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.

The next night after Beowulf’s battle with Grendel, his mother was “grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge.” She entered Heorot while all the warriors were asleep. They heard her and woke up, grabbing their swords and shields. Grendel’s mother was “in panic, desperate to get out, in mortal terror the moment she was found.” She grabbed one of the retainers and Grendel’s hand before she ran away.  

Her hostage was a great warrior. For Hrothgar, “this man was the most beloved of the friends he trusted between the two seas.” The author lists numerous epithets highlighting the importance of this person to the king. He was the “highest-placed adviser,” “dearest companion,” “true mentor,” “soul-mate,” and “right-hand man.” Evidently, Hrothgar wanted to kill Grendel’s mother. But he was too old to battle with the monster. Beowulf was the only person capable of defeating her.   

Beowulf is an epic poem, and the struggle between good evil is its central theme. Grendel’s mother was Cain’s descendant and murdered a good man. According to the Anglo-Saxon culture, she had to die. For this reason, Beowulf says: “It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.” This position makes him an exemplary hero. 

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