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Beowulf is a heroic poem, thought about the highest accomplishment of Old English literature and the earliest europe vernacular epic. It transaction with occasions of the early 6th century CE and also is believed to have actually been composed between 700 and 750. Although originally untitled, that was later named after ~ the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, who exploits and character provide its connecting theme.

Beowulf takes place in early 6th-century Scandinavia, primarily in what is well-known today as Denmark and Sweden.

The author of Beowulf is unknown. That is possible that the poem was composed by and transmitted between several various poets prior to it was maintained in a single manuscript that dates to around 1000.

Upon his go back to Heorot, beowulf presents to King Hrothgar Grendel’s decapitated head and also the jeweled hilt the the knife he offered to kill Grendel’s mother.

There is no proof of a historical Beowulf, yet other characters, sites, and also events in the poem can be historically verified. Because that example, the poem’s Danish King Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf are generally believed to have been based on historical figures.

Beowulf, heroic poem, the highest success of Old English literature and the earliest europe vernacular epic. The work-related deals with events of the early sixth century, and, if the day of its composition is uncertain, part scholars think that it was composed in the 8 hours century. Although originally untitled, the poem was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, whose exploits and also character administer its connecting theme. Over there is no proof of a historic Beowulf, however some characters, sites, and events in the poem have the right to be historically verified. The city did not show up in publish until 1815. It is kept in a single manuscript that days to circa 1000 and is recognized as the beo wolf manuscript (Cotton multiple sclerosis Vitellius A XV).


Beowulf prepare to cut off the head the the monster Grendel, illustration from Hero-Myths & Legends the the british Race, 1910.


Beowulf falls into two parts. It opens up in Denmark, where King Hrothgar has actually a splendid mead hall recognized as Heorot, a place of celebration and much merriment. However, the joyous noise angers Grendel, an evil monster life in a adjacent swamp. For 12 years the creature terrorizes Heorot v nightly visits in which that carries turn off Hrothgar’s warriors and also devours them.

After learning of the Danes’ trouble, young Beowulf, a prince that the Geats in what is currently southern Sweden, arrives v a little band that retainers and also offers come rid Heorot of its monster. Hrothgar is astonished in ~ the little-known hero’s daring but welcomes him. After ~ an night of feasting, lot courtesy, and also some discourtesy—at one point, one of Hrothgar’s men insults Beowulf—the king retires, leaving beo wolf in charge. Throughout the night, Grendel comes from the moors, rips open up the heavy doors, and devours among the sleeping Geats. He climate grapples with Beowulf, that refuses to use a weapon. Beowulf grips one of Grendel’s hands through such force that the monster ultimately wrenches himself free only as soon as his arm is torn turn off at the shoulder. Mortally wounded, Grendel returns to his swamp and dies. Beo wolf then screens the monster’s eight in Heorot for all to see.

The following day is just one of rejoicing in Heorot, and a feast is thrown in Beowulf’s honour. However, together the warriors sleep the night, Grendel’s mother, one more swamp monster, concerns avenge she son’s death, and also she kills one of Hrothgar’s men. In the morning beowulf dives into her just (lake) to find for her, and also she strikes him. They struggle in she dry cave at the mere’s bottom, and also Beowulf finally kills her through a sword. In the cave, beowulf discovers Grendel’s corpse, whose head he cut off and also takes back to Heorot. The dance rejoice once more. Hrothgar provides a bye speech about the character of the true hero, and also Beowulf, enriched v honours and princely gifts, returns home to King Hygelac the the Geats.

The second component passes quickly over Hygelac’s subsequent death in a battle (of historical record), the fatality of his son, and also Beowulf’s succession to the kingship and his peaceful dominance of 50 years. However, the peace ends once a fire-breathing dragon becomes enraged after ~ a guy steals indigenous its treasure-filled lair. The creature starts ravaging Geatland, and also the brave yet aging beowulf decides to connect it, regardless of knowing the he will likely die. The hit is long and terrible—a painful comparison to the battles of his youth. Painful also is the desertion of all his retainers except for his young kinsman Wiglaf, who pertains to his aid. They eventually kill the awful dragon, yet Beowulf is mortally wounded indigenous a bite in the neck. Before he dies, he names Wiglaf his successor. Beo wolf is cremated top top a funeral pyre, and his continues to be are hidden in a barrow constructed by the sea. As his world mourn his death, they likewise express the are afraid that, without Beowulf, Geatland will be got into by nearby tribes.


Beowulf belonging metrically, stylistically, and thematically come a heroic legacy grounded in german religion and also mythology. It is also component of the wider tradition of heroic poetry. Many incidents, such together the tearing-off that the monster’s arm and also the hero’s descent into the mere, are acquainted motifs indigenous folklore. The moral values room manifestly the Germanic code of loyalty to chief and also tribe and vengeance to enemies. However the city is therefore infused v a Christian spirit that it lacks the grim fatality of countless of the Eddaic lays or the sagas of iceland literature. Beowulf himself seems much more altruistic than other Germanic heroes or the old Greek heroes of the Iliad. That is far-ranging that his three battles room not versus men, which would certainly entail the retaliation that the blood feud, but against evil monsters, opponents of the whole community and of human being itself. Countless critics have actually seen the poem as a Christian allegory in which Beowulf, the champion the goodness and also light, fights the forces of evil and darkness. His sacrificial fatality is checked out not as tragic however as befitting the finish of a good (some would certainly say “too good”) hero’s life.

That is not to say that Beowulf is an hopeful poem. English writer and Old English scholar J.R.R. Tolkien suggested that its complete effect is more like a lengthy lyrical elegy 보다 an epic. Also the earlier, happier ar in Denmark is filled with ominous recommendations that would have been well interpreted by contemporary audiences. Thus, after Grendel’s death, King Hrothgar speaks sanguinely that the future, i m sorry the audience would understand will finish with the devastation of his line and also the burning of Heorot. In the second part the movement is slow and also funereal: scenes from Beowulf’s youth space replayed in a minor vital as a counterpoint to his critical battle, and the mood becomes progressively sombre as the wyrd (fate) that concerns all males closes in ~ above him.

Editions and adaptations

Beowulf was translated into plenty of languages. Contemporary English renderings by Seamus Heaney (1999) and also Tolkien (completed 1926; released 2014) ended up being best sellers. It was also the resource for retellings in miscellaneous books. Man Gardner’s Grendel (1971), for example, take it the suggest of view of the monster, while Maria Dahvana Headley’s The mere Wife (2018) was set in contemporary American suburbia and also offered a an ext sympathetic portrayal that Grendel’s mother, who was presented as an military veteran suffering from PTSD. In 2020 Headley likewise published a feminist translate into of Beowulf, and her variation featured modern-day language, including slang and profanities.

Beowulf’s enduring very nice was also evident in its many film, television, and theatrical adaptations. Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 movie, a mix of animation and live action, was cowritten by Neil Gaiman and featured a cast that included Anthony Hopkins and also Angelina Jolie. The poem also inspired the movie Beowulf & Grendel (2005) and the TV movie Grendel (2007). Remarkable stage productions contained the opera Grendel (2006), which to be directed through Julie Taymor, who also cowrote the libretto. In addition, various video games and comic publications were motivated by Beowulf.

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The editors of Encyclopaedia derekwadsworth.com This post was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, correction Manager.