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Beowulf

Beowulf goes into battleBeowulf is a poem dating from Anglo-Saxon times, thought to be between 700 and 1050 AD. The author is unknown, but it was probably written by a monk (monks and scholars were among the few people who were able to read and write in those days). It is written in Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons who settled in England in the 5th century AD. The epic poem tells the story of a Norse, or Viking, warrior, Beowulf, who fought and defeated several monsters that had been terrorizing the Viking homeland of Scandinavia. The long poem, known as an epic, celebrates the fighting spirit of the Norse warriors, their courage, loyalty and sense of honour.



Beowulf confronts the dragon
Grendel

Beowulf and Grendel

The Beowulf story is in two parts. The action in the first part takes place in Denmark, ruled by King Hrothgar. Beowulf, a great warrior from the Geat tribe of Sweden, comes to help the king destroy a monster, called Grendel. The monster, who cannot be harmed by the weapons of humans, has seized and killed a number of Hrothgar’s warriors from the king’s assembly hall, Heorot. Tales of the monster’s dreadful deeds spread terror throughout the land. Hearing of this, Beowulf decides to sail to Denmark and offer his help. In a mighty struggle with Grendel, Beowulf manages to wrench off the monster’s arm. The monster staggers back to his cave to die. But Grendel’s mother now seeks revenge for her son’s death. Beowulf eventually triumphs over her, too, beheading her with her own sword.

Beowulf is probably the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, the language brought to Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century AD. Old English developed into what is known as Middle English after the Norman conquest in 1066.

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