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

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Grendel's Arm

The adventures of Beowulf, Episode 5
--The Speeches--

Hrothgar, standing on the steps,
seeing the golden roof
and Grendel's hand, spoke:
"For this sight I give
thanks to the Almighty.
I have suffered much
from Grendel's scourge.
God, the glorious protector,
works wonder after wonder.
Only yesterday I expected
these woes would never end--
this best of houses
stood shining in blood
and all my wise ones said
we could never protect
the people and land
from the work of demons
and evil spirits. Now
a warrior, through God's might,
has performed a deed we,
in our wisdom, could not contrive.
The woman who bore you,
Beowulf, if she yet lives,
may say the Eternal Maker
was kind in her child bearing.
Now, Beowulf, best of warriors,
I love you as a son:
have from this moment
a new kinship. Nor will there be
any lack of earthly things
I have power over.
Often I have given gifts
to a lesser warrior, weaker
in fighting. You have, by
your deeds, achieved fame
forever. May God repay you
always as He has just now!"

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
"We have done this work of valor
against the strength of an uncanny
foe. I wish you might have seen
this enemy killed in his gear.
I planned to bind him quickly
to his deathbed with hand grips.
I thought I could pin him down
struggling for life without
his body's escape. But I could not
keep him from going; the Creator
did not will it, and I could not
hold him firmly enough. The foe
was too powerful in his going.
However, he left behind his hand
to save his life, and his arm
and shoulder, though that won't buy
the wretch much comfort.
The evil-doer, afflicted by sin,
won't live much longer;
pain with its strong grip
has seized him in deadly bonds,
and there shall he await,
guilty of crime, the great judgment,
how the bright creator
will decree. . . "

Then was the warrior silent
in speaking of his war-like deed,
and the nobles beheld
the hand at the high roof.
On each of the foe's fingers
were nails like steel.
Everyone agreed the heathen's
claw was horrible
and that the wretch's
bloody battle hand
could not be harmed
by the best of iron.

Entertainment in Herot

Then it was ordered
that Herot be decorated.
Many there were,
men and women, who
prepared that guest-hall.
Gold ornaments shone,
wondrous sights on the walls,
for people to look at.
That bright building
had been much hurt,
though its bands
were made of iron.
Hinges had been sprung
apart. The roof alone
had escaped damage before
that monster, wicked outlaw,
turned in flight
despairing of his life.
(Fate is not easy
to flee from,
try it who will--
the children of men,
bearers of souls,
must go to the prepared place,
his body rest
fast in the grave,
sleep after the feast.)

Then came the time
that Hrothgar himself
went to the feast.
Never have I heard
of a greater company
gathered around a treasure giver.
Great ones sat at the benches
and rejoiced with the cup.
Those brave kinsmen
drank many a mead cup
in the high hall with
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, his nephew.
Herot was filled with friends
(treachery had not yet
come to the Danes).

Hrothgar gave Beowulf
a gilded banner,
decorated battle flag,
as reward for victory.
Also a helmet, armor, and
a famous, precious sword
were given to the hero
before that company.
Around the helmet's top
as head-protection was
a wrap of metal bands
so that no sharpened swords
could harm him
in the battle storm
when the shield-warriors fight.

Beowulf drank the cup.
He had no reason to be
ashamed among warriors
for taking those rich gifts.
Never have I heard
of golden treasure given
at the ale bench in
a more friendly way.

The king ordered eight horses
with gold-plaited bridles
led into the hall.
On one sat a saddle
inlaid with jewels--
it had been Hrothgar's
when he had gone to sword play.
Never had he failed
at the front
when corpses fell.
Hrothgar gave horses and weapons,
telling Beowulf to enjoy them well.
Thus like a man
that great prince,
treasure giver of heroes,
repaid Beowulf for his battle,
and no man who tells the truth.
will blame him. Then that chief of nobles
gave to each one on the mead bench
who had taken the ocean's way
with Beowulf an heirloom
and ordered that the one
Grendel killed in wickedness
should be paid for in gold.
(Grendel would have killed
more of them if wise God,
and Beowulf's courage,
had not prevented it.
The Creator then ruled the race of men,
as He does yet; and, therefore,
understanding is best:
the forethought of mind.
Much shall he abide,
from friends and foes,
who lives long in these
days of strife as he
makes use of this world!)

