deprecation of the sword and approaches Hrothgar to bid him farewell.
XXVI [lines 1817-1887].
Beowulf praises Hrothgar's hospitality and promises his own and Hygelac's assistance in case of any future need. Hrothgar praises Beowulf's valor and wisdom and prophesies Beowulf's future rise to kingship. Beowulf, he says, has brought peace between their peoples. After more treasures are bestowed upon the here, he and his thanes depart for their boat.
XXVII [lines 1888-1962].
They board the ship, sail home, and carry the treasures to Hygelac's hall. Here is inserted a short account of Hygd, the daughter of Haereth and queen of Hygelac, who after her husband's death became the wife of Offa.
XXVIII [lines 1963-????].
Beowulf is greeted by Hygelac and Hygd. Hygelac asks about his adventures, confessing to grave forebodings when Beowulf had departed. With great brevity Beowulf touches upon his achievements and then tells how Wealtheow distributed gifts to the warriors while her daughter Freaware, betrothed to the son of Froda, passed the mead-cup.
The Thorpe version says here that "This entire canto is missing, along with the last part of Canto XXVIII and the beginning of XXX." The Chickering version and the Penguin Classics version edited by Michael Alexander both have section XXVIIII starting at line 2039 and section XXXI starting at line 2144 and neither version mentions section XXX or explains why it is missing from their respective translations. Mitchell and Robinson suggest that the numbering should be: section XXVIIII starts with line 1999, section XXX starts with line 2039 and section XXXI starts with line 2144.
One of my books suggests that the section numbering may have become mixed up because the first scribe forgot to assign a number to the Preface and didn't realize his mistake until he had passed section XX, but since he had to eventually match up with the sections which were already written by the second scribe he skipped one of the section numbers.
Another reference also touched on the apparent fact that one of the pages near the end of what had been written by the first scribe had to hold so many words in order to fit on one page that there was no room to write one of the section numbers.
There are several issues related to the fact that what we now refer to as the "original" manuscript of Beowulf (contained within a manuscript we now refer to as "Cotton Vitellius A. xv.") was written down by two scribes who worked at the same time, the first scribe writing the first part of the story and the second scribe writing the second part. The two parts had to match up in pagination and section numbering, the two scribes used different styles of handwriting and we can see in the manuscript cases in which the second scribe has gone over and corrected parts of what was written by the first scribe. In any case, this mixup with the section numbering around sections XXVIIII, XXX and XXXI is one of the things which apparently resulted from two people writing two parts of the story at the same time.
XXX [lines ????-2143].
After a reference to a feud with the Heathobards which will be ended by the marriage of Froda and Freaware, he resumes in more detail the story of his fight with Grendel, the death of Aeschere, and his conquest of Grendel's mother.
XXXI [lines 2144-2220].
He continues to describe the gifts given him by Hrothgar, some of which he gives to Hygelac and Hygd and accepts in return from Hygelac a precious sword that belonged to Hrethel. The story turns suddenly to the succeeding years, mentioning the death of Hygelac and Heardred and the accession of Beowulf to the throne. After fifty years of wise government Beowulf is forced to confront a new danger in the shape of a fire dragon whose concealed treasure has been pilfered.
XXXII [lines 2221-2311].
The thief had stolen from dire necessity. The treasure had been hidden there by some nobleman of bygone days. For three hundred years the dragon guarded the hoard until the robber, in trouble with his lord, stole a cup to take to his master to appease him. The dragon discovered the theft and ravaged the dwellings round about with fire.
XXXIII [lines 2312-2390].
The dragon vomits embers which consume everything in their path including Beowulf's own mansion. Beowulf orders the fashioning of an iron shield, the aging hero of Heorot not fearing to join combat with another monster. Allusion is made to other feats of Beowulf: how when Hygelac was killed in Friesland, Beowulf, bearing thirty sets of armor on his back, escaped by swimming. When he was offered the kingdom of Hygd, who had no confidence in the powers of her son Heardred, he refused the honor and acted as advisor to Heardred until be came of age. When the prince was slain in battle by rovers who had overcome the king of the Scylfings, Beowulf ascended the throne.
XXXIIII [lines 2391-2459].
