What are three examples of Beowulf's superhuman strength?

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Three examples of when Beowulf showcases his superhuman strength are when he fights Grendel barehanded, swims a great distance in armor, and slays Grendel's mother using a sword forged for giants.

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Beowulf's extraordinary strength is made most plain when he fights Grendel in the first third of the poem. He battles with his own bare hands as opposed to using a weapon, which displays both his supernatural strength and his courage. It must be remembered that Grendel is a powerful creature who has torn fine warriors apart, so Beowulf being able to rip off one of Grendel's arms with no weapons to help him is quite a feat.

Beowulf also brags about the time he won a swimming contest against his friend Brecca. He was wearing mail and carrying a sword at the time. Not only did he swim a great length in such conditions, but he also had to fight sea monsters as well! That's quite an accomplishment.

Beowulf's slaying of Grendel's mother also takes great strength. She is just as strong as Beowulf. Beowulf grapples for a long period with Grendel's mother, and she makes more headway than the human hero for much of it. Ultimately, Beowulf has to use a large sword intended for giants to penetrate her flesh. While this is a closer call than his fight with Grendel or the aforementioned swimming contest, it is still a great show of his physical strength.

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During the battle with Grendel's mother, there are numerous comments made by the poet to the effect that Beowulf is "wigena strengest": the strongest man. He is also described as "trusting to strength," in the knowledge that he is not at the same disadvantage as another mortal man in his battle against this supernatural being, however fearsome Grendel's mother may be. So, we know that the poet does set considerable store by Beowulf's great strength. As indicated in the previous answers, we also see this strength at play in Beowulf's fight with Grendel and in his furious manhandling of Grendel's head.

However, there is also cause to question how far Beowulf's belief in his own strength may be overstated. The idea of "ofermod" (over-ambition) in Beowulf has been the subject of much scholarship. At the end of the poem, Beowulf takes on the dragon on his own, but ultimately his belief in his own strength is insufficient to save him. In part, we are led to believe that this is because of his great age, and not a reflection on his bravery, but others have pointed to some of Beowulf's earlier boasts and questioned the truthfulness of them. Beowulf is strong, but is he truly superhumanly so? Early in the poem, Beowulf describes to Unferth how he held his breath for the entire duration of a swim beneath the ocean and a battle against several fierce seamonsters—perhaps another example of superhuman strength, but equally perhaps an expression of ofermod, or a typical meadhall boast that stretches the truth.

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Beowulf is stated to have defeated five great giants and led them to their imprisonment. The idea that a human being is able to defeat five giants demonstrates that Beowulf is no ordinary human being. Beowulf also exhibits superhuman strength, because it is stated that he fought monsters in the ocean and eliminated them one after the other. Beowulf’s adventures are stated during his introduction to Hrothgar when he went to face Grendel.

The fight with Grendel’s mother is another exemplary demonstration of superhuman strength. Beowulf is stated to have stayed underwater for hours fighting Grendel’s mother. Man is naturally not adapted to staying underwater for long periods of time without any form of underwater breathing technology. Thus, the story of Beowulf staying underwater for hours shows superhuman abilities.

In his last battle, Beowulf fights a dragon. He is old at the time, but his youthful vigor has not left him, as seen in his vicious fight against the dragon. In a show of superhuman strength, Beowulf decides to face the dragon with only a sword and a shield. He manages to defend himself from the dragon’s attacks, but he gets injured. Wiglaf, one of his soldiers, joins the battle and helps Beowulf defeat the dragon.

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The instances showing Beowulf's superhuman strength are regularly expounded upon by the poet, who not only describes the feat, but mentions how no other single man could complete the task. The first of these that appears in the text is in the Beowulf's battle with Grendel. The other Geats leap to Beowulf's aid, but their weapons are useless against Grendel's tough hide and devious spells that "blunted every mortal man's blade." Be that as it may, Beowulf still managed to rip Grendel's arm off at the shoulder - and Beowulf used only his hands and beastly strength.