The Poet Sings Of Old Trouble, how Hildeburh, married to stop a feud between Jutes and Danes, saw her husband, brother, and son killed

In the presence of the battle leader
Hrothgar's poet touched
the harp and recited
many songs for entertainment
in the hall. He sang
of Finn's offspring and how
Hnaef of the Danes fell
in a Jute battlefield.
Indeed Hildeburh did not have
much cause to praise
the good faith of her in-laws,
the Jutes: though blameless,
she was deprived of dear ones
by the shield play, both her son
and Hnaef, her brother, in fate
fell to spear wounds.
That was a sad woman.

Not without cause, after
morning came, when she could
see under the sky,
did she bewail the decree
of fate, the slaughter
of kinsmen. At first she had
possessed the world's joy.
War took all but
a few of the Jute men
so they could not
fight the Dane Hengst nor
protect the survivors.

But Hengst offered
them a deal: that
the Jutes would make
room for the Danes
in the beer hall and
that with gifts
King Finn would honor
Hengst's men, rings,
entertainment, and treasures
of plated gold as if
they were his kin.
Both sides agreed to the peace.

Finn declared to Hengst
honest oaths that the survivors
would be held in honor
and that no man,
by words nor works,
would break the peace
nor in cruelty mention
that they were being friendly
with the killer of their king,
since a winter freeze had
forced it. If any of the Jutes
in daring speech mentioned it,
then the edge of the sword
would settle the matter.

A funeral pyre was readied
and gold brought from the hoard.
The best of the Danes
were ready for the pyre.
At the fire were blood stained
shirts of mail, boar images
all golden and iron-hard.
Not a few noble ones
had been destroyed by wounds!

Hildeburh ordered her son
committed to the heat
of Hneaf's pyre; his muscles burned
at the shoulder of his uncle.
The woman mourned,
sang lamentation,
as the warrior ascended,
waned to the clouds,
as the greatest of death fires
roared on the barrow.
Heads melted,
wounds, hostile bites
to the body, opened
and burst; blood
sprang out. Fire,
the greediest of spirits,
swallowed everything,
of both peoples, there together.
Their power had passed away.

The warriors departed,
bereft of friends,
to seek shelter
in the Jute land,
Jute homes and stronghold.
So Hengst spent
a slaughter-stained winter
with Finn because
he could not leave.
He thought of home
but could not go
in a ring-prowed ship
against the sea storm,
against the wind.
The water waves locked
in icy bindings until
another year came
to the gardens,
as they do yet,
glorious bright weather
to watch over the hall.

When winter had passed
and earth's bosom turned
fair, the adventurer was
eager to go, the guest
from the dwelling, but first
Hengst thought more of revenge
for injury than of a sea journey,
how he might cause
a hostile meeting
with the Jutes
to repay them with iron.
So it was he did not complain
when the son of Hunlaf
laid Battle Bright,
the best of swords,
whose edges were
known to the Jutes,
on his lap.
So it was that Finn,
bold in spirit,
in his turn met
a cruel death by sword
in his own home
after Guthlaf and Oslaf
complained of their sorrows,
blaming their woes
on that sea journey.
A restless spirit is not
restrained by the breast.

Then was the hall reddened
with the life blood of enemies.
King Finn was slain
and Hildeburh taken.
The Danish warriors
carried to their ships
all the goods they could find
in the house, precious jewels.
They took the queen
on a sea journey
back to her people.

The poet's song was sung,
the mirth rose, bench noise,
as the cup bearers offered
wine from wondrous vessels.

end of episode five

* * *
In episode six Grendel's mother gets mad!


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