BEOWULF The Adventures of Beowulf
an Adaptation from the Old English
by Dr. David Breeden
Illustrated by Randy Grochoske

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Beowulf puts the squeeze on Grendel

The adventures of Beowulf, episode 4
Grendel Attacks Again

Came then striding in the night
the walker of darkness.
In that gabled hall
the warriors slept,
those who guarded the hall. . .
all but one.
 
It was well known among men
that, if God willed it not,
no one could drag
that demon to the shadows.
But Beowulf watched
in anger, waiting
the battle's outcome.

Came then from the moor
under the misty hills
Grendel stalking under
the weight of God's anger.
That wicked ravager
planned to ensnare
many of the race of men
in the high hall.

He strode under the clouds,
seeking eagerly, till he came to
the wine-hall, the treasure-hall
of men decorated in gold.
Nor was it the first time he
had sought Hrothgar's home.
But never in his life before
--or since--
did he find worse luck!

Came then to the building
that creature bereft of joys.
When he touched it with his hands
the door gave way at once
though its bands were forged
in fire. Intending evil,
enraged, he swung the door wide,
stood at the building's mouth.
Quickly the foe moved
across the well-made floor,
in an angry mood--a horrible light,
like fire, in his eyes.
He saw the many warriors in the building,
that band of kinsmen asleep
together, and his spirit laughed:
that monster expected
to rip life from the body of each
one before morning came.
He expected a plentiful meal.
(It was his fate
that he eat no more
of the race of men
after that night. . .)

The mighty one, Beowulf, watched,
waiting to see how that wicked one
would go about starting.
Nor did the wretch delay,
but set about seizing
a sleeping warrior unawares
and bit into his bone locks,
drinking the streams of blood,
then swallowing huge morsels
of flesh. Quickly he ate that man,
even to his hands and feet.
 
Forward Grendel came,
stepping nearer. Then
he reached for Beowulf.
 
Beowulf grasped his arm
and sat up. The criminal
knew he had not met
in this middle-earth
another with such a grip.
Grendel's spirit was afraid
and his heart eager
to get away, to flee
to his hiding place, flee
to the devils he kept
for company. Never had he met
a man such as this.

Beowulf then kept in mind
the speeches he had made
in the evening and stood
upright, firmly grasping
Grendel's hand until
the fingers broke.

The monster strove to escape.
Beowulf stepped closer. That
famous monster suddenly wanted
to disappear into the fens.
He realized the power of those hands,
the wrathful grip he was in.
Grendel felt sorry
he had made a trip to Herot.

That hall of warriors dinned.
All the Danes of the city,
all the brave ones, feared disaster.
The building resounded.
It is a wonder the wine-hall
withstood the battle,
that the beautiful building
did not fall to the ground.
But it was made fast,
within and without,
with iron bands
forged with great skill.
I have heard say
many a mead bench
adorned in gold
went flying when
those hostiles fought.
No wise man had ever thought
that splendid building could
be damaged (unless a fire
should swallow it).

The din rose louder, the Danes stood
in dreadful terror--everyone
heard lamentation, a terrifying
song, through the wall:
Grendel, Hell's friend,
God's enemy, sang in defeat,
bewailing his wound.
That man, mightiest
of warriors alive, held fast.
He would not
for any reason
allow his murderous visitor
to escape alive,
to keep the days of his life.

Beowulf's warriors brandished
many a sword, inheritances
from the ancient days,
trying to protect their chief,
but that did no good: they
could not have known, those
brave warriors as they fought,
striking from all sides, seeking
to take Grendel's soul, that
no battle sword could harm him--
he had enchantment against
the edges of weapons.

The end of Grendel's life was
miserable, and he would travel
far into the hands of fiends.
Grendel, the foe of God, who had
long troubled the spirits of men
with his crimes, found that
his body could not stand against
the hand grip of that warrior.

Each was hateful to the other
alive. The horrible monster endured
a wound: the bone-locks
of his shoulder gave way,
and his sinews sprang out.
The glory of battle went to
Beowulf, and Grendel,
mortally wounded,
sought his sad home
under the fen slope.
He knew surely that
his life had reached its end,
the number of his days gone.

The hope of the Danes
had come to pass--He
who came from far had
cleansed Hrothgar's hall
and saved it from affliction.
They rejoiced it that
night's work. Beowulf had
fulfilled his promise
to the Danes and all
the distress they had endured,
all the trouble and sorrow,
had reached an end.

The fact was plain when
Beowulf laid that arm
and shoulder down, there
altogether, Grendel's claw,
under the vaulted roof.

The Warriors Rejoice

I have heard say that
on that morning warriors
came from near and far
to look at the wonder.
Grendel's death made
no warrior sad.

They looked at the huge footprints
and the path he had taken,
dragging himself wearily away
after he had been overcome in battle.
The fated fugitive's bloody tracks
led into the water-monster's mere.
There bloody water boiled,
a horrible swirl of waves
mingled with hot gore.
That doomed one had died,
deprived of joy,
in his fen refuge, his heathen
soul taken into Hell.

After seeing that place
the warriors once again
rode their horses to Herot.
They spoke of Beowulf's
glorious deed, often saying
that no man under the sky's
expanse, North nor South
between the seas, no man
who bore a shield, was more
worthy of a kingdom. They,
however, never found fault
with the gracious Hrothgar--
he was a good king.

The warriors let their
bay horses go, a contest
for the best horse,
galloping through whatever
path looked fair.
Sometimes a king's man, a warrior
covered in glory who knew
the old traditions, would be
reminded of an ancient song,
and he would call up words adorned
in truth. The man would think
of Beowulf's deeds and quickly
compose a skillful tale in words.

Then he sang of things he'd heard
about Sigemund's valorous deeds,
untold things about Weals's son,
his struggles, his wide journeys and feuds.
The singer told things the children
of men did not know, except for
Fitela, Sigemund's nephew, who
stood with him in battle.
With swords those two felled
many from the race of giants.
After Sigemund's death day
not a little fame sprang to him,
about his hardy fight and killing
of a dragon, keeper of a hoard.
Under gray stone that prince alone
engaged in that audacious deed,
not even Fitela with him.

Anyway, it happened that
Sigemund's sword went clear through
the huge dragon and
that splendid iron
stuck in the wall.
The dragon died violently.
By brave deeds the hero
won a ring hoard for himself.
He bore into a ship's bosom
those bright treasures
of the Weal kin,
and the dragon melted
of its own heat.

Sigemund was by far the most
renowned adventurer. N He had
first prospered under King Heremod,
but that man's strength
and victory subsided.
Among the Jutes
Heremod was betrayed
into enemy hands
and put to death.
Sorrow oppressed him too long.
He became a trouble to his people.
Many a wise man
bewailed the old days
when Heremod had taken
the protector's position
to hold the treasure
of the Danish kingdom.
He had loved the Geats
more than his own people:
evil had seized him.
Thus told the song.

Sometimes the warriors raced
their horses on the yellow road.
The morning sped away.
Many a brave warrior
went to the high hall
to see the wonder.
So also the king himself,
the keeper of the rings,
leaving the queen's rooms,
went with his famous company.
And the queen also
with a troop of maidens
walked among the mead seats.




* * *
In episode five we hear many speeches.


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