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Section 5

Grendel's Mother avenges Grendel

The feast continues and the men celebrate unaware of the dark fate that hangs over them. When darkness falls, Hrothgar retires and the warriors prepare for sleep in the hall, with their arms close at hand, unaware that Grendel's mother, who lived in the icy waters was plotting a revenge for her son's death. She steals into the hall at night and attacks the Danes. As she is less powerful than Grendel, she is made to flee, but not before killing one of Hrothgar's favorite warriors. Hrothgar is greatly saddened at Aeschere's death and sends for Beowulf, who had not slept in the hall that night. He says that he had often heard people tell tales of how they had spotted two evil spirits, of huge sizes, one in the shape of a man and the other of a woman, haunting the moors. The land that they lived in was ridden with wolves and ridges, and the marshes fall down a cliff into darkness. Next to it lies a lonely lake, overspread with gloom, where a flame appears every night. So frightening is the place that a stag stalked by hunters prefers to stand at bay than step into the pool. The water from the pool tosses high into the air making the sky murky, and Hrothgar dares Beowulf to go to Grendel's mother's lair and hunt her, in return for much wealth. Beowulf accepts the challenge, saying that since all men must die, it is best to win glory before death, and there can be no greater honor for him than for his name to survive him.

Beowulf Slays Grendel's Mother

Following the tracks of Grendel's mother, Hrothgar rides into the moorland, until they come to a blood-filled lake enclosed by a clump of trees. There they see Aeschere's severed head on a cliff, and in the waters sea-dragons, sea-beasts and snake-like monsters. Beowulf wears his armor, corselet and helmet, takes the sword - Hrunting, which has never failed anyone in battle, loaned to him by Unferth - and addresses Hrothgar. He reminds him of his promise to take care of his kinsmen in the event of his death, to give all the treasures to Hygelac, and to return Unferth's sword.

He plunges into the pool and swims for a day till he reaches the sea floor. Grendel's mother, who had lived in the water for a hundred years, grips Beowulf, but cannot harm him as his corselet protects him. She drags Beowulf to her den, and Beowulf can't draw his sword as the sea-beasts attack him from all sides. Beowulf finds himself in a dry hall and there in the firelight, he draws his sword to strike the fiend. But for the first time the sword fails, and dashing it to the ground, Beowulf grips her shoulder and flings her. Grendel's mother draws a dagger but fails to hurt him, and Beowulf, spying an ancient sword made by the giants, grabs it and strikes at Grendel's mother's throat, killing her. He finds the dead body of Grendel and takes his head as a token.

Hrothgar's companions see the water turn red with blood, despair that Beowulf is dead, and leave; but the Geats (Beowulf's kinsmen) wait. The sword of the giants begins to melt as the waters begin to be free of its bondage. Beowulf decides to take only two treasures from the den: Grendel's head and the sword hilt with its precious gems.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10


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