Beowulf Questions and Answers

Beowulf is an epic poem by an unknown author. It was written between the 8th and 11th centuries, but the plot describes the events that date back to 500 AD. The original text is in Old English, so the general public studies the poem in a translation.

This selection by experts lists the most popular Beowulf questions and answers. Its geography and list of characters are rather complicated, so this part will help you discover the most dubious issues. We’ve collected these Beowulf discussion questions and answers for you to prepare for any lesson or text based on the epic.

  1. Which words describe the relationship between Hrothgar and Beowulf? 
    Hrothgar plays a father figure in Beowulf’s life, and their relationship is full of mutual respect and loyalty. These two words represent the message the author wanted to convey by describing these two characters’ communication. In the end, Beowulf becomes a wise king, just as Hrothgar was. 
  2. Which plot element features the conflicts and challenges encountered by characters in Beowulf?
    Rising action features the conflicts and challenges of the characters in Beowulf’s plot. The story escalates when all the characters start experiencing various negative things. In Beowulf, rising action takes place between Grendel’s attack on the mead-hall and Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother. The latter marks the climax of the poem. 
  3. What was unusual about the way Beowulf fought Grendel?
    When the night came, and Beowulf was getting ready for the battle, he took off all of his armor. He also put away the sword to fight Grendel barehanded. He motivated it by the fact that the monster was unarmed, so that they would be equal. Besides, Beowulf relied on fate, which would “unwind as it must.” 
  4. How does Beowulf kill Grendel’s mother?
    Beowulf killed Grendel’s mother using a sword he found in her cave. It was an ancient sword forged by giants, Cain’s descendants, like Grendel and his mother. When Beowulf killed the mother and decapitated Grendel, the sword melted away because of the mother’s poisonous blood. 
  5. How does Beowulf kill Grendel?
    The heroic code required equal terms in a battle for warriors. Beowulf knew that Grendel’s only weapon was his hands. For this reason, the warrior took off his armor and put away his sword. He caught Grendel by his hand and tore it off. The monster died from this mortal wound after it escaped to the swamps. 
  6. What was the name of the hall in which Beowulf and Grendel battled?
    Heorot is a mead-hall and a critical location in Beowulf. The hall was situated in Denmark. It serves as a seat of rule for Hrothgar, a legendary Danish king. He built the hall to celebrate victories and protect his people from any invaders. So, the attack on Heorot was the worst thing that could happen to the Danes.   
  7. Describe the setting where Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother.
    Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother in her deep underwater lair. It is located in a building with a high arch. An ancient sword made by giants hangs on the wall as if waiting for Beowulf to use it. All of these objects and details bear symbolic meaning. 
  8. Why does Beowulf come to see Hrothgar?
    Beowulf comes to help Hrothgar because the king helped Beowulf’s father once a long time ago. The heroic code dictated Beowulf to be loyal to the benefactors of his family. He had to repay for the good deed. Moreover, Beowulf strived for fame, and killing Grendel would bring him glory. 
  9. In what way does Beowulf’s sword fail him?
    Unferth gave Hrunting to Beowulf as an infallible legendary sword that survived many battles. But when Beowulf fought Grendel’s mother, his sword could not penetrate her armored skin. It even did not scratch her. For this reason, Beowulf had to put aside this weapon and use the giant sword from the monster’s lair. During his battle with the dragon, another sword failed him. 
  10. How did Beowulf become king?
    When Hygelac died, Queen Hygd offered Beowulf to take the throne as Heardred, her son, was too young to rule the Geats. Beowulf refused but promised to serve the young king till his dying day. But Heardred was killed in a battle. Then Beowulf became the King of the Geats and protected his people for 50 years. 
  11. Why does Unferth challenge Beowulf?
    Unferth is one of the warriors under Hrothgar’s rule. Unferth questioned Beowulf’s ability to defeat Grendel because once Beowulf failed in a swimming competition. Unferth was jealous of the hero’s strength, bravery, and the way the king accepted him. This feeling highlights the difference between these two characters. When Beowulf wins the battle, Unferth gives him Hrunting, apologizing for the lack of belief. 
  12. How can the reader tell that Beowulf is an epic poem?
    Traditionally, epic literature is formed as a long and narrative poem. It also has such literary devices as kennings and rich imagery. Epic poems do not have a rhyme in the sense of modern poetry. Instead, their unique form is achieved by alliteration and rhythm. An indispensable criterion is the presence of an epic hero who is the greatest of all other people. 
