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 to Heorot, where Hrothgar gives Beowulf many gifts, including (possibly) the sword Nægling, his family's heirloom. The hilt prompts a long reflection by the king, sometimes referred to as "Hrothgar's sermon", in which he urges Beowulf to be wary of pride and to reward his thanes. Third battle: The Dragon
Main article: The Dragon (Beowulf)
Beowulf returns home and eventually becomes king of his own people. One day, fifty years after Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother, a slave steals a golden cup from the lair of an unnamed dragon at Earnaness. When the dragon sees that the cup has been stolen, it leaves its cave in a rage, burning everything in sight. Beowulf and his warriors come to fight the dragon, but Beowulf tells his men that he will fight the dragon alone and that they should wait on the barrow. Beowulf descends to do battle with the dragon but finds himself outmatched. His men, upon seeing this display and fearing for their lives, creep back into the woods. One of his men, however, Wiglaf, who finds great distress in seeing Beowulf's plight, comes to Beowulf's aid. The two slay the dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded. After Beowulf's death, he is ritually burned on a great pyre in Geatland while his people wail and mourn him. After, a barrow is built on his remains, which is able to be seen from the sea. (Beowulf lines 2712–3182). _________________________________________________________________________________________________________ King Hrothgar, the ruler of the Danes, is troubled by the rampages of a demon named Grendel. Every night, Grendel attacks King Hrothgar's wealthy mead-hall, Heorot, killing Danish warriors and sometimes even eating them. Hrothgar was a great warrior in his time, but now he's an old king and can't seem to protect his people. Fortunately, a young Geat warrior named Beowulf travels to Heorot Hall from his own lands overseas to lend a helping hand – literally.
After explaining that he owes Hrothgar a favor because Hrothgar helped out his father, Beowulf offers to fight Grendel himself. King Hrothgar gratefully accepts his offer. The next time Grendel attacks Heorot Hall, Beowulf is waiting for him. Choosing to fight Grendel in hand-to-hand combat, Beowulf wrestles the demon into submission and eventually tears off his arm at the shoulder. Mortally wounded, Grendel flees into the wilderness and dies. Beowulf, Hrothgar, and their followers throw a wild party to celebrate. Hrothgar also gives Beowulf many presents and treasures to reward him for his heroic defeat of the demon.
Unfortunately, Grendel has an overprotective mother who decides to avenge her son. While all the warriors are sleeping off the party, she attacks Heorot Hall. But when the warriors wake up, she panics and flees back to her lair, a cave underneath a nearby lake.
Beowulf, his Geatish warriors, and some of Hrothgar's Danish warriors track her there. Beowulf dives into the lake and finds the cave, where he takes on Grendel's mother in another one-on-one battle. Seizing a nearby sword from Grendel's mother's stash of treasure, he slays her, even though her poisonous demon blood melts the blade. When Beowulf returns to the surface, carrying the sword hilt and Grendel's severed head, the Danish warriors have given him up for dead, but his own Geatish followers are still waiting patiently. When everyone sees that Beowulf has survived this second challenge, there's even more partying and gift-giving.
Finally, the Geats take their leave of the Danes; Beowulf says goodbye to King Hrothgar and sails back to Geatland, where he is a lord in the court of King Hygelac. Eventually, Hygelac and all his relatives are killed in different blood-feuds, and Beowulf becomes the King of the Geats. Beowulf reigns as king for fifty years, protecting the Geats from all the other tribes around them, especially the Swedes. He is an honorable and heroic warrior-king, rewarding his loyal thanes (warrior lords) and taking care of his people.
But one day, Beowulf finally meets his match: a dragon, woken by a thief stealing a goblet, begins attacking the Geats, burning villages and slaughtering people. Beowulf takes a group of eleven trusty warriors, plus the thief who knows where the dragon's lair is, to the barrow for a final showdown with the monster. When they see the dragon, all but one of the warriors flee in terror. Only one man, Wiglaf, remains at Beowulf's side. With Wiglaf's help and encouragement, Beowulf is able to defeat the dragon, but he is mortally wounded in the process.
After Beowulf's death, the Geats build an enormous funeral pyre for him, heaped with treasures. Once the pyre has burned down, they spend ten days building an enormous barrow (a large mound of earth filled with treasure) as a monument to their lost king.
