Beowulf: Translations by Strafford Riggs (1934)

Click for a larger version (900 pixels high) The Story of Beowulf The Junior Literary Guild, New York, 1934. ISBN: none.
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[lines 194-224a in section III and 8th line from the bottom of folio 134r to 4th line from the bottom of folio 134v 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.

    {Beowulf hears about Grendel and decides to travel from his home in Geatland (southern Sweden) to Heorot (in northeast Denmark) to see if he can help out. }

    FOR seven days and seven nights there were great preparations in the halls of Hygelac the Geat, that Beowulf might go on his adventure fully equipped for whatever awaited him in Daneland. From the group of companions who had come to manhood at the same time as himself, Beowulf selected fourteen earls to accompany him. He had wished to go alone to the land of the Danes, but his uncle the king had commanded that he be suitably companioned on such a voyage, so that at the court of Hrothgar it could not be said that Hygelac had sent the youth upon a fool's errand and badly equipped. So, with the best grace he could muster (for Beowulf was stubborn, as you have seen and shall see again) he named his earls, and Hygelac ordered that they be furnished with the finest head-pieces and spears and swords in the kingdom.

   Special shields were made, of stout wood covered with thick hides and bound with iron and studded with golden nails. Rich cloaks of scarlet and blue there were for the warriors, and massive bracelets of fine gold for their arms and wrists, and collars of gold wire for their throats.

    When at last they stood ready in the mead-hall of Hygelac, they were a fine company of young men, whose like was not to be seen in all the countries of the North. Each stood well over six feet in height, with broad shoulders and sturdy legs; and each was as swift of foot as a reindeer.

   But Beowulf overtopped them all in stature and in strength and in the speed of his running, and as Hygd beheld him she thought: This is indeed a fine son that my husband's sister was mother to, and his father Ecgtheow would have been a proud man to look upon him.

   Hygelac made a speech to the fourteen earls and charged them to be faithful to Beowulf and to the tradition of the Geats in battle. He put them under the command of Beowulf, and urged them to obey their lord in every particular and to find no service too difficult to render him and no hardship too great to endure for his sake.

   Then he turned to Beowulf, and gave the earls into the young man's keeping and begged him to uphold the honor of Geatsland and of his king. Then he nodded to Hygd, who stood beside him clad in a marvelous soft robe of red, her lovely arms covered with bracelets of green gems, and took from her hands a golden collar which he clasped about the throat of his nephew. As Beowulf knelt to receive the gift, a great shout went up from the assmbled company, swords were brandished in the air, and there was a tumult of excitement in the high hall of Hygelac.

   Then came the signal for the journey down to the beach where a ship lay in readiness to receive Beowulf and his earls, and with torches flaming in the grayness of approaching dawn, the company took its departure.

[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.

    {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. }

    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.

[lines 1537-1569 in sections XXII and XXIII and 5th line from the bottom of folio 163v, through folio 164r to 4th line from the top of folio 164v 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. Note: there is a discussion of the word eaxle in line 1537a on my page on Shoulder Grabbing vs. Hair Pulling

    {At this moment Beowulf has just failed to hurt Grendel's mother with the sword Hrunting and he tries to wrestle her as he had done with Grendel. }

    He managed to lock his leg round one of the monster's, and then with all his fast-fleeing strength he seized the hag and threw her. But in falling she fell upon him, and now the loathsome, grinning jaws were close above his face, and the sharp claws found his throat.

   But for a moment, the smallest moment in the world, she relaxed her hold, so sure was she of her prey, and in that little moment the magic was lifted, and Beowulf with a great cry hurled her from him.

   Once more on his feet, he staggered to the wall of the cave, and found, suddenly, in his grasp, the hilt of an old sword which was driven deep into the wall. But the fiend was on him again now with a strangled cry of terror. Beowulf clutched the old sword with both hands, and with a great heave drew it from the wall, and so great was the force of the blow he struck Grendel's mother that he cut clean through her body.

[lines 1584b-1590 in section XXIII and 7th line from the bottom of folio 164v to first half of the last line of folio 164v 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.

    {At this moment Beowulf has just discovered Grendel's lifeless body lying in the cave. }

--- Quickly Beowulf cut of Grendel's head where he lay in the corner of the cave, and then threw the two bodies to the flames.

[lines 2672b-2708a in sections XXXVI and XXXVII and 8th line from the bottom of folio 189A197r, through folio 189A197v to 3rd line from the top of folio 189r on Kevin S. Kiernan's Electronic Beowulf CD] Images of the original manuscript text of this section, and an mp3 file of Ben Slade reading it in Old English, are here.

    {At this moment, Wiglaf has just run into the flames to be by Beowulf's side and the dragon has charged at them both, incinerating Wiglaf's shield. }

    Then at last to his aid came Wiglaf the faithful, and Beowulf's ears were gladdened by the sound of his dear friend's shout, and new strength streamed through his veins. Together they fought, side by side, and the dragon gave way to their onslaught.

    But in one wide sweep of the dragon's tail Beowulf was caught, and he sank to the ground broken, at last, in body. But Wiglaf, fresh in the fray, with a great cry of rage, found the weak spot in the dragon's armor, and into the heart of the beast sank his good sword to the hilt.

    No sound came from the dragon. But he rose to his full and terrible height in great majesty of dying, and fell prone beside Beowulf. --