  13. Who is the protagonist in the battle with the dragon?
    In the battle with the dragon, Beowulf acts as a protagonist. He is the character with whom readers identify themselves. The dragon is the antagonist. It opposes Beowulf and kills him. A protagonist and an antagonist are antonyms. These opposing forces create a conflict in a story and move the plot forward. 
  14. What is the outcome of Beowulf’s battle with Grendel?
    The battle with Grendel finishes when Beowulf tears off his arm, and the monster runs away to die in the swamps. But Grendel’s mother was driven by vengeance. By night, she penetrated Heorot. She took away Hrothgar’s best advisor and Grendel’s hand. Later Beowulf found the advisor’s head near the monster’s lair. 
  15. How is Beowulf an epic hero? 
    Beowulf is one of the first epic heroes that can be found in ancient literature. His brave and noble character helps him defeat evil monsters that killed the Danes and Geats. Beowulf is strong and loyal to his kings. He does everything possible to improve the life of the people around him. 
  16. Where does Beowulf take place? 
    Beowulf takes place in Scandinavia around the 6th century AD. The Geats and the Scyldings (or Danes) were real tribal groups. They lived on the territory of modern southern Sweden and Denmark, respectively. We may suppose that Beowulf crossed the Baltic Sea. Still, it is impossible to define the exact place because most of the landscapes were written from the author’s imagination. 
  17. Why does Hrothgar ask Beowulf to battle Grendel’s mother? 
    Grendel’s mother killed Aeschere, Hrothgar’s favorite thane. This loss was too personal to leave it unrevenged. He asked Beowulf to battle Grendel’s mother to bring an end to the monstrous breed. Besides, the hero was the only person Hrothgar believed was strong enough for the task. 
  18. Where was Beowulf when Grendel burst into the hall? 
    Grendel, the first monster that appears in the poem, came to Heorot by night. At that moment, Beowulf pretended he was asleep. Here the hero played the role of a sleeping monster whose lair was disturbed. He can defeat a monster only by acting like a monster. 
  19. How does Beowulf kill the Dragon?
    Beowulf came to fight the dragon with eleven warriors. Ten of them betrayed him in fear, but Wiglaf stayed. The two of them opposed the fire-breathing creature. When Beowulf’s sword broke, Wiglaf stabbed the dragon in its stomach. It gave the hero time to take out his knife, which he used to kill the serpent. 
  20. What is Beowulf about? 
    The epic poem tells the life story of a Geatish hero, his feats, and achievements. He sails to the land of the Danes to help them fight Grendel, a monster who ate people. This storyline is enframed with the lineage of the Danish kings and other historical or fictional events described in bard’s songs. 
  21. What is the main conflict in Beowulf? 
    Apart from some other conflicts that mainly fall under the category “Person vs. person,” the central conflict is “Person vs. supernatural.” Accordingly, the poem describes three battles of Beowulf: with Grendel, his mother, and the dragon. All of them are evil supernatural creatures that kill people and threaten their mead-halls. 
  22. Why does Beowulf sail to Denmark? 
    At the time when Beowulf was written, and even more so when the described events took place, there was no such a country like Denmark. Beowulf took fifteen chosen companions with him to fight a man-eating monster who threatened the Danish tribe. 
  23. Why does Beowulf fight the Dragon?
    Beowulf was too old for the battle with the dragon. He sensed his death was soon. But he was a king, and kings are responsible for their people. The dragon attacked their homes, so Beowulf had to eliminate it. Besides, in Anglo-Saxon culture, dying in a battle was considered the best way to finish one’s life. 
  24. Which features of the Anglo-Saxon culture are present in Beowulf? 
    In Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon culture manifests itself in gift-giving, hospitality, feasts and celebrations, and the mixture of Pagan and Christian traditions. Such notions as lords, thanes, and warrior tribes were also typical for this culture. 
  25. Which comparison of Beowulf and Grendel is most accurate? 
    The poem Beowulf and the novel Grendel have a similar plot. Both literary works characterize Grendel in the same way, with minor differences. In the poem, he is an angry man-eating creature with primitive human traits. In the novel, he is lonely and miserable. His inner world is emotionally complicated.   
  26. What is the reason for the tragic end of the hero Beowulf? 
    Beowulf was too arrogant to admit he was too old for a hero’s role in the battle with the dragon. He wanted to achieve another feat and receive fame. He felt his death was near, but it did not stop him. After all, dying in a battle was the best end for a hero. So, hubris made Beowulf risk his life and brought him to a tragic end. 
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