In the epic tale of Beowulf, the great hero who is the subject of songs sung around mead hall fires ultimately fails in the moment of his direst need.
Beowulf, a great hero, travels to help the Danes fight off a monster that has been attacking and killing the Danes for twelve winters. He proves himself against the horrific attacks of not only Grendel, but also of his dam. He is stalwart and brave, and does not flinch in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds: after all, no other man has been able to face Grendel and live. Beowulf kills not only Grendel, but also the monster's mother, and is praised and rewarded by the Danish king, Hrothgar. Then Beowulf returns home to the land of the Geats.
As time goes on, Beowulf's uncle and cousin are killed in battle, and Beowulf becomes king to the Geats. He rules for fifty years, however, one day a thief disturbs a dragon guarding his horde of gold. The dragon begins destroying the king's lands, so Beowulf resolves to fight the creature, alone. He attacks and is mortally wounded, only succeeding with the help of a young warrior named Wiglaf. After the dragon is defeated, Beowulf dies.
For all of Beowulf's strength and bravery, ironically, he cannot battle his own aging. Though his spirit is committed, his flesh cannot bear up as it once did, and Beowulf's reign, and life, come to an end.