Beowulf Essay, Research Paper
King Hrothgar of Denmark, a descendent of the great king Shield Sheafson, enjoys a prosperous and successful reign. He builds a great mead- hall, called Heorot, where his warriors can gather to drink, receive gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by the scops, or bards. But the jubilant noise from Heorot angers Grendel, a horrible demon who lives in the swampy fens of Hrothgar’s kingdom. Grendel begins terrorizing the Danes every night, killing them and easily defeating their efforts to fight back. The Danes suffer many years of fear, danger, and death at the hands of Grendel. Eventually, however, a young Geatish warrior named Beowulf hears of Hrothgar’s plight. Inspired by the challenge (and seemingly owing a debt of loyalty to Hrothgar), Beowulf sails to Denmark with a small company of men, determined to defeat Grendel. Hrothgar, who had once done a great favor for Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow, accepts Beowulf’s offer to fight Grendel and holds a feast in the hero’s honor. During the feast, Beowulf is taunted by an envious Dane named Unferth, who accuses his reputation of being exaggerated. Beowulf responds with a boastful description of some of his past accomplishments. His confidence cheers the Danish warriors, and the feast lasts merrily into the night. At last, however, Grendel arrives. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving himself stronger than the demon, who is terrified. As Grendel struggles to escape, Beowulf tears the monster’s arm off. Mortally wounded, Grendel slinks back into the swamp to die. The severed arm is hung high in the mead-hall as a trophy of victory In time, Hygelac is killed in a war against the Shylfings, and after Hygelac’s son dies, Beowulf ascends to the throne of the Geats. He rules wisely for fifty years, during which time Geatland prospers. When Beowulf is an old man, however, a thief disturbs a barrow, or mound, where a great dragon lies guarding a horde of treasure. Enraged, the dragon emerges from the barrow and begins wreaking a fiery destruction on the Geats. Sensing his own death approaching, Beowulf goes to fight the dragon. With the aid of Wiglaf, he succeeds in killing the beast, but at a heavy cost: the dragon bites Beowulf in the neck, and its fiery venom kills him moments after the end of their encounter. The Geats fear that their enemies will attack them now that Beowulf is dead. According to Beowulf’s wishes, they burn their departed king’s body on a huge funeral pyre and then bury him with a massive treasure in a barrow overlooking the sea.