Literapedia Book Notes for

Beowulf by Unknown Author


  • Hrothgar (Book 1)—The King of the Danes, son of Healfdene
  • Grendel (Book 1)—A terrible humanoid beast, massacres and eats Danes at Heorot
  • Beowulf (Book 1)—A Geat warrior, heroic fighter
  • Wulfgar (Book 1)—The advisor to Hrothgar, greets Beowulf
  • Unferth (Book 1)—A Danish warrior, eventual friend to Beowulf
  • Wealtheow (Book 1)—The wife of Hrothgar, Queen of Danes
  • Hrethric (Book 2)—The son of Wealtheow and Hrothgar
  • Hrothmund (Book 2)—The son of Wealtheow and Hrothgar
  • Grendel's Mother (Book 2)—Never named, humanoid beast that avenges her son
  • Hygelac (Book 2)—The King of the Geats
  • Thief (Book 3)—A man who steals golden cup from dragon
  • Dragon (Book 3)—A beast that terrorizes Geats in later part of Beowulfs reign; kills Beowulf
  • Wiglaf (Book 3)—A Geat warrior that helps Beowulf fight the Dragon

(Line notations are from the Longman Anthology translation.)

Book Summaries

1. Grendel
  • The lineage of Hrothgar, the current Danish King, is discussed in length (line 55)
  • Hrothgar gains a follwing of soldiers in youth, and thus rises to kingship of the Danes. He is deemed the most able ruler among his brothers. (line 75)
  • There is still a problem with Hrothgar's otherwise prospering domain. Each evening, a hideous creature named Grendel enters Heorot and eats many soldiers resting in the
    hall. Then Grendel returns to his lair until the following day. This happens every night for 12 years and greatly depresses Hrothgar. (line 115)
  • Beowulf, a thane of the Geats, hears about Grendel's terrible deeds and gathers some of his best warriors to travel by boat to the land of the Scylds. (line 180)
  • Upon reaching the Danes, the travelers meet questions about their origins and purpose for arrival. Beowulf offers that he is there to help defeat Grendel (line 250)
  • Wulfgar, who meets the Geats at the port, leaves to talk to Hrothgar about Beowulf. Hrothgar agrees to speak with Beowulf, citing past familial relations. Hrothgar once helped Beowulf's father in a time of need. (line 347)
  • Beowulf once again offers his services in defeating the Grendel. Hrothgar gladly accepts the offer and continues to detail the trouble Grendel has caused for his people. (line 437)
  • Beowulf and his men are offerred spots in the beer-hall. Unferth questions Beowulf's authenticity as a valiant warrior. Tales of Beowulf feats prove him to be a strong and worthy fighter. He once defeated a seamonster while swimming with armor on. Wealtheow appears and greats the party. (line 520)
  • Hrothgar and his people leave the wine hall for the night. Beowulf stays with his soldiers and vows not to use a sword against Beowulf. He will instead rely on his own strength. (line 609)
  • Grendel breaks through the building's door, and delights at the prospect of gorging himself on the sleeping men. He quickly devours one man, but then meets unextpected resistance from Beowulf. (line 679)
  • Grendel's fingers and hand are caught in the iron grip of Beowulf. Grendel screams and moans in pain. Beowulf's companions try to enter the fight, but find Grendel impervious to iron swords. Beowulf then tears off Grendel's arms at the shoulder, leaving Grendel to drag himself back to his lair. Grendel dies shortly thereafter. (line 760)
  • Beowulf and Hrothgar are celebrated by the people. (line 870)

