Plot Summary

King Hrothgar of Denmark is the feudal lord in an area that contains a swamp where a horrible monster, Grendel, lives.  Hrothgar has been a very successful king, and he builds Heorot, a mead hall, as a gathering place for his warriors.  They gather there nightly, drinking and listening to the scops singing stories.  They are very loud, which angers Grendel.  Grendel comes to Heorot each night, killing the warriors.  Even though the warriors are accomplished fighters, they are unable to defend themselves against Grendel.  Despite the best efforts of several great warriors, Grendel terrorizes them for years.  Heorot, which was once a happy and bustling hall, has become a place of terror.

A Geatish (Swedish) warrior named Beowulf decides to come to Denmark to help Hrothgar by defeating Grendel.  Beowulf has multiple motives for helping Hrothgar.  First, he wants to pit himself against the legendary monster, Grendel.  Second, he feels that he owes Hrothgar.  Hrothgar had helped Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, by paying a fee to get Ecgtheow out of a feud.  Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf and accepts his offer of help.  Hrothgar holds a feast to honor Beowulf. Beowulf is not welcomed by all of Hrothgar’s men; a Dane named Unferth believes that Beowulf has not earned his reputation and will not be able to defeat Grendel.  Beowulf responds to Unferth’s taunts by reminding the group of his previous adventures.  Beowulf’s boastful speech helps change the somber nature of the feat, and the warriors feast into the night.  Grendel finally arrives, and Beowulf goes unarmed to meet him in battle.  Though the battle is fierce, Beowulf is the victor.  He does not kill Grendel during their fight, but he does manage to rip Grendel’s arm from his body.  Though Grendel flees to the swamp, the wound is a fatal one, and the warriors know that Grendel will no longer trouble them.  They hang the severed arm in Heorot.

Hrothgar and his warriors are thrilled that Grendel...

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