Why does Beowulf slay Grendel in Beowulf?

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In the anonymous epic poem, Beowulf, Beowulf comes to King Hrothgar's aid.  After he arrives he says:

...Perhaps

Hrothgar can hunt, here in my heart,

For some way to drive this devil [Grendel] out--

If anything will ever end the evils

Afflicting your wise and famous lord.

By the...

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In the anonymous epic poem, Beowulf, Beowulf comes to King Hrothgar's aid.  After he arrives he says:

...Perhaps

Hrothgar can hunt, here in my heart,

For some way to drive this devil [Grendel] out--

If anything will ever end the evils

Afflicting your wise and famous lord.

By the time Beowulf arrives to help, Grendel has been killing Hrothgar's men for twelve years.  The mead hall is nearly ruined.  In the end, Beowulf's method of helping is to kill Grendel himself.

Of course, being an epic poem, the narrative goes deeper than that.  Grendel lives "...down/In the darkness,..."  He makes "...his home in a hell/Not hell but earth.  He was spawned in that slime,/Conceived by a pair of those monsters born/Of Cain, murderous creatures banished/By God, punished forever for the crime/Of Abel's death."

Grendel is evil, Beowulf is good.  And good must triumph.

Interestingly, the poet juxtaposes this material about Grendel's evil home and ancestry with descriptions of music, rejoicing, song, etc., in the mead hall.  It appears that the speaker is associating musical celebration with the monster's reason for stirring and his eventual attacks.  If so, Beowulf's victory might also be seen as a victory for art.

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