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News of Grendel's death spreads quickly. The Danish princes and warriors flock to Herot to inspect the monster's footprints and follow them from the great hall to the edge of the swamp. They stare into the water, "steaming and boiling in horrible pounding waves," as if unable to believe Grendel is finally dead. This is a verse of great celebration, an exultant hymn of praise on behalf of the Danes to Beowulf.
Notice the way the poet describes the Danes as they return to Herot from Grendel's swamp. At first they jog along, slowly, retelling the story of Beowulf's battle with the monster. Then, as their excitement builds, they let their horses run free, "red and brown and pale yellow backs streaming down the road." Finally, one of the king's minstrels bursts into a song of praise, skillfully interweaving Beowulf's triumph over Grendel with the adventures of two other Danish heroes, Siegmund and Hermod.
The choice of Siegmund and Hermod is no accident. Siegmund's adventures include a battle with "a treasure-rich dragon," a story that foreshadows Beowulf's own battle with a dragon later in the poem. Both Siegmund and Beowulf, as heroes, are cut from the same mold-they are committed to purge the world of evil and treachery. Hermod, however, is a failed hero. Considered at one time one of "the mightiest of men," he was overcome by vanity and pride. Instead of easing the pain of other people, his exploits only added to their suffering. (Keep this scene in mind when you come to Hrothgar's speech to Beowulf on the dangers of pride.)
Contrasting these warriors, the poet is saying that courage alone is not enough to make a person a hero. The true hero possesses a code of ethics that includes taking other people's feelings into consideration. A warrior like Hermod who acts out of his own self-interest is doomed.