Who was Beowulf?
Beowulf is an epic poem based in the area that is now called Scandinavia during the sixth century CE. As with much literature that was passed on as oral legend for centuries before being recorded, it is difficult to determine exactly what or who in the story is factual and what is exaggeration or fiction.
Beowulf may have been a great leader or warrior who later becomes the king of the Geats, a clan that lived in the area that is now southwestern Sweden. There are many parts of Beowulf that can be demonstrably connected with established historical characters or events. There is not, at this time, any accepted link between the person Beowulf and a specific historic figure.
Beowulf is the hero of an ancient epic, titled Beowulf, which is the oldest known epic narrative composed in English. Beowulf is a powerful warrior who comes to the aid of the Danish king Hrothgar, whose hall is raided each night by the hideous man-eating monster Grendel. Beowulf slays Grendel and then Grendel's angry mother, and rules as king of the Geats until he himself is slain in battle with a dragon. The Beowulf epic is probably a conglomeration of ancient Scandinavian folk tales, compiled by a single unknown author sometime around the eighth century AD. It remains a standard text in English literature classes in high schools and colleges.