Further allusion is made to Beowulf's friendship with Eadgils whom he aided. Returning to the immediate problem, the story resumes with an account of Beowulf's going forth with twelve companions to view the dragon, guided by the unfortunate thief who had started the trouble. They sit some distance away from the hoard while Beowulf calls to mind the sad story of the accidental death of Herebeald, the oldest of Hrethel's sons, by an arrow shot from the bow of his brother Haetheyn.
XXXV [lines 2460-2601].
Beowulf then turns to a song of the war between the Swedes and the Goths after the death of Hrethel. In this war Haetheyn was killed; Ongentheow was also slain at the hand of Eofer. Beowulf then refers to his battle with Daeghrefn whom he killed. After a brief farewell, he prepares to fight the dragon. Bearing sword and shield he approaches the fiery blasts of the monster. He strikes with his sword but to no avail, nor does his shield offer him as much protection as he had hoped.
XXXVI [lines 2602-2693].
A young kinsman, Wiglaf, comes to his aid with armor given him by Onela, heirlooms of Eanmund whom Wiglaf's father Weohstan had killed in battle. Wiglaf calls up the others to give assistance and dashes recklessly into the flames. Reinvigorated, Beowulf swings his great sword Nægling at the dragon's head. The sword breaks and the dragon fastens its fangs in Beowulf's neck.
XXXVII [lines 2694-2751].
As Beowulf bleeds, Wiglaf strikes lower at the dragon. The fire lessens and Beowulf draws his knife and cuts the dragon in the middle: the two blows kill the dragon. Beowulf is aware that his death is near, caused by the venom. He sits down while Wiglaf loosens his helmet and brings water to refresh him. Beowulf makes a parting speech and asks Wiglaf to let him see the hoarded treasure so that he may die more tranquilly.
XXXVIII [lines 2752-2820].
Wiglaf views the jewels, gold, bowls, helmets, rings, and a golden banner. He returns with some of the spoil to find Beowulf on the point of death. After bathing him with water he listens as Beowulf gives praise to God and directs the building of a funeral barrow on Hrones-naes. Giving Wiglaf his helmet, ring, and byrnie, Beowulf expires.
XXXVIIII [lines 2821-2891].
The men who had retreated to the forest now reappear and are bitterly reproached by Wiglaf.
XL [lines 2892-2945].
Wiglaf bids a messenger spread the news of Beowulf's death. The messenger predicts that the news will bring war with the Frisians and Franks, reminding them of a previous war with the Swedes and the killing of Haetheyn.
XLI [lines 2946-3057].
He continues with a description of Ongentheow's last battle with Hygelac and bids his hearers to prepare a funeral pyre. They all go to view with amazement the dead king and the slain dragon.
XLII [lines 3058-3136].
A homily on the evils of hoarding and the uncertainty of life is followed by Wiglaf's eulogy of Beowulf and directions to bring wood. Choosing seven of the best of the king's thanes, he returns to the dragon's lair where they load a wagon with treasure.
XLIII [lines 3137-3182].
A mighty pyre is prepared, hung with armor as Beowulf had commanded. The immense pyre is kindled amidst universal lament. A mound is raised on a cliff to be seen by sailors. Inside the mound is buried the treasure as twelve warriors ride around it singing praises of Beowulf and bemoaning his death.
Nobody knows who wrote this book. There’s a lot of debate over it, but nobody has a clue. Ok, to answer your first question...Beowulf is NOT a wolf. He’s a human. This is not a book. It is a really long and boring poem that nobody understands except for old English people. There’s a lot of make believe crap in this story like dragons and stuff. When they talk about Danish people they mean people from Denmark. So, here’s the explanation you can understand. You’re welcome.
He is the main character. He is the Prince of Geats. Beowulf is a big hero type guy. He’s a brave warrior who kicks a lot of ass. He’s strong and basically wins a lot of fights, but he fights for good reasons.
Hrothgar is this really old king. He’s a nice guy, who is very smart. He’s a lover, not a fighter. He is old when Beowulf is young. He acts like Beowulf’s daddy. He is a very popular king.
Wiglaf is this young Swedish warrior. He is young when Beowulf is old. He helps out Beowulf fight a dragon when Beowulf is an old man. He is Beowulf’s assistant and acts like his son too.
He is this warrior who is really jealous of Beowulf. He tries to talk shit about him all the time but they kiss and make up in the end.
