1. Hand-to-hand combat with Grendel in which Beowulf rips off Grendel's arm. This battle is mythological in nature: it shows Beowulf's superhuman strength. Beowulf's motive is revenge against the monster for his heinous crimes against Beowulf's kinsmen. 2. Sword-fight combat against Grendel's mother in which Beowulf swims to her underwater lair. This battle too is mythological, as Beowulf's dive is the stuff of legend. However, in this battle Beowulf must use a weapon (sword) to defeat her. This shows Beowulf's mortality and gradual deterioration of strength. Beowulf's motive is spiritual, as he is destroying evil at its root source (in hell). 3. Full-armored combat against the dragon. Beowulf must use armor and weapons to kill the dragon, which shows Beowulf's age and impending death. This battle is realistic in nature (at least for Beowulf), as he uses no mythological (unrealistic) feats of strength. Beowulf dies in the battle because his motives are greedy: he's after the Dragon's treasure.
First battle: Grendel
Beowulf begins with the story of King Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for his people. In it he, his wife Wealhtheow, and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating, until Grendel, a troll-like monster who is pained by the noise, attacks the hall and kills and devours many of Hrothgar's warriors while they sleep. But Grendel does not touch the throne for it is described as being protected by the power of God. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel's attacks, abandon Heorot. Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to help Hroðgar. Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf uses weapons because he fears that he will be killed by Grendel, just like all of his previous opponents. During the battle, Beowulf has been feigning sleep and leaps up to clench Grendel's hand. The two battle until it seems as though the hall might collapse. Beowulf's retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce Grendel's skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel's arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes and slowly dies.
Second battle: Grendel's Mother
The next night, after celebrating Grendel's defeat, Hrothgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's mother, angered by the punishment of her son, appears and attacks the hall. She kills Hrothgar's most trusted warrior, Æschere, in revenge for Grendel's defeat. Hrothgar, Beowulf and their men track Grendel's mother to her lair under a lake. Beowulf prepares himself for battle. He is presented with a sword, Hrunting, by Unferth, a warrior who had doubted him and wishes to make amends. After stipulating a number of conditions to Hrothgar in case of his death (including the taking in of his kinsmen and the inheritance by Unferth of Beowulf's estate), Beowulf dives into the lake. He is swiftly detected and attacked by Grendel's mother. However, she is unable to harm Beowulf through his armour and drags him to the bottom of the lake. In a cavern containing Grendel's body and the remains of men that the two have killed, Grendel's mother and Beowulf engage in fierce combat. At first, Grendel's mother appears to prevail. Beowulf, finding that Hrunting cannot harm his foe, discards it in fury. Beowulf is again saved from his opponent's attack by his armour. Beowulf grabs a magical sword from Grendel's mother's treasure, and with it beheads her. Traveling further into the lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's dying body and severs its head. The blade of the magic sword melts like ice when it touches Grendel's toxic blood, until only the hilt is left. Beowulf carries this hilt and the head of Grendel out of the cavern and presents them to Hrothgar upon his return to Heorot. Beowulf then returns to the surface and to his men at the "ninth hour" (l. 1600, "nōn", about 3pm). He returns...
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