Saturday, October 12, 2019
Beowulf :: Epic of Beowulf Essays
Type of Work: Heroic epic poem Setting "Land of the Geats," southern Sweden and Denmark; c. sixth century Principal Characters Beowulf, a Geat hero Hrothgar, King of the Danes Unferth, a Danish warrior Wiglaf, Beowulf's nephew and loyal court noble Story Overview Long ago in Hrothgar's Danish kingdom lived a gruesome monster-giant named Grendel, who nightly roamed the countryside. Rising from his marshy home, he would stalk to the King's high hall, and there devour fifteen of Hrothgar's sleeping warriors. Then, before departing, the monster would seize fifteen more men with his huge arms and bear them back to his watery lair. For twelve years the slaughter continued. Word of this terror spread across the sea to the land of the Geats, ruled by Hygelac. Beowulf, Hygelac's principal advisor and warrior and a man of great strength and courage, heard the tale of Grendel's murderous attacks. Straightway, he set sail to free the Danes from the demon's depredations. In Denmark, a coast-watcher met the weary company of fifteen seafarers. Learning of Beowulf's intended mission, he permitted the Danes to pass. They started out then - the spacious ship remained behind, riding on its rope, ... Figures of boars, bright and fire-hardened, gleamed gold-adorned above the cheek-guards; in war the boar helped guard those fierce men's lives ... To Hrothgar's high hall they marched. There the King spread a banquet feast in Beowulf's honor; the mead cup was passed around, and the boasting began. But the Danish warrior Unferth, "drunken with wine," taunted the Geat, reminding him of a five-day swimming contest in which Beowulf was said to have been bested. The Geat answered boldly, however, that he had not only emerged victorious in the race, but had been forced to kill nine deadly sea-monsters during the course. After the feast, Hrothgar and his warriors went to their rest, leaving Beowulf and his men in the hall. Then came the fiendish Grendel, "with an unlovely light, like a hellish flame in his eyes." The ironbound door burst open at the touch of his fingers, and he rejoiced at the rich feast of human flesh awaiting him. He seized one sleeping warrior, tore him up furiously, bit through muscles and sinews, and drank the blood in streams. Then he quickly consumed the entire corpse "as a wolf might eat a rabbit." He reached toward another victim, but the beast was destined to dine no more that night. Without shield or spear, Beowulf took hold of the dreaded monster, wrenching off his right arm; and the maimed Grendel fled back to his home.