BEOWULF
Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2015)
The Geat warrior-hero, BEOWULF...
The Geat warrior-hero, BEOWULF...

If anyone knew how to tell an epic story with all of the necessary blood, guts, heroics, gods, monsters and people being psychopathic crazies, it was the Norse. Their poetic eddas and sagas were stuffed to the gills with all of that and a whole lot more; so much so that they still exist today as they were passed down. One of the stories that could roughly be added to their large library of cool tales is one that isn’t exactly written by them, though it features them prominently. A tale of a hero that races headlong into the fight against gods-awful (demonic, some would say) monstrosities and wades back out up to his knees in the blood of those same monsters, where swords flashed through the air, axes took off body parts and in some cases, monsters were dismembered by sheer muscle-power alone! The tale of BEOWULF, a hero who sailed into town with his bros, took one look around at the horrific things that were happening, and then took no time in annihilating that trouble. The story of Beowulf is actually a story written down by an unknown, unnamed Anglo-Saxon poet from England, sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, but the action is ALL Norse in the way the destruction of evil goes down.

BEOWULF...
BEOWULF...

Who was this mighty warrior? Well, Beowulf was a powerful, brawny and ruggedly handsome young man that hailed from a tribe of Scandinavian buttkickers called the Geats (pronounced “gey-otts” in Old English). Beowulf had proven himself on many occasions to be quite the warrior, taking the lives of many an enemy with his comrades-in-arms over the years, and had some serious street credentials as someone an enemy would NOT want to tangle with. He was your typical large, muscular Norseman, clad in brown leather and warm furs (Scandinavia is cold, even for someone as hardcore as Beowulf!), and undoubtedly sported a long, fine-lookin’ blondish-red beard. He no doubt had fierce and piercing warrior’s eyes, yet a warm heart for his family and his fighting brothers. He was you’re A-List hero in the Norse world, plain and simple, and as most Norseman (and many Norsewomen!) were apt to do, he was no doubt always looking for a way to get into a good fight against some tough enemies so that he could a) build a name for himself and b) be able to tell the tales of his exploits to his future children and grandchildren, as well as any ladies who might be nearby. And one day, he finally found a cause that would give him the chance to do all of that. A desperate call for help was heard from across the seas when a messenger from afar arrived in the land of the Geats…

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Map of southern Scandinavia...

King of the Danes, Hrothgar...
King of the Danes, Hrothgar...

The message came from the king of the Danes (from Denmark), an older-yet-still-a-deadly-warrior-type fellow by the name of King Hrothgar. As it turned out, Hrothgar had just finished putting the final touches on a huge, new and beautiful mead hall for his people (called HEOROT: “hay-oh-roht”) where they could come each night, feast, dance, brawl and drink gallons of mead until they passed out. It was so grand that it was called "the foremost of halls under heaven." Hrothgar was quite proud of the place (so proud that he actually used it as his palace!) and so were his people, who were quite thankful to the king for being so thoughtful as to give them a place to be crazy each evening.
Heorot Hall...
Heorot Hall...

Things had been great at Heorot; the drinking, carousing, dancing, fighting and sheer party attitude had been epic! However, all of that came to a crashing halt when something quite unexpected happened; a wretched beast had come to the doors late one evening when the party was in full swing, a towering mass of teeth, slime and rage had arrived to crash the party. This nightmarish ghoul of a monster was called GRENDEL, and it had developed a taste for human flesh…which it found a-plenty, getting all drunk and fat, feasting on meat at Hrothgar’s tables inside Heorot. What warriors could still stand up enough to fight did their best, but Grendel was a force of nature that simply could not be overtaken. The foul, gigantic troll devoured many of King Hrothgar’s people that night, separating heads and limbs from bodies like chicken wings, the screams of those unfortunate enough to become a part of Grendel’s personal buffet screeching in the dim light of the mead hall. King Hrothgar and his wife, Wealhtheow (pronounced “walch thayo”) beat cheeks out of the bloody chaos of the mead hall with as many survivors as they could. Grendel, stuffed to explode with the meat of the delicious humans he has just munched on, lurches back out into the snowy forests around Heorot, a trail of blood splatters in his wake…

The beastly, vicious GRENDEL...
The beastly, vicious GRENDEL...


