Lines 991–1,472 Summary

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Last Updated February 9, 2023.

The Danes begin to repair Heorot; all but the roof is damaged from the intense conflict between Beowulf and Grendel. The speaker notes Grendel’s death but also reflects on the inevitability of death for all humans. Once the hall has been cleaned up and renovated, Hrothgar hosts a massive feast in Beowulf’s honor. Beowulf receives many gifts, including a gold standard, a banner, armor, and weapons. The speaker repeats how cordial and joyful the feast is, as Beowulf is next gifted eight horses, dressed in extravagant bridles and gilded saddles. All proper decorum was followed in the gift exchange, and the mutual respect of the king and the hero is clear to everyone in attendance. Beowulf’s men are also showered with treasure, while Hrothgar also makes an allowance in gold for the man who Grendel killed when he entered Heorot that night. The speaker states that more would have died if God had not protected them. 

A minstrel entertains the hall and its hero with the song of a king named Finn and his heirs. His queen, Hildeburh, a Dane, loses her brother, Hnaef, and one of her sons in a battle in the hall. The Danes attack, and after Hnaef is killed, Hengest becomes the Danish leader. The Frisians and Danes agree to a truce, but it is only temporary. Funeral pyres are built for the fallen warriors, and life goes on, with the seasons changing as usual. The Danes’ anger grows and they seek vengeance for the previous aggression of the Frisians. They kill Finn in battle and take his queen back to Denmark with them. 

After the poet finishes his song, Wealtheow proposes a toast to her king, asking him to pay homage to the Geats who have helped them defeat Grendel and to feel grateful that Heorot has been restored to its former glory. She expresses concern over Hrothgar naming Beowulf as a son due to the claim of their nephew Hrothulf, who she believes will treat their sons well and fairly after Hrothgar’s death. Beowulf sits between the royal couple’s boys, and a cup of wine is brought to him along with more treasures. One is a necklace that Beowulf’s lord, Hygelac the Geat, will be gifted and that he will eventually wear when he falls in battle to the Franks. When Wealtheow presents Beowulf this treasure, she tells him to wear it for good luck and hopes that he will have a positive influence on her sons. 

As the men celebrate in the hall, they are unaware that Grendel’s mother is plotting her revenge. Though they go to bed in their armor, they are abruptly awoken by the beast and left without time to fully protect themselves with helmets. Grendel’s mother is described as a “monstrous hell-bride,” and Grendel’s ancestry is detailed: he was descended from the biblical Cain and thus was inherently evil and bloodthirsty. Despite his evil, Grendel could not defeat Beowulf because God protected the Geat warrior. When the beast’s mother enters the hall, the men rush to action, but not before she can take a man with her back to her cave. The man she snatches is a favorite of Hrothgar, “the most beloved of his friends.” Beowulf is not present at the time of the attack, and Grendel’s mother also reclaims the amputated arm of her lost son. 

Hrothgar is grieved to find his chief advisor and best friend Aeschere has been killed by Grendel’s mother. When Beowulf asks the king if he has gotten any rest, Hrothgar exclaims that it is not the time to rest when “sorrow has returned” to Heorot. He knows that the monster took Aeschere as vengeance for Grendl’s death at Beowulf’s hand. Hrothgar doesn’t know where this second creature has gone with his friend’s body, but he recounts rumors he had heard about there being two beasts on the moors. The village rumors suggest that these creatures have no fathers and are unnatural, unlike humans, and dwell with animals. Hrothgar tells Beowulf about a strange lake that strikes fear in the deer who approach it because “it is no good place,” suggesting the lake may be home to Grendel and his mother’s lair. 

Hrothgar proposes that Beowulf go fight the creature on her own territory and promises to reward him lavishly if he returns. Beowulf supports the king’s choice to seek vengeance rather than wallow in misery, asserting that glory is the most important thing for a warrior to pursue in his lifetime. The Geat hero vows to eliminate Grendel’s mother, thus keeping Heorot safe thereafter. Hrothgar leads the men to this mysterious lake, and they are dismayed to find Aeschere’s disembodied head. The waters are full of sea beasts like dragons and serpents, and Beowulf proves himself by killing one of the creatures. Next, Beowulf readies himself to plumb the depths of the lake, donning his armor and helmet and handling the ancient sword Hrunting, which has never been wielded by an unsuccessful warrior. Beowulf tries to give the sword to Unferth, but the other man declines, “not man enough” to embark on such a daunting mission. As a result, Unferth loses his credibility with the other men, while Beowulf earns their respect.

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