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Published by Shery Rose Valde

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Published by: Shery Rose Valde on Jul 10, 2010
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National EpicsBy Kate Milner Rabb
The Story of Beowulf 
A mighty man was Scyld, ruler of the Gar-Danes. From far across thewhale-path men paid him tribute and bore witness to his power. Beowulf was his son, a youth endowed with glory, whose fame spread far and widethrough all the Danish land.When the time came for Scyld to die he ordered his thanes to prepare thering-stemmed ship, laden with treasures, battle-weed, and swords, andplace him in the death-chamber. Laden with his people’s gifts, and sailingunder a golden banner, he passed from sight, none knew whither.After him ruled Beowulf, and after him Healfdene,–brave warriors and kindmonarchs. When, after Healfdene’s death, his son Hrothgar succeededhim, his fame in war inclined all his kinsmen towards him, and he, too,became a mighty monarch. To the mind of Hrothgar it came to build a lordly mead-hall where he andhis men could find pleasure in feasting, drinking mead, and hearing thesongs of the minstrels. Heorot it was called, and when its high spires roseglistening in the air, all hailed it with delight.But, alas! The joy in hall, the melody of the harp, and the shouts of thewarriors penetrated to the dismal fen where lay concealed the monsterGrendel, descendant of sin-cursed Cain. At night came Grendel to the hall,found sleeping the troop of warriors, and bore away in his foul hands thirtyof the honored thanes. Great was the sorrow in Heorot when in themorning twilight the deed of Grendel became known.For twelve long winters did this sorrow continue; for so long a time wasHrothgar plunged in grief; for so many years did this beautiful mead-hall,destined for joyful things, stand idle.While thus the grief-stricken lord of the Scyldings brooded over hiswrongs, and the people besought their idols vainly for aid, the tidings of Grendel’s ravages were conveyed to the court of the Gothic king, Higelac,and thus reached the ears of a highborn thane, Beowulf. A strong man washe, his grasp equal to that of thirty men.Straightway commanded he a goodly ship to be made ready, chose fifteenof his bravest Goths, and swiftly they sailed over the swan-path to thegreat headlands and bright sea-cliffs of the Scyldings.High on the promontory stood the guard of Hrothgar. “What men be yewho hither come?” cried he. “Not foes, surely. Ye know no pass word, yet
surely ye come on no evil errand. Ne’er saw I a greater lord than he wholeads the band. Who are ye?”“Higelac’s man am I,” answered the leader. “Ecgtheow, my sire; my name,Beowulf. Lead me, I pray thee, to thy lord, for I have come over seas tofree him forever from his secret foe, and to lift the cloud that hangs overthe stately mead-hall.”Over the stone-paved streets the warder led the warriors, their armorclanking, their boar-tipped helmets sparkling, to the goodly hall, Heorot. There were they warmly welcomed, for Hrothgar had known Beowulf’ssire; the fame of the young man’s strength had also reached him, and hetrusted that in his strong grasp Grendel should die.All took their seats on the mead-benches, and a thane passed from warriorto warrior, bearing the chased wine-cup. Sweet was the minstrel’s song,and the warriors were happy in Heorot.But Hunferd sat at the banquet, and envious of Beowulf’s fame, tauntedhim with his swimming match with Breca. “Seven days and nights thoudidst swim with Breca; but he was stronger, and he won. Worse will befallthee, if thou dar’st this night await Grendel!”“Easy it is to brag of Breca’s deeds when drunk with beer, friend Hunferd!”replied Beowulf. “Seven days and nights I swam through the sea-water,slaying the monsters of the deep. Rough was the wave, terrible were thewater beasts; but I reached the Finnish land. Wert thou as brave as thouclaim’st to be, Grendel would ne’er have wrought such havoc in thymonarch’s land.”Decked with gold, Queen Waltheow passed through the hall, greeted thewarriors, and proffered the mead-cup to Beowulf, thanking God that shehad found an earl who would deliver them from their enemy.When dusky night fell over Heorot, the king uprose. “To no other manhave I ever entrusted this hall of gold. Have now and keep it! Great rewardshall be thine if thou come forth alive!” The knights left in the lordly hall composed themselves for slumber, allsave Beowulf, who, unarmed, awaited the coming of Grendel.He came, with wrathful step and eyes aflame, bursting open the iron boltsof the great door, and laughing at the goodly array of men sleeping beforehim. On one he laid hands and drank his blood; then he clutched thewatchful Beowulf.Ne’er had he found a foe like this! Fearful, he turned to flee to his home inthe fen, but the grip of Beowulf forbade flight. Strongly was Heorotbuilded, but many a gilded mead-bench was torn from the walls as the twocombated within the hall. The sword blade was of no avail, and him mustBeowulf bring to death by the strength of his grip alone. At last, with ascream that struck terror to every Dane’s heart, the monster sprang from
Beowulf and fled, leaving in the warrior’s grasp his arm and shoulder.Great was Beowulf’s joy, for he knew that the wound meant death.When the king and queen came forth in the morning with their nobles andmaids, and saw the grisly arm of Grendel fastened upon the roof of Heorot, they gave themselves up to rejoicing. Gifts were heaped uponBeowulf,–a golden crest, a banner bright, a great and goodly sword andhelm and corselet, eight steeds with headstalls ornamented with goldplate, and a richly decorated saddle. Nor were his comrades forgotten, butto each were given rich gifts.When the mead-hall had been cleansed and refitted, they gatheredtherein and listened to the song of the bard who told how Healfdene’sknight, Hnæf, smote Finn. The song over, the queen, crowned with gold,gave gifts to Beowulf, the liberator from the horrors of Grendel,–twoarmlets, a necklace, raiment, and rings. When the drinking and feastingwere over, the king and Beowulf withdrew, leaving many earls to keep thehall. Little guessed they that one of them was that night doomed to die! The haunt of Grendel was a mile-wide mere. Around it were wolf-hauntedcliffs, windy promontories, mist-covered mountains. Close around themere hung the woods, shrouding the water, which, horrible sight, waseach night covered with fire. It was a place accursed; near it no man mightdwell; the deer that plunged therein straightway died.In a palace under the mere dwelt Grendel and his mother; she, a foulsprite, whom the peasants had sometimes seen walking with her son overthe meadows. From her dwelling-place she now came forth to avenge thedeath of her son, and snatched away from the group of sleeping Ring-Danes the good Æschere, dearest of all his thanes to Hrothgar.Loud was Hrothgar’s wailing when at morning Beowulf came forth from hisbower.“Sorrow not, O wise man,” spake Beowulf. “I fear not. I will seek out thismonster and destroy her. If I come not back it will at least be better thanto have lost my glory. She can never hide from me. I ween that I will thisday rid thee of thine enemy.”Accompanied by Hrothgar, some of the Ring-Danes and his Goths, Beowulf sought the dismal mere, on whose brink they found the head of Æschere.Among the bloody waves swam horrible shapes, Nicors and sea-drakes,that fled at a blast of the war-horn. Beowulf slew one of the monsters, andwhile his companions were marvelling at the grisly form, he preparedhimself for the combat. His breast was guarded by a coat of mail wovenmost cunningly; upon his head shone the gold-adorned helmet, and in hishand was Hunferd’s sword, Hrunting, made of iron steeped in twigs of bitter poison, annealed in battle blood, and fearful to every foe.“Hearken unto me, O Hrothgar,” cried the hero. “If I return not, treat wellmy comrades and send my gifts to Higelac, that he may see the deed Ihave accomplished, and the generous ring-lord I have gained among the

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