Lines 2,221–2,601 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated May 24, 2023.

A servant, in his desperate attempt to evade his abusive master, accidentally stumbles upon a dragon's den. Before comprehending his whereabouts, he hastily takes a gem-laden chalice from the various riches amassed in the den. These treasures are remnants of a long-lost civilization. The final descendant of this forgotten race constructed a solid, stone tower, devoid of any doors or windows, nestled near the sea under a cliff. This was where he secured a hoard of gold, gems, swords, armor, and priceless goblets before his demise. This is the very tower the servant inadvertently discovers. After the extinction of this ancient race, a fire-breathing dragon found this tower and has since made it his dwelling, slumbering there for centuries until disturbed by the servant.

The servant presents the stolen goblet to his master, who is delighted with his find. However, the dragon, infuriated at being robbed and disturbed from his slumber, follows the servant's trail. Unable to locate the thief, he unleashes his wrath on the nearby village, setting ablaze their homes with his fiery breath as night falls. As dawn breaks, he retreats to his tower. Beowulf receives the news that the dragon has burned down his hall. Plagued with guilt and sorrow, Beowulf swiftly orchestrates the Geats' retaliation.

Fully aware that wood would be ineffective against the dragon's flaming breath, Beowulf commissions a shield made of iron. Despite his understanding that his days could be numbered, having ruled for five decades and being well past his youth when he ascended to the throne, he is resolute in his intent to slay the dragon as he faces his demise, presumably in the ensuing battle, and plans to do so single-handedly. Guided by a dozen of his men, he follows the servant who, ridden with fear, leads them to the tower. A fatigued Beowulf pauses by the shore before entering the tower, explaining that unlike his prior monster encounters, where he fought bare-handed, he must shield himself against the fire-breathing dragon long enough to deliver the fatal blow.

Beowulf's fury rises as he approaches the tower's entrance, and he lets out a battle cry audible to the dragon inside. He stations himself at the entrance, iron shield at the ready as the dragon emerges, spewing fire. Beowulf's shield withstands the fiery onslaught initially but eventually succumbs, melting under the dragon's heat. His sword shatters as he lunges at the dragon. Though Beowulf manages to wound the dragon, the beast retaliates by enveloping him in flames. In the face of his impending death, all but one of his men desert him.

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