2. Grendel's Mother
  • The celebration of Grendel's death in Heorot continues. Beowulf is given many gifts, as are his companions. A story is told at a celebratory banquet about how "Finn's followers, faithless Jutes, fell to fighting friends in his fortress." (line 937)
  • Wealtheow appears at the celebration and talks about her sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund. Then she bestows gifts on Beowulf. (line 1085)After celebrating, everyone falls asleep. Grendel's vengeful mother slips into Heorot and kills one man, Hrothgar's highest counselor, before returning to her lair. (line 1147)
  • The feeling of terror resettles over the land. Hrothgar is upset. He relays information to Beowulf about the landscape surrounding Grendel's mother's lair. He offers tremendous wealth to Beowulf to kill Grendel's mother. Hrothgar, Beowulf, the Danes, and the Geats gather to track down Grendel's mother. (line 1243)
  • They approach a bloody lake. Giant serpents appear in the water. Beowulf puts on his armor and borrows Unferth's superior sword, Hrunting. Beowulf swims far down into the lake and spots Grendel's mother. She grabs Beowulf, and drags him into her cave. (1340)
  • Beowulf swings Hrunting at Beowulf mother only to find that it is useless gainst her. He discards the sword. He decides to rely on his strong hand grip, so he grasps her hair. Grendel's mother overpowers Beowulf, who slips, and stabs him with her dagger. His mail shirt protect him. (line 1375)
  • Beowulf spots an ancient sword in the cave. He grabs it and chops off Grendel's mother's head with a heavy swing. He then sees Grendel and severs his head as a trophy. (line 1405)
  • The assembled warriors near the lake see the voluminous gore and assume Beowulf has been killed. They sadly return to Heorot without their leader. The gore eats away the metal of the sword leaving only the hilt. (line 1435)
  • Beowulf returns to Heorot in triumph, carrying the sword hilt and dragging Grendel's head behind him. He is greeted with awe by everyone who sees him. (line 1457)
  • Beowulf describes his feat to Hrothgar, and gives him the golden sword hilt (line 1480)
  • Hrothgar is amazed and initiates an extended speech praising Beowulf, describing Beowulf's future fame, and offerring advice for Beowulf's life. (line 1583)
  • Beowulf is seated at the feast, and begins preparations for his departure from the Scyldings. He also extends friendship from the Geats to the Danes. (line 1630)
  • Beowulf is showered with wealth before departure and upon reaching his homeland he visits the king of the Geats, Hygelac. Hygelac inquires about Beowulf's journey. Beowulf recounts his journey and gives Hygelac the gold-hilted sword he recovered from the Scydings. (line 1930)
  • Hygelac gives Beowulf a large estate and high rank in the kingdom. (line 1934)

3. The Dragon
  • Beowulf assumes rule of the Geats when Hygelac dies. He rules wisely for 50 years. (line1945)
  • Then a disruption occurs in the kingdom when a thief steals a single flagon from the treasue trove of a dragon. The dragon had been dormant for close to 300 years, but the thievery enrages him enough that he becomes a violent terror. (line 2029)
  • The Dragon begins nightly burning rampages in the land of Geats. Beowulf recieves the news and fearlessly decides to confront the Dragon. (line 2075)
  • Beowulf's trials during the Frisian combat are described. (line 2120)
  • The thief gives Beowulf the golden cup. The thief then leads Beowulf and other soldiers to the Dragon's lair, where the Dragon is waiting. (line 2136)
  • Beowulf speaks about his many battle triumphs, and reiterates his compulsion to seek out danger and protect his people. (line 2215)
  • Beowulf says farewell to his men. He asserts that he would fight the Dragon bare-handed if he knew how, but he prepares to fight with his sword and shield. He is not afraid of death and faces the dragon with "a firm heart." (line 2253)
  • Beowulf lets out a battle-cry, and the Dragon exits the cave. The Dragon approaches, and Beowulf makes a harmless slash at it with his sword. Beowulf men flee as the Dragon becomes angry. Only one Geat, Wiglaf, stays to help Beowulf. (2358)
  • Beowulf brings his strong sword down with full force on the Dragon's head, but the sword splits in two. The Dragon bites Beowulf in the neck as Wiglaf stabs the Dragon. Beowulf is able to partially gut the Dragon with his dagger. Together, Wiglaf and Beowulf defeat the Dragon. (line 2398)
  • Beowulf makes a deathbed speech requesting to be burned in a huge pyre with a wide array of treasures. He thanks God for all the treasure and honor he has accumulated for his kinsmen. He dies by the side of Wiglaf. (line 2490)
  • Beowulf's abandoning warriors return, and they are harshly criticized by Wiglaf. (line 2554)
  • The Geats learn of Beowulf's death and are saddened. They also fear that the unity between Geats will not last. (line 2645)
  • A giant pyre is made for Beowulf, and stories of his life are told. (line 2802)

Book Note Creator

Megan Donaher