Grendel is a monster that lives in a lake and has superhuman strength. He is shaped somewhat like a human, and he only comes out at night. Grendel hates humans and all he does is go around killing people in Denmark. Beowulf kills him in the end.
The book starts out telling you about the history of the Danish Kings (Kings from Denmark). There’s this king named Shild in the beginning. Then they talk about kings, and they end up with King Hrothgar. Hrothgar is Shild’s great grandson.
Hrothgar and his army kick a lot of ass in war. One day Hrothgar builds a hall named "Herot" for his army to stay in. After they finish it, the guys in the army party like it’s 1999. Then Grendel the big monster hears all these guys partying. So one night he goes to the Herot Hall and kills 30 guys. Then for 12 years the king is scared of Grendel the monster. He has no idea how to beat the thing and no one parties anymore in Herot Hall.
Then Beowulf hears about the monster. He gets 14 of his buddies (from Geats) to come with him to kick the monster’s ass. Beowulf goes to Hrothgar’s house (castle) and is pretty cocky about how easily he can kill the big monster. One of Hrothgar’s soldiers, Unferth, says that Beowulf is full of shit about what a good fighter he is. Then Beowulf gets mad and accuses Unferth of killing his brothers. Then Hrothgar tells Beowulf that he will give him some money of he kills the monster (Grendel).
Grendel shows up that night. Then Beowulf starts fighting with the monster with his bare hands. He rips Grendel’s arm off. Grendel runs away but dies later. Everyone is happy and they do some ceremony to honor Beowulf. Then King Hrothgar gives him some loot.
Meanwhile Grendel’s mommy is pissed and wants revenge. She comes to Herot one night and kidnaps one of the king’s advisors. Beowulf is pissed and goes to the swamp (her home) to kill her. He brings his army buddies. He sees the advisor’s head floating in the swamp. Then Beowulf asks King Hrothgar to send the reward money to his Uncle, in case he (Beowulf) gets killed. Then Beowulf goes to Grendel’s mom’s house and they fight. He finds some magic sword on the wall and kills her with it. Then he sees Grendel (who was killed awhile ago). He cuts off Grendel’s head and brings it back to the king.
Back at Hrothgar’s castle, everyone is happy and they have another feast. Hrothgar warns Beowulf about becoming too cocky, and then gives him some more $$. Then Beowulf goes home to Geats with his buddies and says goodbye to all the people in Denmark. Back at home Beowulf meets with HIS king, King Higlac (King of Geats). He tells the king about the monsters, and also that King Hrothgar has another enemy, the Hathobards. Beowulf talks about their peace treaty. In this peace treaty, King Hrothgar has to give his daughter to the King of the Hathobards. Beowulf thinks that this peace thing won’t last long.
Then the SECOND part of the poem starts. The second part starts in the future. Beowulf is now King of the Geats. When the second part starts he’s been king for 50 years. Then one night some dude steals a precious cup from a dragon. The dragon gets pissed at goes around burning houses. Then he burns Beowulf’s castle. Beowulf goes to the dragon’s cave to kick his ass. But remember Beowulf is old now, so he is a weakling. He fights the dragon, then the dragon shoots fire and burns Beowulf. Then Wiglaf (Beowulf’s assistant) comes and saves Beowulf. He stabs the dragon, then Beowulf cuts the dragon in half.
Beowulf is hurt really bad from the burning. On his deathbed, he asks Wiglaf to bring all the dragon’s treasure, so Beowulf can feel better about himself. Then he asks Wiglaf to build some tower in his honor, where his tomb will be. Then Wiglaf yells at the army because they were wimps and ran away when they saw the dragon. Wiglaf then tells everyone that Beowulf is dead. People are scared that they will get attacked now that the king is dead as a doorknob. Then Wiglaf builds the tower and buries Beowulf with the dragon’s loot.
The first verse just talks about the history of Danish Kings.
All these kings are in the family. A king’s son becomes the next king.
The poem talks about how Hrothgar is a kick ass king. He’s a good man.
He wants to build some monument so his legacy will live on. He builds the "Herot" hall for his army.
Hrothgar throws a big party for his army. A poet is the entertainment (wow…what a wild party).
Then Grendel the monster wakes up because of the loud party. He is pissed. He hates humans partying.
