Once, many centuries ago, there was a great King of Denmark, whose name was Hrotyar of the House of Scyld. The Danes were a Viking nation, proud warriors who built great boats to travel the seas and conquer many strange lands. This King Hrotyar built a great wooden hall, which he called Heorot, or the hart, and he intended it to be the heart of his kingdom, where he would honour the great deeds done by his warriors, and entertain visitors to his Kingdom them with lavish feasts. Every night, while the King was in his Kingdom, great feasts were held here, always accompanied by loud carousing.
In that time, many, many, years ago, monsters still dwelt on the earth. Many people believed that in the beginning of time some people had incurred the wrath of the gods and been outcast from human society. As time had passed these outcasts had grown into horribly deformed, hateful creatures, who took every opportunity to wage war against mankind, as they were jealous of those who lived by the grace of the gods. In the marshes near the great hall Heorot there secretly dwelt two such monstrous creatures, one called Grendel, and his mother. Grendel was as tall as two men, and as broad as four. He possessed enormous strength, and his entire body was covered in hard, scaly skin. They lived in the murky waters of a dark pond, and would attack lone travellers passing through the marshes.
Grendel had been listening to the merrymaking and feasting going on in Heorot, and he was getting more and more miserable, until one night he decided to pay a visit to the hall. With one strike of his great strong arm he broke down the tall doors, and burst inside, howling terribly. The unsuspecting feasting warriors were totally taken by surprise, they groped for their weapons and tried to defend themselves. But their weapons made no impact on the monster, their blows just glanced off the green scales covering Grenfel. With his enormous hands the monster scooped up two or three warriors at once, breaking their skulls and their bones, he gathered several of them under his arms and left the hall, taking his prey back to his lair, where he and his mother had their own feast.
A few days and nights passed, during which time Hrotyar and his warriors lamented the friends they lost, and set about repairing and fortifying the entrance to the hall. They tried to find the lair of the beast, but although they could follow the bloody tracks, they disappeared into the murky waters of the fen, and the king and his troupe returned home unable to have heir revenge.
Then Grenfel struck again. The fortifications proved useless at stopping the creature, and once again he appeared impervious to the blows of the warriors’ swords and axes, and took with him as many as he could carry.
The King and his councillors decided to set a trap for the monster. A number of his bravest and strongest warriors volunteered to stay at the hall, and wait for the monster to appear again; they were convinced that as long as they were prepared they would be able to defeat the ogre. Hrotyar invited champions from all over the Viking lands to come and prove their strength and defeat the monster Grendel, but none succeeded and all lost their lives in valiant but futile battle. Hrotyar realised there was nobody around who could defeat this ogre, and decided to call a halt to the feasting parties, and the hall was locked up and stood empty. Grendel however had developed a mighty taste for human flesh, and started marauding the countryside in the vicinity of the fens, finding victims wherever he went.
Stories of the miserable deeds of the terrible Grenfel made their way to the surrounding kingdoms and reached the ears of the great hero Beowulf. Beowulf was the nephew of the King of the Geats, another great Viking nation who lived in what is now Gotaland, and whose warrior father had been a good friend of Hrotyar. When he heard of the Danish King’s distress, he went and sought permission of his uncle the King to take a troop of his most trusted and finest warriors to Denmark. The permission was granted, and so Beowulf and his troop of faithful companions set sail for Denmark. Hrotyar welcomed them warmly, but warned them that in Grendel they faced an awesome enemy.
That very same night Beowulf and his warriors stayed alone in Heorot. Some of them had dozed off, when they were woken by the noise of the great doors being kicked open, and there in the moonlight stood the terrible monster. Grenfell easily picked up the first warrior charging at him with his sword drawn, tore him in half and bit of his head, gulping down his blood. Beowulf then attacked Grendel with his bare hands, and a terrible struggle ensued. The two combatants pursued each other all over the hall,destrotying tables and benches. Beowulf’ s warriors tried to intervene nad help him but in teh half light of the hall it was difficult to see, and when they did manage to strike at the monster it was as if their weapons just glided off his horny skin.
