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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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