Beowulf

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The first page of the only manuscript of Beowulf.

Beowulf is an Old English heroic epic poem. It is not known who wrote it, but it was originally written down between the 8th and the 11th century. The only copy of Beowulf that still exists is from about 1010. Beowulf is 3182 lines long.

The protagonist of the poem is Beowulf. The poem is named after him. In the poem, Beowulf fights three monsters: Grendel and Grendel's mother, and later in his life an unnamed dragon.

Story[change | change source]

Hrothgar, a Danish king, has built a big mead hall, which is called Heorot. Hrothgar and his people live a good life and celebrate in Heorot. But then they are attacked by Grendel, who comes to Heorot every night and kills some of Hrothgar's people.

Beowulf is a Geatic warrior from Geatland (modern southern Sweden). He hears of Hrothgar's troubles with Grendel. Beowulf and his men leave Geatland to help King Hrothgar.

Beowulf and his men stay the night in Heorot. When Grendel comes to kill them, Beowulf fights him. Beowulf tears Grendel's arm off from his body and sticks it on the wall as a trophy. Grendel runs to his home in the marshes, where he dies. Everyone is happy that Grendel is killed and celebrates. But the next night, Grendel's mother comes to Heorot and kills many people for revenge and grabs Grendel's arm. Beowulf then goes to the marshes where Grendel and his mother lived. Beowulf fights Grendel's mother and kills her.

Beowulf later becomes a king. He fights a dragon that was living in a barrow. With the help of the young man Wiglaf, Beowulf kills the dragon. Beowulf is wounded in the final battle and dies.

Adaptations[change | change source]

The story of Beowulf has often been told in books, plays, and films. Sometimes the full story is told, sometimes just parts of the story. Sometimes the plot is altered. Sometimes only ideas or themes are taken from the story. Some examples are:

  • Eaters of the Dead, a book by Michael Crichton (1976)
  • Grendel, a book by John Gardner (1971)
  • The Ring-givers, a book by W. H. Canaway (1958).