Beowulf and Hrothgar make plans...
Beowulf and Hrothgar make plans...

King Hrothgar doesn’t dare have another feast in his glorious-but-now-cursed mead hall, and so he orders it shut for good. Yet, he still can’t bear to see his glorious party-hall closed and abandoned, especially since he had put so much time and money into building it…and that’s where he gets the idea to put the call out to any and all heroes who might come to the kingdom of the Danes and assist him in luring, capturing and slaughtering Grendel. And THAT’S where Beowulf comes in! Beowulf and his hearty band of Norse bros sail the distance between the land of the Geats, across the frigid waves of the Kattegat (the area of sea that separates Scandinavia from Denmark), and arrive to receive greetings from a desperate King Hrothgar; many warriors have already tried…and failed in horrifically brutal and deadly ways to hunt and slay Grendel, and Beowulf seems to be his last hope of ever winning back his mead hall/palace and putting things right again in his kingdom. Being the massive stone wall of a Norse warrior-type guy that he is, Beowulf readily accepts the challenge, much to the cheering roar of his buddies, who also want in on the action if possible. Hrothgar promises untold riches and fame if they can pull it off, and that only makes the young Norsemen want the night to come faster so they can get down to business wiping the floor with Grendel’s dead carcass. Come that evening, Hrothgar leads Beowulf and his men into the now-empty Heorot Hall, where the wreckage from the ill-fated night of blood and death still liters the floor. The men relight the torches, clean the place up a bit, sharpen their swords and razor-sharp Norse battle-axes and settle in to wait for Grendel to make his appearance… all except for Beowulf. He sits himself in front of the battered front doors to the hall, huge, muscular arms crossed, steely eyes planted on the doorway. He will use no weapons in this fight; he is the equal to Grendel and so he will use his bare hands to bring the monster down. (His men think nothing of it because they know that their boss-man is fully capable of it, too…)

Beowulf combats Grendel in Heorot Hall!
Beowulf combats Grendel in Heorot Hall!

As the sun goes down, a horrendous snow storm kicks up outside, swirling waves of snow down around Heorot Hall, the wind howling outside like a wounded animal. Into the late hours the warriors wait, and Beowulf has not moved from his position. Finally, his unmoving position is rewarded when in a supernaturally evil screech of rage, the front doors are shattered open; standing before the warriors stands Grendel, who , seeing lights in the mead hall once more, figured he could slip in for yet another human feast. Almost as tall as the hall itself, Grendel bashes his way through what’s left of the doors, sets his menacing, greasy eyes upon Beowulf, unsheaths his sickle-shaped claws, rears his incredibly hideous face back and lets out an earthshaking roar, with the stench of rotting human flesh on his ungodly breath, a challenge to the Norseman standing before him. Beowulf rises up from his seat and wasting no moments, races towards the foul and imposing form of Grendel, his adrenaline pumping on overload; the two clash and the wrestling match to the death, and epic battle of muscle, rage and sheer force, begins. For what seems like hours, Beowulf and Grendel throw each other back and forth, slamming each other into the walls and support beams of Heorot Hall, shaking the mead hall so badly that at most moments it sounds like the whole place is going come crashing down. All the while, Beowulf’s buddies are trying their best to avoid getting splattered themselves, cheering wildly for their friend as he exerts everything he has against the demonic monster.
Grendel, soon to be minus an arm...and his life.
Grendel, soon to be minus an arm...and his life.

During the battle, they also begin to jump into the fight, trying in vain to slash at Grendel with their sword blades; no dice, however, as Grendel’s skin is tough to the point of being completely impenetrable. There’s nothing the warriors can do to cut the monster or even slow him down! Luckily, at long last, Grendel begins to tire, and in becoming tired, he makes a crucial mistake; he allows Beowulf to grab ahold of his arm. Using every bit of strength in his huge, quaking body (and no doubt calling upon every Norse god in the book), Beowulf was able to actually RIP the arm right out of the socket and completely OFF of Grendel, spewing a sludge of toxic, green blood all over the floor of the hall. Bellowing in pain and bleeding out, Grendel fled back out into the storm outside, a trail of vivid blood trailing behind him. To all present, they had just seen the impossible and great shouts declaring Beowulf THE MAN echoed through the halls. Beowulf had triumphed over the unholy demon, had wrenched its arm completely off its body, and now held the scaly, bloodied foul thing up in the air like a trophy of battle! (In some versions of the story, Hrothgar later has the arm nailed up above the door, just to show it off to any who might come in for a drink!)

