What is a short summary of the epic poem Beowulf?

Beowulf tells the story of a warrior named Beowulf. Beowulf comes to the aid of King Hrothgar, whose kingdom is being terrorized by a monster named Grendel. The courageous Beowulf uses his epic strength to kill Grendel and then slays Grendel’s vengeful mother before returning home to Geatland. Beowulf later becomes the king of the Geats and rules for a peaceful fifty years. When a dragon begins to pose a threat to Geatland, Beowulf and his servant Wiglaf set off to defeat it. Beowulf succeeds in slaying the dragon but dies in the process.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf is the story, in epic poem form, of a great Geat warrior who came to the aid of the Danish King Hrothgar in defeating a monster that was terrorizing his people. The monster, Grendel, was a huge, terrifying creature that would enter the town and tear apart its people. Beowulf took on the monster in a mead hall and defeated him by ripping off Grendel's arm, completing the first of three battles that make up the epic poem.

After Grendel's defeat, Grendel's mother goes into a rage and seeks to follow Grendel's path in destroying the Danes. Beowulf then goes to her lair and kills her with a great sword of the old world. Victorious and revered, Beowulf returns home to Geats and serves as a king for a peaceful fifty years, until his people are terrorized by a dragon enraged by treasure that was stolen from it. Beowulf takes on the dragon in a brave battle and ultimately defeats it, but he is mortally wounded and laid to rest at sea, ending his legacy as a warrior and ruler.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team


An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf is an Old English story by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. The poem tells a story of a strong and brave warrior (Beowulf) who defeats monsters and goes on to become King.

Beowulf’s first major battle was against Grendel, a monster that had been terrorizing the Scyldings. Beowulf heard about Grendel’s murderous spree in the land of the Danes under King Hrothgar and decided to come to their aid. Beowulf fights Grendel in a mead hall at Herot and tears off the monster’s arm, mortally wounding it. Grendel’s mother attacks the Danes in revenge but Beowulf follows the monster back to her lair and kills it. Beowulf goes back home to the Geats and becomes their King. Fifty years after his last battle with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf is forced to fight a dragon after a slave steals a golden cup from its lair. This last battle is however difficult for Beowulf who receives help from one of his men and the two finally defeat the dragon. During the battle with the dragon Beowulf was mortally wounded. The hero dies soon after and is buried ceremoniously at sea.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf is a young warrior in Geatland, who comes to the aid of the Scyldings. Hrothgar is the Danish king and he and his people have been terrorized by a monster. Beowulf brings 14 of his finest men with him. He is returning the favor, Hrothgar sheltered Beowulf's father during a deadly feud. He also wants enhance his reputation and gather treasure for his king, Hygelac. The monster, Grendel comes and attacks them, but Beowulf cuts off his claw and the monster is mortally wounded. The mother of Grendel, not as strong as her son, but deeply motivated, plans revenge. She sneaks in and gets her son's claw. Beowulf and the men follow the trail of the mother and are lead to a dark swamp. Beowulf dives in to find the mother. He tries to fight her with his sword, but to no avail. He suddenly sees a magical sword and slices through the neck and spine of the monster, killing her. When the monster dies, he sees a great treasure, but he leaves it there, only bringing the head of the monster back with him.

He returns home and ends up becoming king and rules for 50 years. He has one last battle. This one is with the fiery dragon. He kills the dragon, but is mortally wounded in the battle and dies.

Beowulf is the longest surviving Anglo-Saxon poems today. It is a literary masterpiece. To know that a work of literature has lasted for this many years is remarkable. This poem is considered one of the most important works of literature today. It is truly one of the most amazing pieces of literature we have in our use today. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beowulf is one of the most famous poems in old English. It is about three thousand lines long and the story revolves around three battles.

In the poem, Beowulf, a warrior from Geats comes to the rescue of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes whose land is being attacked by a monster, Grendel. Beowulf succeeds and defeats Grendel. To show his prowess, he even kills Grendel with his bare hands. However, the tension of the story escalates, because Grendel's mother is now on the warpath to get revenge. As the story progresses, Beowulf kills Grendel's mother in her liar with a sword that giants of a past time once used.

After this victory, Beowulf returns home to Geats. Fifty years pass. However, there is one final battle. There is a dragon that plagues his people because of stolen treasure. More importantly, Beowulf now has to defend his people. He fails at first, but then with the help of Wiglaf, a servant, chases the dragon into its lair and kills it. However, in the process, Beowulf receives a fatal wound and dies. Finally, he is buried by the sea.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial