What are the evils that lurk inside the Danish culture in Beowulf?  

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beowulf is an epic poem, passed down over hundreds of years in the oral tradition (by word-of-mouth). The language is grand and exciting, to convey the heroism of the Geatish warrior. There are several dangers lurking on the Danish shore. These threats represent the two monsters that Beowulf battles in the first two parts of the story. (The last section, with the dragon, takes place back at Beowulf's home.)

The first monster is Grendel, who lives in the swamps. He is supposed to have been descended from Cain (Adam and Eve's son) who killed his brother Abel. When Hrothgar builds his mead hall, everyone comes to visit and tell stories, and the sound of cheerfulness angers Grendel, who is a lonely outcast. He begins by attacking the mead hall every night. No one is strong enough to stop him. He continues attacking for 12 winters, and finally, people stop coming.

When word of the monster reaches the Geats, Beowulf, a mighty Geatish warrior, outfits a ship with supplies and men, and comes to offer his aid. The first night, Grendel comes again and attacks. He kills and eats one of the warriors, but when he tries to grab Beowulf, he finds this warrior stronger than any man he has ever encountered. They battle fiercely, and Grendel only escapes because Beowulf rips off his arm. Grendel returns to the fens (swamps) to die.

It seems that all is well at the Hall of the Hart, and Beowulf has been praised by Hrothgar. That night everyone goes to sleep comforted in knowing Grendel is dead; however, Grendel's dam (mother) attacks and takes one of Hrothgar's best warriors, fleeing to the swamps. The men set out to find the hag; they discover the dead warrior and come to a pool of water. Beowulf dives in and is dragged into the depths by Grendel's dam. He and the monster come out of the water on a shelf of rock, and there they do battle. Grendel's dam is even stronger than Grendel, but Beowulf fights hard. His sword fails to kill her, but he finds another left by a long-dead warrior. He uses it to kill the creature; her acidic blood melts the metal of the sword.

Seeing bloody water, Beowulf's men fear the worst, but Beowulf rises to the surface, victorious again.

These are the two Danish threats that Beowulf faces. When he is finished, he returns home, where he eventually becomes King of the Geats.