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SUMMARIES AND NOTES OF THE POEM
GRENDEL DISTURBS THE DANISH PEACE
Healfdene's son, Hrothgar, won great honor in battle, as well as at home. As a result, he became King of the Danes even though he was not the eldest son. Hrothgar built a large feasting hall that was used for celebrations and the distribution of gifts. It became the heart of King Hrothgar's kingdom and was called Heorot Hall. The hall was huge, lofty, and gabled, braced inside and out with hammered iron bands. It was lavishly furnished and decorated, with benches inlaid with gold. There were horns and tapestries hanging on the walls. Later in the poem, when Beowulf and his band of Geats arrived at the court of Hrothgar, they were asked to leave their ashen spears outside Heorot and were then led into the hall to meet the King, who was inside the hall surrounded by his Thanes. Therefore, Heorot served as a social hub and a reception room, as well as being a place of celebration and merriment.
A jealous monster, named Grendel, lived in the area surrounding Heorot. He descended from the lineage of Cain, the man in the Old Testament who committed the first murder by killing his own brother out of jealousy and under the cover of darkness. Grendel resented all the happiness and celebration that occurred in the great hall. As a result, he decided to attack the Heorot. When he found a band of warriors asleep in the hall, he seized thirty of the thanes and led them towards his lair.
At dawn, Hrothgar discovered the tragedy. He saw Grendel's footsteps and realized that he had lost his attendants to this miserable monster. Although sad and enraged, he felt helpless against the evil Grendel. As a result, Grendel attacked the hall again. This time the assault and murders were more gruesome. Still there was no retaliation. Then for twelve long years, Grendel continued to attack the Danes, casting sorrow and doom on the people. His evil crimes were afflicted on young and old alike. Although Hrothgar was crushed to see Heorot abused, he still felt powerless against Grendel. His men had repeatedly begged for help from the gods and offered appropriate sacrifices to them; but no help came. In fact, it seemed liked the gods had forsaken the Danes.
Grendel, an evil monster, attacks Heorot out of jealousy, for he hates to see people feasting and happy when he is not included. The poet links the imaginary Grendel to the lineage of Cain and imbues him with the same trait of jealousy. Like the Biblical Cain, Grendel murders without hesitation; as a result, he seems to have also fallen from God's favor. In contrast, it is hinted that Hrothgar is protected from Grendel because of his belief in God, while his warriors are killed by Grendel because of their idolatry. Here and in other places in the poem, there is a clear religious undercurrent.
Hrothgar is greatly saddened by the attack on Heorot by Grendel. However, he feels he is too old to seek revenge. Because there is no retaliation, Grendel strikes again and again, growing more gruesome with each attack. For twelve long years, Grendel rules the land of the Danes with his evil.