Beowulf In Detail

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and of the bottomless pool where legends say the two monsters lived for many years. Hrothgar again calls upon Beowulf to save the Danes and promises riches for avenging the attack. The warriors travel to the pool and find the head of the kidnapped Dane and discover sea serpents swimming in the pool. After killing one of the serpents, Unferth offers Beowulf his sword called Hrunting and apologizes for questioning Beowulf’s courage 22, 23 After explaining to whom his treasure should be sent if he perishes in the pool, Beowulf descends for several hours displaying no apparent ill effects from lack of oxygen and upon reaching the bottom is confronted by the monster.She grasps him and forces him into her lair where Beowulf learns his sword has no effect on his attacker. Beowulf, near death, then miraculously discovers a giant sword and beheads the monster. He finds Grendel’s body and also severs its head. The toxic blood of the dead monster dissolves the giant sword.

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Beowulf chooses Grendel’s head from his new collection of severed heads and returns to the surface with the head and the hilt of his dissolved sword.Beowulf discovers the Danes had given up hope that he was still alive and had returned home. The hero then returns to Heorot and presents his trophies to Hrothgar. 24, 25 Hrothgar examines the sword hilt and learns that it was created by a race of giants from before the biblical flood. He delivers a long sermon to Beowulf in which he praises him and warns the hero not to let his success inflate his ego beyond its already unfathomable proportions.

He also tells the story of the king Heremod and warns Beowulf not to end up like this evil king. The grateful Hrothgar holds another banquet and Beowulf returns Hrunting to Unferth with his gratitude. 26, 27 The following day Beowulf thanks the king for his generosity showing a new found modesty and graciousness learned from Hrothgar’s sermon. He tells the king he will come to the king’s aide if ever again his assistance is required.

Hrothgar thanks the hero for saving the Danes from the two monsters and expresses his profound sorrow about Beowulf’s imminent departure. As the Geats travel to their ship with their treasures, they again meet the coast guard sentinel who wishes the men well and assures them that their homecoming will be greatly anticipated by their friends in Geatland. Beowulf rewards the kind words with the gift of a sword and the men board their ship. Upon returning home, Beowulf gives the treasure to Hygelac, Beowulf’s lord. We then learn of Hygd, the queen of Hygelac, a benevolent queen who divides the treasure among her subjects.Their daughter Offa, however, is sadistic and cruel until marrying Thryth of the house of Hemming. The marriage ends her evil ways and makes her a fair and respected princess.

28 Hygelac and his queen welcome Beowulf home and express their elation in his safe return. The king then asks Beowulf to describe his adventures with the Danes. Beowulf recounts his feats of courage and describes several of gifts given to he and his warriors and begins to explain of Hrothgar’s efforts to end a conflict with the Hathobards, a rival clan.

29, 30 Hrothgar continues telling of Hrothgar’s plan to make peace with the Hathobards. The King, Beowulf explains, has offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to Ingeld of the Hathobard clan. Beowulf fears, however, that the two people’s differences are too great and that Hrothgar’s strategy with fail. 31 Beowulf then expresses his eternal loyalty to his Hygelac and explains that the king is one of his few close companions. His fondness and respect for Hrothgar, he explains, is overshadowed by his allegiance to Hygelac, his true king. The treasures obtained for the king in Denmark are then brought before the king and formally and presented to him.

Beowulf’s devotion is rewarded by the gift of a sword, a mead hall of his own, and other lavish gifts. After the death of the king and his son, Heardred, Beowulf inherits the throne of Geatland. After a successful reign of fifty years, a dragon begins to terrorize the Geats much like Grendel’s aggression against the Danes. 32 The Dragon’s hatred for the Geats begins when a thief, who is a transient serf, enters the dragon’s cave and steals a jeweled cup from his hoard of treasures within.

The theft awakens and angers the dragon. The treasure, which had existed for hundreds of years, had previously belonged to a noble race and had been discovered by the dragon. The beast spreads his fury over the Geatish countryside and Beowulf is deeply disturbed by the suffering of his people inflicted by the evil dragon.