Beowulf Prepares for Battle Once Again
The section in which Beowulf gets ready for another monster begins with Hrothgar informing him of Aeschere's death. The murder has been committed by Grendel's mother who comes to avenge her son's death. This is the proper thing for her to do in this society. Revenge was of great importance in Pagan society. It was the norm to avenge a murder, especially if no wergild was paid. Hrothgar offers Beowulf additional wealth if he can find and kill the female monster. This arrangement Hrothgar makes with Beowulf, for a second time, is referred to as comitatus. Beowulf tells Hrothgar not to worry, that Aeschere's killer will be found. He reminds Hrothgar that time must not be wasted on sorrow when revenge must be taken immediately. He promises Hrothgar that the woman will "not be lost." Beowulf will seek her out at the bottom of the lake, where her home is located, and kill her. This promise that Beowulf makes is called a boast. Hrothgar thanks God that Beowulf has said this because his friend's murder must be avenged and the murderer stopped before she kills again. Hrothgar and his thanes gather and go with Beowulf to search for the woman's home. They know it is in a pool not far from the hall. By following the monster's tracks through a narrow, difficult path, they soon find the lake. The Danes are then horrified to see Aeschere's head on the "sea-cliff" above the water. Through all this action, the horn that continually plays the war song is mentioned. The pool is described as hot and bloody in the passage. This may be a reference to the Christian element of hell. The lake may allude to hell, not only because of the bloody appearance of the water, but also because of the grotesque serpents swimming in it. Serpents have been associated with evil in Christianity. In the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, Eve was tempted by an evil serpent. The snakes in the lake are probably there to enhance the atmosphere of evil in the region. A third reason why the home of the monsters may be likened to hell has to do with who Grendel is. Hell, in Christianity, is a place where people who have sinned must go to suffer. Grendel is a descendant of Cain, who committed fratricide, (killing of one's own brother or a brother-slayer), probably the most horrible act one could be guilty of, especially in this warrior society. As a relative of Cain, Grendel would then have to live in some sort of hell. In other words, he is evil by nature, and as such, must live in hell, or a similar place. After observing the area, a warrior shoots an arrow at a sea monster, killing it, and pulls it to shore. This act seems to be for no apparent reason since this monster was causing harm to no one. Beowulf now begins to arm himself for battle, an important ritual in Pagan society. His armor is described as being well-made. He puts on chain mail to protect his body, and a helmet to protect his head. On his helmet is an image of a boar. The replica of the boar helps to give him the spirit of the animal. He will gain the animal's strength, as well as its fearlessness of death. After dressing, Beowulf is given a sword from Unferth. This special sword, called Hrunting, has helped Unferth gain his favorable position as a warrior. Weapons, at this time, were treated like human beings. This is demonstrated by the naming of the sword. Unferth, who doubts Beowulf's abilities earlier in the story when he mentions the swimming match with Breca, now realizes Beowulf's courage and strength. Beowulf tells everyone of his ability to fight sea monsters, but Unferth doubts him at first. Unferth, who sits in a place of honor, at the king's feet, now loses his reputation as a warrior. He has given the job of doing battle to a man who is better than himself. Beowulf then speaks again to Hrothgar, and he instructs him to do various things in case he should not succeed in battle. He first tells Hrothgar that he is like a father to him, asks him to take care of all his companions, and to send his treasure to Hygelac, lord of the Geats. He gives something of a last will and testament here, then plunges into the water before Hrothgar can respond. At this point, Beowulf's heroic qualities are exemplified once again. Beowulf shows consideration, generosity for others, humility, and awareness of his mortality. He knows that even though he may possess great strength, it is still possible for someone to conquer him in battle. Part of a day goes by before Beowulf sees the bottom of the water, where the monster woman lives. Another one of his amazing strengths is shown here when he is able to hold his breath under water for such a long period of time. Beowulf is attacked by all sorts of monsters, but none really harms him because his armor protects him so well. He finally encounters Grendel's mother who grabs and carries him to her home. The female monster's home, which is away from the water and in a hall, beneath the lake, contains fire, and this bright light enables the hero to see her completely. This fire, which burns in her home, may once again represent the Christian element of hell. Beowulf is a true hero in this passage when he decides to take on the task of finding and killing Grendel's mother. He does not know what dangers await him as he goes down into the water to find the female monster. He goes off to fight in