Beowulf In Detail

Beowulf begins with the story of the first king in the Danish dynasty, Scyld

Sceafing. The king was abandoned as a baby and later went on become a
successful, powerful leader of the Danish people. Following the death of Scyld

Sceafing, his son Beowulf (not the Beowulf of this story) becomes ruler of the

Spear-Danes and much like his father, Beowulf is respected and beloved by his
subjects. After a reign of many years, Beowulf dies and his son Healfdene
inherits the throne. Healfdene fathers four children including Heorogar,

Hrothgar, and Halfga. Hrothgar succeeds his father and after achieving much
glory and fame as ruler of the Danes, he decides to build a great mead hall as a
monument to his success and symbol of his greatness. He names it Heorot. After
the completion of Heorot, Hrothgar holds a banquet for his subjects where scops
sing of the creation of the Earth by God and the Danes celebrate the peaceful,
festive times in which they live. After the festivities continue for many years,
the singing and music awakens an evil, part-human monster named Grendel who is a
descendant of the biblical Cain. Angered by the noise and apparent happiness of
the Danes, Grendel travels to Heorot at night when the soldiers within are sound
asleep after their day celebrations. Grendel kills thirty warriors and escapes
into the night satisfied with his evil deed. Hrothgar is deeply saddened by the
deaths and fears the attack may be the beginning of a long war with the monster.

Grendel continues his murderous rampage the following night and a war with

Grendel ensues which lasts twelve years. Stories of the Danes' suffering at the
hands of Grendel spread to foreign lands. The Danes exhaust all means of defense
against Grendel and attempts to pay the monster to cease his harassment are
useless. The Danes' desperation becomes so great, they abandon their Christian
beliefs and begin worshipping ancient deities from their pagan past. When news
of the Danes' troubles reaches Geatland, Beowulf, thane of Hygelac, gathers
fourteen of his strongest, bravest men to voyage across the seas to help

Hrothgar and his people. Upon arriving, Beowulf and his men are greeted by a

Danish coast guard sentinel. The sentinel is alarmed to see armed men
approaching the Danish coast and directly asks Beowulf to state his business.

The guard is clearly impressed by the Geat's armor and weapons and conveys his
respect for the noble men. 4 Beowulf informs the soldier that he and his men are
followers of Hygelac from the clan of the Geats and explains that he is the son
of Ecgtheow, a respected and renowned leader known throughout the land. Beowulf
explains that he has come to help Hrothgar and the Danes. After learning that
the Geat's intentions are noble, the guard agrees to escort the men to Hrothgar.

5 Wulfgar, a Danish soldier and advisor to Hrothgar, interrupts the men's
journey to see Hrothgar and interrogates them about their identity and
intentions. Beowulf introduces himself and explains his purpose. Wulfgar,
impressed by Beowulf's confidence and the appearance of his men, welcomes the
visitors and encourages Hrothgar to meet them. 6 While receiving Beowulf,

Hrothgar explains that he remembers Beowulf as a boy and recounts several
experiences shared with Beowulf''s father, Ecgtheow. Hrothgar views

Beowulf's prescence as a blessing for the Danes because of his reputation as a
great warrior and his noble ancestry. He offers treasures to Beowulf and the

Geats if they can end Grendel's terror and return Heorot to its previous glory.

Beowulf expresses his desire to challenge Grendel to a battle to the death and
says he will trust in God and will thus refuse weapons or shields. 7 Reassured
by Beowulf's confidence, Hrothgar recalls further stories of Ecgtheow. He
explains how while new to his throne he helped Ecgtheow avoid a battle by
sending treasures to his enemies. Hrothgar then immediately begins discussing
his troubles with Grendel and explains his displeasure in seeing his mead hall
abandoned by his warriors. The Danes and the Geat warriors then go to Heorot
where they are entertained by scops and drink mead. 8, 9 During the banquet, a
courtier of Hrothgar named Unferth is overcome by jealousy of Beowulf's
reputation and challenges the merit of his courageous feats. Unferth tells of a
swimming competition from Beowulf''s past in which Beowulf was defeated by a
warrior named Breca. Beowulf explains that both warriors were armed only with
swords to protect them from sea monsters and that after match had lasted five
nights, the two men became separated. Beowulf was then