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A short summary of the story beowulf

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See Article History Beowulf, heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic. It deals with events of the early 6th century and is believed to have been composed between 700 and 750.

  • The poem talks about Unferth;
  • The cup has nice jewels on it;
  • Indeed, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many scholars endeavoured to show that the author of Beowulf had been influenced by these classical works, but, in summary, the truth appears to be far more interesting;
  • Further with the machismo, Beowulf strips naked, planning to fight Grendel unclothed;
  • As she says this, a huge dragon appears in the caves darkened alcove and spews a blast of fire toward Beowulf;
  • And although it is seen as the starting-point of great English literature — at many universities, it is still the earliest literary text studied as part of the literary canon — it is very different from other medieval poetry, such as that by Chaucer or Langland, who were writing many centuries later.

Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, whose exploits and character provide its connecting theme. There is no evidence of a historical Beowulf, but some characters, sites, and events in the poem can be historically verified. The poem did not appear in print until 1815.

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Unexpectedly, young Beowulf, a prince of the Geats of southern Sweden, arrives with a small band of retainers and offers to cleanse Heorot of its monster. During the night Grendel comes from the moors, tears open the heavy doors, and devours one of the sleeping Geats. He then grapples with Beowulf, whose powerful grip he cannot escape. He wrenches himself free, tearing off his arm, and leaves, mortally wounded.

Give me a short summary of the epic poem Beowulf?

The next day is one of rejoicing in Heorot. In the morning Beowulf seeks her out in her cave at the bottom of a mere and kills her. The Danes rejoice once more. Hrothgar makes a farewell speech about the character of the true hero, as Beowulf, enriched with honours and princely gifts, returns home to King Hygelac of the Geats.

But now a fire-breathing dragon ravages his land and the doughty but aging Beowulf engages it. The fight is long and terrible and a painful contrast to the battles of his youth. Painful, too, is the desertion of his retainers except for his young kinsman Wiglaf.

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Beowulf kills the dragon but is mortally wounded. The poem ends with his funeral rites and a lament.

  • The Danes all pack it in, leaving Beowulf and crew in the Hall to prepare for Grendel;
  • So Beowulf and the dragon fight;
  • But what is less well known is that Beowulf has to slay not one big monster, but three;
  • The Geats gang gets to Denmark and meets some Danish soldier;
  • Then the poem starts talking about some old war that Beowulf was in Frisian War;
  • It simply takes a long almost quizzical look at Hrothgar and abruptly withdraws.

Beowulf belongs metrically, stylistically, and thematically to a heroic tradition grounded in Germanic religion and mythology. It is also part of the broader tradition of heroic poetry. The ethical values are manifestly the Germanic code of loyalty to chief and tribe and vengeance to enemies.

Yet the poem is so infused with a Christian spirit that it lacks the grim fatality of many of the Eddaic lays or the sagas of Icelandic literature.

Beowulf himself seems more altruistic than other Germanic heroes or the ancient Greek heroes of the Iliad.

It is significant that his three battles are not against men, which would entail the retaliation of the blood feudbut against evil monsters, enemies of the whole community and of civilization itself. Many critics have seen the poem as a Christian allegorywith Beowulf the champion of goodness and light against the forces of evil and darkness.

That is not to say that Beowulf is an optimistic poem. The English critic J. Tolkien suggests that its total effect is more like a long, lyrical elegy than an epic.

  • Grendel finally escapes and goes back to his home the swamp and dies;
  • They go back to Herot hall singing and smiling;
  • The Danes all pack it in, leaving Beowulf and crew in the Hall to prepare for Grendel.

Even the earlier, happier section in Denmark is filled with ominous allusions that were well understood by contemporary audiences. In the second part the movement is slow and funereal: Beowulf has often been translated into modern English; renderings by Seamus Heaney 1999 and Tolkien completed 1926; published 2014 became best sellers. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: