Beowulf Summary

Beowulf Summary

The tale of Beowulf is an epic poem that has been passed down by word of mouth for centuries dating back to the 8th century. The poem is about an Anglo-Saxon hero, Beowulf, who sails to Denmark with a small army of men to defeat a local demon named Grendel. Grendel terrorizes the Danes every night, killing them, making them desperate to get rid of this demon. As the Danes celebrate the arrival of Beowulf in the mead-hall, Grendel arrives to kill everyone. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving himself stronger than the demon, who is terrified of Beowulf.

Beowulf Story Summary

As Grendel struggles to escape, Beowulf tears the monster’s arm off. Mortally wounded, Grendel slinks back into the swamp to die. Grendel’s mother, a swamp-hag who lives in a desolate lake, comes to Heorot, the Danes land, seeking revenge for her son’s death. She murders Aeschere, one of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisers, before slinking away. To avenge Aeschere’s death, the company travels to the murky swamp, where Beowulf dives into the water and gets into the battle with Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair.

He kills her, and finds Grendel’s corpse, decapitates it and brings the head as a prize to Hrothgar, the king. Beowulf then leaves Denmark and returns to Geatland, where he and his men are reunited with their king and queen, where Beowulf tells about his adventures in Denmark. In time, Hygelac, the king, is killed in a war, and, after Hygelac’s son dies, Beowulf ascends to the throne of the Geats. He rules successfully for fifty years, bringing prosperity to Geatland. 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 destruction upon the Geats. Knowing he will not live much longer, Beowulf goes to fight the dragon. With the aid of Wiglaf, he succeeds in killing the beast, but the dragon bites Beowulf in the neck, and its fiery venom kills him moments after their encounter. 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.