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.

The epic starts with a historical note about the noble lineage of the Scyldings. All of the Danish kings proved their power in battles. The story begins with King Hrothgar who had ruled for 50 years when a monster started killing his people. Many people try to defeat Grendel but to no avail. Then Beowulf, a hero who has killed nine sea monsters, and his 15 warriors came to aid the Danes. The hero wrestles the beast and tears off his hand so that it dies bleeding.  

Grendel’s mother seeks vengeance and takes Hrothgar’s best thane. The king asks Beowulf to fight this monster as well. Her lair is located in a deep underwater cavern. The hero battled her one-on-one, but his sword was helpless against her armored skin. Then Beowulf found a sword that was forged by the giants. It worked against Grendel’s mother.

Beowulf returned from the expedition in triumph. Eventually, he ruled as king of his homeland for fifty years. But then a dragon came to terrorize the Geatland, and Beowulf had to confront it. Everything foreshadowed Beowulf’s death. He managed to slay the dragon but also met his end. Beowulf entered the legends and songs of his people as an exceptional warrior and a brave hero.

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