Last Updated on January 27, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 382
Hrothgar remembers Edgetho’s son, Beowulf, and eagerly sends Wulfgar to fetch him. Beowulf boasts of his previous conquests and promises Hrothgar that he will kill Grendel. While the Danish king is pleased that Beowulf has come in friendship, he also thinks it is in repayment for his having averted a...
(The entire section contains 382 words.)
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Hrothgar remembers Edgetho’s son, Beowulf, and eagerly sends Wulfgar to fetch him. Beowulf boasts of his previous conquests and promises Hrothgar that he will kill Grendel. While the Danish king is pleased that Beowulf has come in friendship, he also thinks it is in repayment for his having averted a war by ending the feud Edgetho began with the Wulfings (another tribe) years ago. After further explaining the situation with Grendel, Hrothgar orders a feast for the Geats.
At the feast, Unferth taunts Beowulf with the stories he’s heard of Beowulf’s youthful swimming contest with his companion, Brecca. Beowulf responds with his own version of this story. Wealhtheow is attentive to Beowulf and, pleased with his boasts, reports to her king that he is sincere.
Later, as the Geats sleep, Grendel attacks and kills a young warrior, Hondscio. Beowulf does battle with the monster, pulling off his claw, arm, and shoulder using his bare hands, as he had vowed he would. This method of counter-attack becomes a necessity when the Geats realize their weapons are useless—they have been bewitched into harmlessness by the monster himself. Grendel escapes to his lair, only to die of his wounds. His claw, arm, and shoulder are hung from the rafters at Heorot.
Although Beowulf is seemingly overconfident and boastful, he does have a history of killing the beasts he says he will. He is dutiful to his lord, Hyglac, and seems respectful despite the boasting. While Unferth plays the devil’s advocate in taunting Beowulf, Beowulf believes his own version of the youthful contest and turns it into another occasion for telling of his glorious feats, rather than belligerently arguing with the doubting Unferth.
Wealhtheow listens carefully to the boasting and decides for herself that this brash young man has a right to his boasts; or, is this just a desperate hope on her part that he will succeed in killing Grendel? Hrothgar also seems desperate while, at the same time, acknowledging the veracity of Beowulf’s life, if not his boasts. Beowulf is brave and conscientious, not just a braggart, as he shows when he stays awake while the other soldiers sleep in Heorot after the feast. His bravery and sense of ethics seem to equal his desire for glory.