Grendel walks into the Herot hall. All the soldiers are passed out because they’re drunk. Then Grendel kills 30 guys.
Hrothgar wakes up in the morning and is sad because some of his men are dead. Then Grendel returns to kill more.
All the soldiers run away because they’re scared.
12 years go by. Nobody goes back to the Herot hall because everyone is scared that the big bad monster will come back.
Hrothgar tries to give the monster gifts to kiss his ass. Grendel doesn’t accept them.
Hrothgar and his men do some weird pagan rituals to try and get rid of Grendel.
Everyone in Denmark hears about this evil monster.
Beowulf, prince of the Geats, gets 14 of his friends to go kick the monster’s ass.
The Geats gang gets to Denmark and meets some Danish soldier. The Danish soldier thinks they are enemies but finds out they are there to help in killing the monster.
Beowulf talks to the soldier and tells him that he and his gang are there to kick a little monster ass.
Beowulf is a cocky son of a bitch.
Beowulf’s gang go to Hrothgar’s castle. Another Danish soldier (Wulfgar) stops them. He asks them who they are and again Beowulf tells him that they are there to kick Grendel’s ass.
They are let into the castle.
Hrothgar talks about how he knew Beowulf when Beowulf was a little kid. Then he talks about how Beowulf is a good fighter blah blah blah.
Beowulf tells Hrothgar that he is confident that he will kick Grendel’s ass.
Hrothgar talks about how he helped out Beowulf’s father (Edgetho).
Here’s the story: Edgetho was fighting these people called the Wulfings. Edgetho’s army was a bunch of wimps, so Hrothgar sent the Wulfings some loot as a peace offering. This stopped the war.
Then Hrothgar talks about Grendel the monster and how a lot of guys have tried to take him down, but failed.
They have a big feast at Herot Hall to honor Beowulf.
During the shindig, one of the king’s men (Unferth) starts talking smack. He calls Beowulf a wimp and says that he is not a good fighter, just lucky. He also says that the monster will probably beat him.
Unferth talks about one story where Beowulf acted like a jackass because he risked his life during a swimming competition in the ocean against some dude named Brecca.
Beowulf tells a different story. He says that during the competition, he got split up from Brecca, and then Beowulf killed a monster.
Then Beowulf starts talking smack about Unferth. He says that he is responsible for Grendel’s reign of terror.
Then Hrothgar’s wife shows up to refill the drinks (good woman).
At the end of the party Hrothgar hugs Beowulf and tells him that if he kills the monster, he will give Beowulf a lot of loot.
Beowulf gets ready for his big rumble.
Beowulf is really confident about kicking the monster’s ass. He takes off all his armor and just uses his sword.
Beowulf is really cocky. He’s not even thinking about the fight, he’s more concerned about the money he’s gonna get as a reward.
All the Danish soldiers are still scared and they go to bed.
Then Grendel comes to Herot hall. Everyone is asleep (except Beowulf) He walks in and kills one man. Beowulf just sits there and does nothing because he wants to see how strong Grendel REALLY is.
Then Grendel goes to kill Beowulf. But Beowulf surprises him and fights back. He breaks Grendel’s claws.
Then Grendel turns into a big wimp and tries to run away. But Beowulf keeps him there and starts kicking his ass. Then Beowulf rips one of his arms off.
All the Danish soldiers wake up and start watching the fight.
Grendel finally escapes and goes back to his home (the swamp) and dies.
Beowulf hangs Grendel’s arm on the wall like it’s a trophy.
Then everyone finds out Grendel is dead. All the Danish soldiers go to the swamp and see that he is really dead.
Everyone is happy that Beowulf killed the monster. They go back to Herot hall singing and smiling.
Then they talk about these 2 other brave soldiers: Siegmund and Hermod.
Then the poem talks about how heroes should have ethics too.
Then Beowulf goes back to Hrothgar. Hrothgar is really happy that Beowulf killed the monster. He wants Beowulf to be his son.
Even though he slaughtered the monster, Beowulf isn’t THAT happy with his victory. Who the hell knows why?
They have a big party to honor Beowulf.
Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf show up. Everyone is happy.
Hrothgar starts giving out some gifts. He gives armor to all of Beowulf’s army buddies. Then he gives them gold in honor of the one dude who was killed and eaten by Grendel.
