Fight with Grendel's Mother!!

Version:1 (Irfan Bandoo)

                  Beowulf is a legendary epic story of a courageous and valiant young warrior who possesses super-human strength and who “has thirty men’s strength, strong in battle, in his handgrip” (Beowulf, p. 65). Beowulf’s adventure begins as he and his men risk their lives to voyage across seas to the land of the Danes. Here Beowulf has heard that a creature named Grendel has wreaked havoc on the people for twelve long years and continues to terrify and massacre innocent thanes. Beowulf takes up the challenge and vows to the Danish king, Hrothgar, and his people that he will kill this monster and rid the land of the cursed creature once and for all. True to his word Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands. The kingdom is overjoyed and relieved that the monster is finally rid of. They praise and shower Beowulf with gifts and treasures and thank him for his bravery and courage. However, little do the Danish people know that another evil creature lurks in the swamp lands and seeks revenge for her fallen son – Grendel’s mother. It is here that Beowulf’s next adventure begins as he faces a much stronger opponent, one who equally matches his strength. Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother serves as an important scene in the story of Beowulf as it exemplifies the heroic code observed by both Beowulf and his adversary – Grendel’s mother. The scene also highlights pagan as well as Christian elements which are evident throughout most of the text.


        In this episode, we are introduced to Grendel’s mother. In addition, we are also introduced to pagan elements, and we also see the similarities between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother in their observance of the heroic code. At first, the men are overjoyed and celebrate the death of Grendel. After the excitement, they settle down and finally fall asleep with peaceful minds knowing that Grendel is dead. However, Grendel’s mother now seeks vengeance: “his mother still greedy, grim-minded, wanted to go on her sorrowful journey to avenge her son’s death” (Beowulf, p. 92). She, unlike Grendel, is not that terrifying: “the horror was less by as much as a maiden’s strength” (Beowulf, p. 92). Grendel’s mother enters Heorot and quickly seizes a thane and carries him off to her lair. When it is later discovered that a thane is dead, sorrow is restored in the Danish kingdom. When Hrothgar the king hears this news, he mourns for the loss of his trusted advisor, Aeschere. Beowulf is quickly fetched from his rest and brought to the scene. Hrothgar turns to Beowulf and solicits his help for a second time in defeating another monster. Hrothgar says, “Now once again all help depends on you alone. You do now yet know this fearful place, where you might find this sinful creature – seek it if you dare! I will reward you with ancient riches for the feud, as I did before, with twisted gold, if you return alive” (Beowulf, p. 95). Hrothgar asks for Beowulf’s help a second time and promises to reward him if he is successful as he did before when Beowulf defeated Grendel. Beowulf consoles Hrothgar by saying, “Sorrow not, wise one! It is always better to avenge one’s friend than to mourn overmuch. Each of us shall abide the end of this world’s life; let him who can bring about fame before death that is best for the unliving man after he is gone” (Beowulf, p. 96). Here Beowulf reminds the king that he must be true to the heroic code – that warriors must take revenge for a fallen kinsman and not mourn him. It is here at the end of Beowulf’s speech that we see the clear similarities between him and Grendel’s mother. They both follow the heroic code. Grendel’s mother avenges her son’s death by killing Hrothgar’s trusted advisor, Aeschere, and now we see Beowulf willing to avenge Aeschere’s death by killing Grendel’s mother. Within the same scene, but more precisely within Beowulf’s speech, we also see pagan elements. Beowulf’s idea of seeking vengeance is in stark contrast to Christian beliefs of forgiveness. In addition to this, in his speech he is saying that the only way one can achieve fame and glory is through vengeance and death, which again contrasts with Christian beliefs that one must do good and he will be rewarded in the afterlife.


                Throughout this scene there are also references to Christian elements. An example of this is seen at the end of Beowulf’s speech when he accepts the daunting task of seeking and killing Grendel’s mother. Hrothgar’s excitement at Beowulf’s decision to help him a second time is described: “the old man leapt up, thanked the Lord, the mighty God, for that man’s speech” (Beowulf, p. 96). Here we clearly see the Christian references as they are shouted aloud by the king himself. Another example of a Christian element is later seen when Beowulf enters Grendel’s mother's dark, gloomy mere and comes face to face with the creature. He struggles to overcome her because she matches his strength equally and also because the weapon – Hrunting, that has been lent to him by Unferth is of no use to fend off the creature. As a result Beowulf is defenseless. However, he sees a giant sword and uses it to kill the creature. Once he defeats Grendel’s mother, the lair becomes brighter and more luminous: “the flames gleamed, a light glowed within even as from heaven clearly shines the firmament’s candle” (Beowulf, p. 101). The light that shines after Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother symbolizes holiness, salvation and purity and suggests to us that a great evil has been destroyed.


            After successfully defeating Grendel’s mother, Beowulf cuts the head off of Grendel whom he sees lying lifelessly as a symbol of retribution. As Beowulf cuts his head off with the giant sword, it melts from the poisonous blood and all that remains is the hilt. Beowulf then takes the head of Grendel, Hrunting and the hilt of the giant sword, and swims back to the surface. The scene concludes as Beowulf is later rewarded and with treasures from Hrothgar who praises and thanks Beowulf for his courage, valor and bravery.


                    The battle with Grendel’s mother serves as an important scene in the story of Beowulf. It exemplifies the heroic code observed by both Beowulf and his adversary, Grendel’s mother. The scene also highlights pagan as well as Christian elements which are evident throughout much of the text. In addition, these Christian elements found within the text, leave us the readers to question the values and culture of the Anglo-Saxons – were they truly pagan although some of their beliefs and values are similar to Christian values and beliefs.


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