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SUMMARIES AND NOTES OF THE POEM
BEOWULF BATTLES GRENDEL'S MOTHER
After the feasting, everyone goes to sleep for the night. Grendel's mother, however, is rapidly approaching Heorot to gain revenge for her son. She rushes into the hall, taking the sleeping men by surprise. In her anger, she viciously grabs Aeschere, who is Hrothgar's favorite retainer. She also grabs her son's arm and then rushes out with her prisoner.
Hrothgar is awakened. When he finds that his favorite Thane has been seized, he is again miserable and begs Beowulf for help. When the Geat agrees to do his best, Hrothgar tells him that Grendel's mother stays in a murky lake and explains how to find it. Beowulf takes a few men and goes after Grendel's mother. Along the trail, they find the severed head of Aeschere. When they arrive at Grendel's lake, the water is boiling with blood and filled with serpents, dragons, and demons.
Beowulf blows the horn of battle. A demon attacks the warrior and is instantly killed by him. Beowulf jumps into the lake, and Unferth hands him his sword, called Hrunting. Grendel's mother emerges and tries to grab Beowulf; however, she cannot scratch through his armor. Beowulf tries to strike her with Unferth's sword, but it will not cut through her thick hide; in the end, he finally manages to sever her head. After she has been killed, Beowulf sees Grendel's corpse and cuts off his head as well. He then takes the treasure hidden in the monsters' lair.
At Heorot, everyone anxiously waits for Beowulf's return. When they see him coming, they are overjoyed. Beowulf enters and lays down the treasure he has seized at Hrothgar's feet. The King praises Beowulf's bravery and rewards him with gold. Beowulf promises Hrothgar that he will come to his aid whenever he needs him in the future and that his sons will be treated with honor whenever they visit the Geatish court. Hrothgar thanks Beowulf for returning peace to the Land of the Danes and promises a lasting alliance between the Danes and the Geats. After returning the Hrunting to Unferth, Beowulf sets off for Geatland with his men.
When Grendel's mother seeks vengeance against the Danes for the death of her son, Beowulf again comes to the aid of Hrothgar. After she storms the hall, takes Aeschere prisoner and flees, Beowulf agrees to pursue her. With a few of his trusted men, he goes to the lake where she resides. It is the perfect setting for this evil monster, for the lake is filled with boiling blood and horrible creatures. Beowulf, however, does not hesitate. He blows his battle horn and jumps in the lake to find Grendel's mother. Unferth, now Beowulf's loyal ally, lends the warrior his famous sword for the battle.
Although Grendel's mother puts up a good fight, Beowulf finally succeeds in severing her head. He then finds the corpse of her son and her hidden treasure. Next "Beowulf emerges triumphant and swims ashore, carrying the hilt of the giant sword and Grendel's huge head." Whatever the warrior does, he does with style, and this vivid image of triumph is truly fitting for Beowulf, now a super hero. In fact, his heroic feats are so impressive that one of the thanes composes a song about Beowulf, comparing him to Sigemund, a great warrior of ancient times who slew a dragon and gained rich treasure.
When the Danish King see Beowulf returning in triumph, Hrothgar praises the hero, rewards him with gold, and calls for a huge celebration. The scop, whose job is to tell about history, is called to entertain the crowd. As the harp is struck, the scop begins to sing about "the fight at Finnsburg, a tale of vengeance." Hildeburh was a Danish princess, married to Finn, a Frisian from Finnsburg. He and his men attacked and killed the Danish King Hnaef. A fierce battle raged for five days. When Hildeburh's son was killed in the fighting, a truce was called, and Hongest, Hnaef's brother, became the new Danish King. The peace, however, did not last for long. The following spring, Hongest was murdered. In retaliation, the Danes captured Hildeburh and seized Finn's treasure. After finishing the Finnsburg tale, the scop sings about Beowulf's victory, indicating he will also be remembered in Danish history for his great deeds.
After receiving his rewards, Beowulf is ready to return to Geatland; Hrothgar gives his blessing to the hero and promises that the Danes and Geats will live in peace. Before he departs, Beowulf promises to come to the King's aid in the future if he is ever needed.