At last Beowulf managed to get a good grip on Grendel’s arm, and the monster, try as he might, could not free himself. He gathered all his enormous strength to try and escape, and eventually, with a deafening shout, he managed to free himself from Beowulf’s iron grip, but as he fell away he realised that Beowulf still held onto his arm, which had been ripped off at the shoulder. Grendel howled and fled out of the great door, out of the hall and into the darkness of the night.
The next morning King Hrotyar arrived with his queen and his warriors, and Beowulf showed them his gruesome trophy, Grendel’s arm. Some of the warriors followed the trail left by the monster’s blood, but again, it ended at the edge of a murky pool of water.No body could believe that the monster could possibly have survived the loss of an arm, and copious amounts of blood, and must have bled to death, so a great celebratory feast was arranged for that night, in honour of Beowulf and his warriors. Both Hrotyar and his queen, Wealhow, made speeches praising the great heroes, and lavished rich rewards on them, gold, silver and precious jewels. Beowulf and his party were taken to a castle nearby where they could enjoy a well deserved rest after their big adventure, while all the Danish warriors carried on celebrating through the night.
Grendel meanwhile had succeeded in finding his way back hoem, to his mother, to their lair at the bottom of the lake, where he died in her arms. She swore to avenge his death, and that night arose from the dark depths of the lake and made her way to the great hall where the Danish warriors were still feasting. She entered the hall unopposed, scattered the drunken warriors and, seizing two of them, broke their necks and carried them off for a vengeful feast of her own.
The news of Grendel’s mother’s attack spread quickly, and one of teh warriors went to rouse Hrotyar. He had Beowulf sent for immediately, and after a short counsel, Beowulf agreed without hesitation that he would follow the monster’s tracks and find her lair and destroy her. Hrotyar and Beowulf, accompanied by a party of warriors, followed the bloody trail to the edge of the dark lake, where they found the abandoned head of one of the warriors taken by the monster. Beowulf, dressed in his ringmail, helmeted and his sword at his side, dived into the water and started swimming towards the bottom. He encountered many snakes and sea creatures on the way, who all tried to attack him, but he fended them all off, until suddenly, he found himself in the grip of a being of superhuman strength and dragged down towards the bottom. Grendel’s mother had her long arm around his chest and dragged him down into her lair, a subterranean hall, where she threw him onto the rocky floor. She had picked up a long bladed dagger and tried to stab him through the heart. But she could not penetrate the hero’s mail. Beowulf managed to extract himself from her grip and struck her with his mighty sword, but her skin was as strong as his mail, and his blow was rrepelled.
They fought and struggled and Beowulf realised that this female monster’s strength was at least the equal of her son’s, Grendel. Then Beowulf spotted a sword hanging on the wall, bigger and longer than any he had ever seen in all his travels. He was able to pull it off the wall, and before the monster could evade him, he struck a terrible blow to her head, breaking her neck and killing her.
Beowulf now examined this awful abode, and noticed Grendel’s body lying on a bed nearby. Using the sword, he cut off the monster’s head, and then made his way back to the surface, carrying Grendel’s head and the mighty sword he found as trophies. As he was making his way back to the surface, he could see the snakes and other creatures escaping, as if a spell had been broken by the death of Grendel and his mother.
Another feast followed, and Beowulf and his warriors were presented with yet more rewards and treasure. Beowulf presented Grendel’s head to King Hrotyar, as a reminder of this terrible monster’s reign of terror, and obtained the King’s permission to take the sword he had found in the monster’s lair as a souvenir to his uncle the King of the Geats. After feasting and resting for a few days, Beowulf and his band of warriors left the land of the Danes to return to their own homes, leaving Hrotyar and his grateful warriors to enjoy peace once more.