Then the poem talks about God, and how he is powerful and how there is good and evil in the world.
During the party, the entertainment is a poet and he tells some war story.
The story he tells basically breaks down like this: these guys led by a dude named Hnaf are all killed by some guys led by a dude named Finn. Finn’s wife is Hnaf’s sister and she is pissed because Finn killed Hnaf. One of Hnaf’s buddies, Hengest comes to a peace agreement with Finn over at Hnaf’s hall (house). Then Finn says that anyone who goes against the peace treaty will be killed. Then Hengest can’t decide whether to obey the peace treaty or kill Finn (because Finn killed his friend Hnaf...following this?). In the spring, Hengest decides to kill Finn and steal all his loot.
The poet finishes the story and Hrothgar’s wife (Welthow) comes into the party. She talks to Hrothgar about how he shouldn’t spend TOO much time with Beowulf because he will be neglecting his own kids and his nephew (Hrothulf).
The poem talks about Unferth. Everyone still hates him because he talked smack about the hero Beowulf.
Then Beowulf is given a really pretty necklace as a gift.
Welthow (Hrothgar’s babe) asks Beowulf to talk to her sons and give them some advice.
Then all the soldiers go to bed. The poem starts to sound like some bad shit is about to go down. (foreshadowing)
Then Grendel’s (the monster) mom comes to Herot hall for revenge. She is pissed. She is a monster too.
She walks in. The soldiers wake up. They fight her. She takes some dude named Esher (One of Hrothgar’s advisors).
Then Grendel’s mommy takes back Grendel’s arm, which was hanging on the wall.
Hrothgar wakes up Beowulf to go kick some ass.
King Hrothgar is really upset. He talks to Beowulf about what the swamp looks like (Grendel’s home). Hrothgar asks Beowulf to take care of the 2nd big bad monster.
Beowulf consoles Hrothgar because his friend was killed.
He promises to kill Grendel’s mommy. So they goes to the swamp where she lives. They see Esher’s head floating in the water.
They see lots of serpents and sea monsters swimming around.
Unferth now believes that Beowulf is a brave dude (earlier, he didn’t). He gives Beowulf a sword to fight Grendel’s mom.
Beowulf tells Hrothgar to look after his friends and send all his loot to Higlac (King of Geats) in case he dies.
Beowulf jumps in the lake and goes down to the bottom (he can hold his breath for a long time).
He sees Grendel’s mom in an underwater cave and he fights in her cave. He tries to slice her head off but he finds out that ordinary weapons don’t hurt her at all.
Grendel’s mom is winning the fight. Then Beowulf sees a magic sword on the wall and takes it. Then he cuts her head off (because it’s a magic sword so it works).
Then Beowulf looks around and sees Grendel’s dead body. He cuts off his head too.
Then the poem cuts back to the army dudes standing at the foot of the lake. They see blood and they THINK it is Beowulf’s. They are upset because they think he lost the fight. Back down underwater, Beowulf’s sword mysteriously melts. Then the poem talks about how it must have been God helping out.
Then Beowulf takes Grendel’s mom’s head and swims back up to the surface.
Beowulf tells Hrothgar all about the fight and how he thinks God gave him that magic sword.
Then Hrothgar talks to Beowulf and tells him not to get too much of a big ego over this.
He tells Beowulf that he must use his fame and money wisely. Also he says that people must take advantage of God’s favors and love. If he blesses you, take advantage of it but use it wisely.
Then Hrothgar tells him that he’s gonna give him more $$ for killing the 2nd monster.
There’s another big dinner party in the Herot Hall to honor Beowulf. He and his buddies are gonna take off the next day.
Everyone is happy because there are no more monsters.
The next morning all the Geat soldiers (Beowulf’s army buddies) leave. Unferth gives Beowulf another sword. Beowulf accepts it.
Before he leaves, Beowulf says goodbye to king Hrothgar. Hrothgar gives some long sad farewell speech to Beowulf. He is sad because he might not see him ever again. Awww shucks.
Beowulf and the Geat dudes leave with their treasure.
They take their loot to their king (Higlac).
Then the poem talks about Higlac’s wife (Higd) and his daughter (Thrith). His wife is a nice lady, and his daughter used to be a bitch, but after marrying some guy she’s nice now.