The second example I would mention is the giant-forged sword in Grendel's mother's lair. The poem describes this sword as "so massive that no ordinary man could lift its carved and decorated length." Not only does Beowulf manage to lift it from its hanging place on the wall, he also manages to swing it hard enough to cut off Grendel's mother's head with it.

Last, but certainly not least, is the presentation of Grendel's head to Hrothgar and the Danes. After killing the mother, Beowulf was still filled with rage. He went after the body of the already deceased Grendel and cut off its head with the giant-forged sword. It took four men to carry the head on spears back to Herot, but when they arrived, Beowulf single-handedly tossed the head down on the table in front of the Danes who had so recently deserted him.

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Beowulf does a number of things in the epic Beowulf that show just how great his strength is.

The most dramatic act, and the one that stays with most people, is when he tears the arm off the monster Grendel, who has killed a lot of people. He doesn't use any weapons, but does this with his bare hands.  That's extremely strong.

There are other examples too though. Well before the encounter with Grendel, Beowulf went swimming--and carried his sword in one hand! Since he was swimming in order to fight sea creatures, he was also wearing mail. It's hard enough to swim in waves naked. To do it in clothes, with one hand holding a weapon, and wearing armor must mean he's very strong. Add to that the fact that he swam for five straight days and nights, and you have some sense of just how strong Beowulf was. He topped off his swim by driving his sword into some of the sea creatures, killing nine sea monsters.

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What are examples of Beowulf's skill and strength from the text?

Beowulf "oozes" skill.  His bravery, his combat skills, and his strength are evident in the way that he walks, carries himself, talks, and dresses.  A good example of this occurs when Beowulf is on his way to see Hrothgar.  A guard stops Beowulf in order to know Beowulf's purpose.  I am sure that the guard is wary of Beowulf's abilities because he comments on the physical presence that is Beowulf. 

"Nor have I seen

A mightier man-at-arms on this earth

Than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken,

He is truly noble.  This is no mere                             

Hanger-on in a hero’s armour."

I can give a few specific examples of Beowulf's strength.  The first is the fact that Beowulf rips off Grendel's arm.  He does not cut it off.  He rips it off with his bare hands.  

The monster's whole
body was in pain, a tremendous wound
appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split
and the bone-lappings burst. Beowulf was granted
the glory of winning; Grendel was driven
under the fen-banks, fatally hurt, 
to his desolate lair. 

Before Grendel's arm is brutally removed from his body, Grendel knows that he is in trouble.  Remember that Grendel is said to be demon possessed in some way, and nobody has been able to beat him in combat.  Grendel is likely confident that the outcome will be the same against Beowulf.  Then Beowulf begins wrestling and grappling with Grendel, and Grendel realizes that Beowulf has skill and strength beyond any man that he has faced before.

The captain of evil discovered himself
in a handgrip harder than anything
he had ever encountered in any man
on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body
quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape. 
He was desperate to flee to his den and hide
with the devil's litter, for in all his days
he had never been clamped or cornered like this.   

The other example that I like about Beowulf's strength is the fact that he supposedly has the strength of 30 men.  

"Who valuable gift-gems of the Geatmen carried

As peace-offering thither, that he thirty men’s grapple

Has in his hand, the hero-in-battle."

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What are examples of Beowulf's skill and strength from the text?

There are plenty of examples of Beowulf’s strength. Beowulf himself brags about his strength when he first comes to Heorot: for one thing, he tells the story of his swimming contest with his friend Brecca, in which he swam across the ocean while wearing mail and carrying a sword for five nights, all the while defending himself from sea beasts that would drag him to the bottom. Of course, the truth of his strength is proved by his encounter with Grendel in the hall; Beowulf is able to defeat Grendel purely through the strength of his grip (“harder than anything / he had ever encountered in any man / on the face of the earth” ll 750-2, Heaney tr.), literally tearing the monster limb from limb. His tremendous stamina is proved once again in his fight with Grendel’s mother, another underwater duel in which Beowulf is only able to be victorious by wielding a giant sword, originally made for giants.

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What are examples of Beowulf's skill and strength from the text?


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