33 The dragon’s wrath soon reaches Beowulf’s home which is destroyed by its fiery breath. Beowulf immediately vows vengeance and prepares for battle. We then learn of the circumstances by which Beowulf became ruler of the Geats. During a war with the Frisians, Hygelac is killed and his kingdom is offered to Beowulf. The hero graciously refuses the throne, believing the rightful heir to be the king’s son, Heardred.In a war with the Swedish king Ongentheow, however, the new king is killed and Beowulf agrees to take his place on the throne.

34 Ready for battle, Beowulf instructs the thief who had stolen the dragon’ s cup to lead he and twelve warriors to the dragon’s lair. As the warriors reach the cave, Beowulf becomes fearful that his strength may have deteriorated in his old age and begins to fear that the battle with the dragon could bring about his death. His sorrow is compounded by his telling of the story of the death of Herebald. He explains that Herebald, the eldest son of Beowulf’s adoptive father, was accidentally killed by an arrow fired by one of Herebalds other sons.

Beowulf regrets the inability of his beloved father to ever avenge the death of his son. 35 As if sensing that his death is at hand, Beowulf continues to tell stories of his past and relives battles with his companions in which he achieved glorious success. He then bids farewell to his fellow warriors and enters the dragon’s cave to meet his fate. The dragon attacks and Beowulf finds his specially made iron shield is little protection against the dragon’s breath of fire. Beowulf strikes the dragon with his sword but finds the dragon’s scale armor too strong to fatally wound the beast.36, 37 Wiglaf, one of the warriors outside the cave, realizes the peril which faces Beowulf and berates his fellow warriors for failing to assist their king. He prepares for battle and rushes to the hero’s aid.

The dragon responds with a burst of flames which destroys Wiglaf’s wooden shield. After Beowulf’s sword breaks in the battle, the dragon advances upon the wounded hero and strikes him in the neck with his poisonous fangs. Wiglaf skillfully strikes the dragon below the head where the dragon is defenseless and pierces the beast’s skin. Realizing the dragon has been injured, Beowulf quickly slices the belly of the beast with his dagger, delivering a mortal wound to his mighty foe. Wiglaf treats the wounds of the hero, but Beowulf knows he will soon die.He reflects on the worthiness of his accomplishments and asks to see the treasure he has gained in his struggle with the dragon. 38, 39 Wiglaf brings the treasure to Beowulf and the hero admires the immense fortune he has gained for his people.

Beowulf orders the construction of a monument to honor his greatness and achievements. He then praises Wiglaf for his courage, gives him the helmet necklace, and armor he is wearing, and dies. As the Geat warriors return from the woods where they had run in cowardice, Wiglaf scolds them for abandoning their king who had armed them with superior weapons for the fight.

He exclaims that they will be forever known as traitors and cowards. 40, 41 Wiglaf sends word of the outcome of the battle to the Geat soldiers awaiting the news. As the messenger informs the warriors of the death of Beowulf, he conveys his belief that their enemies will assuredly take advantage of the news and attack. The messenger tells of the many conflicts which have existed in the violent history of the Geats and predicts the conflict may begin again with unfortunate death of their king.

The warriors travel to the cave to see the corpses of Beowulf and the dragon. 42 We learn that the nobles who had placed the treasure in the cave had placed a curse on it which would last until the last day of the earth.Wiglaf orders the construction of a funeral pyre for Beowulf and selects seven strong men to throw the dragon’s body off a cliff and load the treasure onto a wagon.

43 After placing shields, helmets, and armor around Beowulf’s funeral pyre, the great king is cremated to the crying of his mourning people. They place the ashes of Beowulf and all of the dragon’s treasures inside a giant mound of sand where they would be safe from the enemies sure to attack after hearing of the tragedy. The Danes are left feeling uncertain about the future of their kingdom after the loss of their great king.