Beowulf is talking with King Higlac. Beowulf is telling him about all his adventures over in Denmark.
Then Beowulf talks about Hrothgar. He says that Hrothgar is planning on having his daughter marry the prince of a tribe that is his enemy. Hrothgar hopes this will make peace.
Beowulf tells Higlac that he thinks this won’t work and the 2 sides will go back to fighting.
Beowulf continues his story about the monsters. He exaggerates a little bit to make him look like an even bigger stud.
Beowulf tells Higlac how much he loves him. He tells him that he is faithful to him and his kingdom.
Then he gives Higlac all the treasure he got in Denmark.
The poem then goes off track for a bit. It talks about Beowulf when he was a kid. The other kids picked on him.
Then the poem cuts to the future. Higlac is dead, and Beowulf becomes the new king. He is king for fifty years. Then the story resumes from there (he is an old man now).
Now that he is king, he has a problem. In his land, there is this big fire breathing dragon,
One night a thief steals a cup from the dragon. The cup has nice jewels on it. Now the dragon is pissed.
Beowulf has to stop the dragon.
We learn that the dragon got the cup from some noble family and was protecting it.
The dragon goes around burning houses. Then he burns Beowulf’s house and his throne.
At first Beowulf thinks God is mad at him, but then he finds out it is the dragon.
Beowulf gets ready to rumble with the dragon.
Then the poem starts talking about some old war that Beowulf was in (Frisian War). In this war, King Higlac died. Higlac’s son becomes king but then he is killed too. Then Beowulf becomes king.
Then the poem cuts back to Beowulf and the dragon. The thief who stole the cup takes Beowulf to the dragon’s cave. Then Beowulf rests and thinks back about his life.
Then the poem does a flashback about Beowulf’s life. When Beowulf was 7 he was taken in by some dude name Hrethel (not his dad). Then the poem talks about his brothers (Hrethel’s sons) and how they died in war. Then Beowulf was a soldier when Higlac became king and he fought hard for him.
Thinking back on his life gives Beowulf some confidence and he’s ready to kick some dragon ass now. Even though he’s old, Beowulf wants to fight the dragon himself.
So Beowulf and the dragon fight. The dragon shoots fire and melts Beowulf’s shield.
Beowulf hurts the dragon a little. But then the dragon burns Beowulf. Beowulf is losing. His army is scared and runs away instead of helping Beowulf. What babies…it’s only a fire-breathing dragon.
One of Beowulf’s army guys shows up and helps him. His name is Wiglaf.
Wiglaf yells at the other army guys for running away.
Then the poem talks about Wiglaf’s sword.
Wiglaf runs to help Beowulf. The dragon stabs Beowulf with its tusks.
Then Wiglaf hurts the dragon with his sword. Then Beowulf cuts the dragon in half.
Beowulf dies next, but before he dies he gives some long speech and once AGAIN he reviews his life. He talks about the things he never got to do.
Before he dies, Beowulf asks for the dragon’s treasure.
His last request is that they build a tower and put his tomb inside it. He wants a monument in his honor.
The soldiers come back and find that Beowulf is dead. Wiglaf yells at them again.
Wiglaf makes a long speech to the soldiers about Beowulf and how the soldiers are big babies.
Wiglaf sends a messenger to tell everyone what happened.
Everyone is scared because once people find out that the mighty Beowulf is dead, they will invade the Geats.
They decide to bury Beowulf with all of the dragon’s treasure.
All the soldiers go back to the scene of the battle. They talk about the "price" of war and why the hell do they fight?
The poem talks about the hidden treasure and how men are greedy.
Wiglaf gives another speech about Beowulf. He reviews his life AGAIN and tells people what a great guy he was.
They go get the dragon’s treasure.
Then they build a huge tower and bury Beowulf inside it.
They bury him with the dragon’s treasure.
Things to make you look smart:
This is a classic tale with heroes and bad guys, but the author kinda makes it so everyone has some bad AND some good in them.
Beowulf isn’t a totally innocent dude. He does some bad things in the book like being really arrogant.
There is a big religious theme in this book. The religion and religious rules that they follow in this book are from Christianity.
Everyone’s set of rules is kinda parallel to the bible.