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Beowulf returns to the great Heorot Hall after slaying Grendel’s mother in an underwater battle. The death of Grendel and Grendel’s mother is a sign of the victory of good over evil. Grendel and his mother are vicious evil monsters. All the happy Geats listen as Beowulf recounts his underwater battle with Grendel’s mother. Beowulf credits God for his victory, saying, "The fight would have ended straightway if God had not guarded me" (Norton, 48). Beowulf offers the hilt to Hrothgar who carefully examines the melted sword, a work of giants, and "on which was written the origin of ancient strife, when the flood, rushing water, slew the race of giants"(48).
Hrothgar then speaks to Beowulf about pride. Hrothgar praises Beowulf for what he has done for the Danes, but later warns him of the dangers incurred by the selfish king Heremod as an example of the evil appeal of power. Hrothgar says, "He grew great not for their joy, but for their slaughter, for destruction of Danish people. With swollen heart he killed his table-companions, shoulder-comrades, until he turned away from the joys of men, alone, notorious king, although mighty God had praised him in power, in the joys of strength, had set him up over all men." (49).
Heremod is the selfish king who kills his own men. He is bloodthirsty with power and thus feels no joy. Nor does he receive any respect from his men. The story of Heremod shows that the corrupt use of power and fame can result in isolation and disrespect. Hrothgar’s speech continues as he gives thanks to God for giving humans wisdom. After the speech, Hrothgar invites Beowulf to feast once more with the Danes. The following morning, Beowulf and his men in armor are very eager to depart for home.
Beowulf shows further in the passage Further Celebration at Heorot that he is a thoughtful and polite man. He shows this in several ways. He gives the hilt of the sword that has killed Grendel’s mother to Hrothgar as a sign of respect for his position as the Dane’s king. He also does not forget to thank Unferth for the loan of his sword, Hrunting, even though it has been of absolutely no help to him in the fight.
We are given a glimpse of Hrothgar’s wise character when he delivers the speech on pride to Beowulf.
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Therms and Ideas
It is a kenning. This represents a person who has killed one of his own kinsmen. This is considered the worst act a person can commit in a kin-based society since relationships among kinsmen were the most defining characteristic of Anglo-Saxon tribes. The death of a kinsman had to be avenged. To kill a kinsman was the greatest crime in the Anglo-Saxon society. Cain, a brother-slayer in the Judeo-Christian Bible, symbolizes the worst kind of person. Unferth, who supposedly is the bravest among the Danish people, refuses to fight with Grendel's mother. This is a shameful act, and the author describes him as a coward and a brother-slayer.
He is the biblical brother of Abel. He kills Abel out of jealousy and is condemned by God.
The heavy sword that Beowulf uses underwater to fight Grendel’s mother is referred to as the Great-Sword. Beowulf brings the remains of the sword to King Hrothgar. It has the story of the Flood on the hilt.
Heorot is the huge mead hall built at Hrothgar’s orders. It later comes under the attack of Grendel. As the result of Grendel's attack, the mead hall empties at dusk.
Hrunting is an ancient sword owned by Unferth. It is lent to Beowulf when he goes to fight Grendel's mother.
Hubris is excessive pride which typically causes a fall from greatness. In Beowulf, Hrothgar gives Beowulf a speech about guarding against hubris. Hrothgar uses Heremod as an example of what happens if excessive pride takes over a king's heart.
A kenning is the joining of two words to replace a single word. (E.g. "whale-road" replaces ocean).
A sum paid when one man kills another. Also known as wergild.
Beowulf shows evidence of Christian influence when it speaks of the one God who protects Beowulf in his battle with Grendel's mother by showing him the only weapon that can destroy her. Hrothgar's speech to Beowulf warns of excessive pride and greed that sounds very much like a sermon. The temporality of earthly glory and possessions also fits into Christian thought. There is mention of Cain as "God's enemy"(48) and his progeny that includes both Grendel and his mother. The pagan influence in Beowulf is the need to take vengeance for a wrong inflicted. The inclusion of the sword in Grendel's mother's cave goes against Christianity for it has pagan roots since the sword is "good and adorned, the work of giants"(47).
Abrams, M.H., ed., et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sixth Edition. Vol. I. New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
The Blue Dragon's Den. Online Internet. 12 October 1998. Available http://www.frenzy.com/~dragon/
The Adventures of Beowulf. Online Internet. 12 October 1998. Available http://www.lone-star.net/literature/beowulf/index.html.