Beowulf Reader Response
The poem begins with a discussion about Shield Sheafson , who was the king of the Thanes. He was a baby whose parents abandoned him and rose to the top. After Sheafson died, his son Beow became king in his place. Once he died, Hrothgar became the ruler of the Thanes. Hrothgar brought fortune and success to the Thanes and in celebration of it he built a hall called Hereot, where he and his men gathered for festivities. For a good amount of time the Danes enjoyed peace until one Grendel, who was descendant of Cain, attacked the hall and killed thirty men when they fell asleep.
Grendel continued these attacks for twelve winters. After all this time, word begins to spread throughout kingdoms. Beowulf, who is the best warrior in the world, hears the horrible things that are going on and decides to travel to Hrothgar’s kingdom to help defeat Grendel. When Beowulf arrives the Danes question him at first. But Beowulf explains his want of repayment to Hrothgar and simply wants to owe his loyalty to Hygelac. Hrothgar accepts Beowulf’s offer to fight Grendel and invites him and his men to enjoy a feast.
During the feast, Beowulf and a Dane named Unferth get into a little argument and Beowulf belittles him in every aspect. As night time approaches, the Danes leave Bewulf and his men alone in the hall. Beowulf lays unarmed with his men waiting for Grendel to arrive. Grendel finally slams open the hall doors with a rage of fury and immediately kills one of Beowulf’s men. Then Grendel reaches out towards Beowulf and gets put into an arm bar and Beowulf wrestles him down. Beowulf’s men try to help by stabbing Grendel with their swords, but no weapon on earth can hurt Grendel.
Beowulf used pure strength and simply rips of Grendel’s arm and the fight is over just like that. The next morning the Danes arrive in excitement and celebrate the death of Grendel seeing that Beowulf had the trophy of Grendel’s arm. When Hrothgar enters he thanks Beowulf and god for finally killing Grendel and restoring him his kingdom. He offers Beowulf rewards and adopts him as his son in his heart. Horthgar then throws Beowulf a banquet and gives Beowulf tons of treasures and also his men too. Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a necklace and suit of armor asking that he guides her sons.
As night falls, little do the warriors know what the next problem is they will face. The warriors are sleeping in the hall and Grendel’s mother arrives very angry in revenge of her son’s death. At the time Beowulf was given another place to sleep for the night so he wasn’t there when Grendel’s mother showed up and killed Aeschere, who was Hrothgar’s friend and advisor. The warriors realized after she left that she had stolen back Grendel’s arm. Hrothgar explains to Beowulf everything that happened and asks Beowulf if he would fight and kill Grendel’s mother to save Hereot.
Hrothgar says that he will give Beowulf a chest of gold if he agrees to the fight and of course Beowulf did. Next, Beowulf and his warriors ride up to the swamp following the tracks of Grendel’s mother. They arrive to a cliff and see Aeschere’s head lying on the ground, looking below to a murky lake filled with serpents. Beowulf swims for a long time down before he sees the bottom of the lake which no man has made it before. As he approaches the bottom Grendel’s mother senses him, going straight for him and they begin to fight.
Beowulf tries to kill her with the sword that Unferth lent him but it didn’t affect her. Then, Beowulf tries to fight the monster with his bare hands but she was just too strong matching blow for blow. At last, Bewulf notices a huge sword that was meant for giants and cuts of Grendel’s mothers head with one swing. Beowulf then sees Grendel’s body lying in the corner and cuts his head off as well in honor of all the people that Grendel has killed. Beowulf leaves the scene carrying the hilt from the melted sword in one hand and Grendel’s head in the other.
Beowulf returns with his hands full and nobody waiting for him because they thought he was killed when they saw all the blood in the lake. But he makes his way back to the hall and Danes see what he has in his hands. He throws the hilt and the head on the ground showing him they she was killed and they can feel safe again. Hrothgar promises Beowulf more treasures and another banquet in the morning. After the banquet Beowulf urges that he and his men return home. Hrothgar Praises Beowulf again and tells his that he has reunited the Danes.
He gives Beowulf twelve treasures and tells him to come back to Denmark even though Hrothgar knows he will never see Beowulf again. Beowulf sets sail back to Geatland and go back to the hall of Hygelac. Beowulf and his men return home, and go to the hall of King Hygelac and Queen Hygd. The Geats are preparing for their arrival since they heard news that Beowulf was coming home. They warriors and Beowulf receive a warm welcome. After Beowulf tells the story of what happened during his journey, he gives the king and queen a large part of his treasure.
In return for all his good deeds, Hygelac gives him treasure and a piece of his own land to rule. Some time passes and king Hygelac is killed in a battle with the Shylfings. Beowulf becomes kings and rules for fifty years. A thief then steals a gem covered goblet and the furious dragon that has protected the treasure for over three hundred years becomes enraged, torching villages to pieces. Beowulf’s own hall then becomes target and is burned to the ground. After all this time, Beowulf has to face one last obstacle. He sends eleven men to investigate and they find the thief who stole the Goblet, then force him to take them to the barrow.
They arrive and Beowulf says goodbye to his men and begins to fight the dragon. Early in the fight they just wrestle but it’s clear that Beowulf’s strength isn’t what it used to be. Beowulf tries to stab the dragon but its scales are just too thick. Beowulf gets bit in the neck by the dragon, but thanks to help from his warrior he is able to kill the dragon by stabbing it in its flank. After the dragon dies Beowulf notices that the bite is swelling and begins to burn. The bite was venomous. Before Beowulf dies he tells his warrior Wiglaf to go fetch all the treasure.
When Wiglaf returns, Beowulf tells him that he needs to lead the Geats and build him a barrow called “Beowulf’s Barrow “. Wiglaf sends a messenger to tell the people of Beowulf’s death. He also warns them that the Franks and Frisians will definitely attack them. The Geats then go to recover Beowulf’s body and fulfill what he wanted by building his barrow built high and decked with armor, on a cliff so all passing ships will be able to see. The poem ends with the Geats reminiscing that their king was kind and generous to people, and will be greatly missed. I personally really enjoyed this story.
It had a totally different approach compared to the other novels that we read in class so far. This is the first story where the main character becomes king throughout the epic, without the story starting and he was already king. I really like the fact that Beowulf isn’t an evil ruling tyrant. Beowulf is actually a very nice fair minded person who is honorable and treated people very well, especially his own. My favorite scene in the poem is when Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother. This part was action packed and had me guessing the whole time what was going to happen next.
The fact that Beowulf kills his with a giant sword when nothing else worked truly showed his intelligence. ” Beowulf got ready, donned his war-gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. It would keep the bone-cage of his body safe: His helmet was of beaten gold, princely headgear hooped and hasped by a weapon-smith who had worked wonders”. This quote was right before his battle with Grendel’s mother and I like how this shows Beowulf’s preparation for battle. Overall, I liked the book and hope that we read more stories as good as this!