[Beowulf Attacks Grendel's Mother]
XXII - Page 26-28
Angel Rosado

In the Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf, loyalty or comitatus is a very important element among the lords and their kinsmen. Beowulf's kinsmen learn to depend on him for their shelter, food, mead, beer, weapons, but most importantly, for his leadership. Beowulf conveys the well-known struggle that is portrayed in practically all epics and in any great story of good versus evil. As an epic, Beowulf also includes legendary or traditional images and situations that appear mysterious or supernatural.

Beowulf is set in a far, far away place, long, long ago. As in other epics, a hero is the main character. Everything is centered on Beowulf and his great supernatural strength and courage to overcome any obstacles that may get in his way. He will defeat the enemy and avenge the righteous. The attack on Grendel's mother by Beowulf shows an essentially supernatural element. Beowulf swims under water to look for her, and it takes him a better part of a day to reach the bottom. As Beowulf submerges himself into the water, Grendel's mother senses his presence fill the murky lake. Quickly she aims toward Beowulf and takes him in her grasp: "Then she groped toward him, took the warrior in her awful grip" (Donaldson, 26). Her mighty grip does not harm Beowulf. His ring-armor protects his body, and the monster does not damage his war-dress. After being dragged to the bottom of the water by the sea monsters, Beowulf manages to get out without suffering any injury .

As Beowulf reaches the bottom of the water, Grendel's mother sees him in her hostile hall where the water can not harm him. Beowulf then notices Grendel's mother: "Then the good man saw the accused dweller in the deep, the mighty mere-woman," (Donaldson, 27). Once Beowulf sees her, he thrusts his sword, Hrunting, in the air as if to declare war. Beowulf's sword fails him when he most needs it: "Then the stranger found that the battle-lightning would not bite, harm her life…" (Donaldson, 27). Hrunting's might does not act against Grendel's mother's fury and might. Beowulf understands that swords do not know the meaning of loyalty. The failure of his "mighty" sword perhaps leaves Beowulf with a sour taste in his mouth for the moment: "Then, angry warrior, he threw away the sword, wavy-patterned, bound with ornaments, so that it lay on the ground, hard and steel-edged: he trusted in his strength, his mighty hand-grip," (Donaldson, 27).

Beowulf's persistence leads him to see that Grendel's mother’s strength is more than he can confront with his own hands. She matches Beowulf's strength blow for blow. As Beowulf knocks her to the ground, she quickly retaliates with her claws clutching Beowulf to the ground as well: "Quickly in her turn she repaid him his gift with her grim claws and clutched at him: then weary-hearted, the strongest of warriors, of foot-soldiers, stumbled so that he fell." (Donaldson, 27). According to the tale, Beowulf has God on his side. He knows that it will be God's will that he will obtain the glory and victory in battle: "…God brought about victory in war; the wise Lord, Ruler of the Heavens, decided it with right, easily, when Beowulf had stood up again." (Donaldson, 27). Beowulf is predestined to win and obtain glory in the eyes of men.

Grendel's mother's strength becomes a challenge for Beowulf. Beowulf at last notices a huge sword hanging on a wall in the hall they are in. Seizing the sword made by giants too huge to be used in battle by any other man, Beowulf strikes her in her neck, and she falls to the ground. As Beowulf sees what he has done, he boasts in his glory and rejoices in ‘his work.’ Beowulf then realizes he must finish off Grendel by cutting his head off. This is the last thing Beowulf has on his agenda. He repays Grendel for all of the mischief’s he has committed on the West-Danes: "The body bounded wide when it suffered the blow after death, the hard sword-swing; and thus he cut off his head." (Donaldson, 28). Beowulf's victory over Grendel's mother, seeing the bloody water after Beowulf decapitates Grendel, many of the Danes give Beowulf no chance and they leave the lake. However, the small numbers of Geats remaining give Beowulf a chance. Observing the comitatus is crucial to these men. Beowulf has given them everything and the least they can do is to give him their loyalty. Because of this, Beowulf's kinsmen stay by and wait for him.

Beowulf portrays much strength in the battle with Grendel's mother and even after the battle. He knows how to believe in himself when others give up on him. He also understands how important this battle is to him and to his people and the reward he will eventually obtain if he is to die in battle. Beowulf knows to keep his trust in God, his kinsmen, and to demonstrate onto others. After his battle, Beowulf does not take the many treasures Grendel and his mother possess. He has no need for such treasures because he will be given treasures in Valhalla or heaven. This reward will be greater to Beowulf.

Like a true warrior, Beowulf is determined to avenge those who are taken advantage of and obtain glory in the eyes of men under God's will. He learns to depend upon himself with God's help. When Hrunting fails him, Beowulf does not lose his concentration. Furthermore, Hunting’s failure motivates Beowulf to believe in himself and utilize his inner strength to defeat Grendel's mother and win the battle.

Works Cited

Donaldson, E. Talbot. Beowulf. Ed. Nicholas Howe. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2002.