Beowulf eText - Chapter XI

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Chapter XI

THEN GRENDEL CAME from the moors by way of the misty crags; God's wrath lay heavy on him. The monster was of a mind to seize a human in the noble hall. He walked beneath the clouds towards the mead-hall until he saw with glee the golden hall of men with its gilded woodwork. This was not the first time that he'd sought Hrothgar's homestead, but never before had he found such mighty warriors, such guardians of the hall!

The accurséd rogue then came to the hall; the door opened when his fists struck it, even though it had been fastened with bolts of iron, and he ripped open the house's mouth in his furious rage. He then quickly tread over the paved floor, his ire streaming like flashes from his eyes, like a flame. He spied the band of heroes in the hall, the hardy liegemen, that group of clansmen gathered together sleeping. Then his heart laughed, for the savage beast was in the mood to sever each soul's life from its body before daybreak as he saw this opportunity to sate his slaughterous appetite. But Destiny did not permit him to seize any more of mankind after that evening.

The mighty kinsman of Hygelac closely watched his curséd foe to see how the assassin would advance. Nor was the monster inclined to hesitate, but he promptly seized a sleeping warrior in his first move, tore him fiercely asunder, bit his frame of bones, drank the blood of his veins, and swallowed large morsels; momentarily, the lifeless corpse was devoured—feet, hands, and all. Then he stepped further in, grasping at Beowulf with his hand, feeling with a fiendish claw for the reclining hero—who boldly grasped him, returning in kind with a grip on the arm. Then the master of evil saw that he was in a man's grip, stronger than any he had ever met on the whole earth; his heart quailed, and he became alarmed—he could not escape soon enough! He wanted to flee and seek his lair, that devil's den. He could not now do what he had often done in days of long ago! Then the brave thane of Hygelac thought upon his evening's boast, and he bounded up and grasped firm his foe, whose fingers cracked in breaking. The fiend was making off, but the prince followed close behind. The monster desired to fling himself free, if at all he could, and fly far away to the fens—he knew that his fingers' power was in the grip of a fearsome foe; this was a dire march to Heorot that this devastating beast had made!

A din filled the hall, and the ale-sleep left all the Danes, castle-dwellers, clansmen, and princes. Both the champions were enraged, and the building resounded with the strain of their struggle; it was a wonder that the mead-hall stood firm, and that the fair house fell not to the ground—for it was fastened within and without with iron bands of cunning smithy-skill. Even so, many gold-decorated mead-benches crashed from the sill where the grim foes wrestled. The wisest Scylings had believed that no man's might would ever break apart that stout, bone-carved house or unhinge it by any means—unless a fire's embrace should engulf it in smoke.

The clamor redoubled its intensity, and each and every Dane of the North was stricken with terrible fear, even those out on the wall, when they heard the wailing when God's foe let fly his dismal song, the cry of defeat, as hell's servant howled in pain. He who among men was greatest in might during his life's days held him too tightly.