Party at Heorot Hall!
Party at Heorot Hall!

When King Hrothgar caught wind of Beowulf’s amazing win over evil, he immediately made plans to throw the biggest feast that Denmark had ever seen, all in honor of the troll-slaughtering Norseman. More beef than anyone had ever laid eyes on before, hundreds of gallons of mead, you name it: this was to be a party for the ages! And all under the roof of the freshly reopened Heorot Hall. Huge chests of gold, enough to go around for Beowulf and ALL of his bros to live comfy for the rest of their lives and then some, were carted in as gifts to the victorious hero. Anyone who was anyone arrived for the giant victory-fest, half of them already half-drunk and ready for the biggest event of the season, and everybody was in a much better mood now that the monster-plague that had ruined their good times was dead and gone.
Grendel's mama...not happy.
Grendel's mama...not happy.

What none of them could have ever known was that Grendel hadn’t died all alone in the wilderness. He wasn’t flying solo. He had somehow dragged himself back to his lair in the frozen swamps miles away to die…the lair that he shared with his mother. And when his mother discovered that her offspring had been slaughtered by Hrothgar and company…well, when a mother loses a child, even if both mom and son are hideous hellspawn, there’s going to be a rampage of revenge unlike anything the world had ever seen. Grendel’s mother was TWICE as large, twice as ugly and twice as vicious as her son ever was. And her uncontrollable violence, grief and red-eyed anger was now aimed in the direction of Heorot Hall, where the unsuspecting crowd was just beginning their insane party…

Guess who's coming to dinner?
Guess who's coming to dinner?

The party had been raging inside Heorot for hours, but as the wee hours ticked away, things wound down and most of the crew had spent themselves and had passed out on the floor. The whole joint was echoing with the loud, obnoxious snores of mead-blasted warriors. With no warning whatsoever, the heavy wooden doors that had JUST been repaired from Grendel’s attack were bashed in once again to reveal the towering form of his mother (who sadly goes through the whole story with no name whatsoever!), slobbering, fanged jaws working in a fury. In a total “WTH?” moment, the slumbering warriors woozily attempt to get up off of their butts and attempt some kind of defense, but before anything can be done, Grendel’s mother makes her move, snatches up one of Hrothgar’s best warriors (a loyal and buff dude named Æschere…pronounced “ash hair uh”) with one of her massive, grimy claws and stuffs the poor guy into her gnashing maw of needle-sharp teeth before he can really even come to grips with what is going on. With snapping bones and with a sound like celery being munched, Æschere is gone without so much as a scream. Almost as if to say “come follow me if you want to continue this,” Grendel’s mother then roars with enough force to blow out ear drums and races back into the night outside the Hall. Beowulf and his men were now fully awake, with no traces of the alcohol they’d been downing for hours, and began strapping on armor and prepping their weapons. Hrothgar is also up and at ‘em, filled with his own burning rage; Æschere was a trusted friend and one of his best warriors, and the king planned to avenge him as best he could, meaning to fight alongside Beowulf. It was completely personal now, and all the members of the war party wanted to finish this, once and for all…

The frozen murky lair of Grendel's mother...
The frozen murky lair of Grendel's mother...

Beowulf, Hrothgar and the hero’s band of Geat warriors raced off into the dark, snowy woods, tracking Grendel’s mother, following her massive footprints in the snow, into the frozen, slushy marshes where she dwelled. Forging deeper and deeper into the swamps, at long last, the footprints ended at a large lake at the middle: THIS must be the lair of the beast and this was where Beowulf knew he must make a stand. Grendel’s mother was a smart cookie, and rather than fight on Beowulf’s terms, he was going to have to venture into HER territory and fight on her terms, where she knew the environment and was at home. As Beowulf prepped to wade into the water he was presented with a special sword (called Hrunting – people named their swords back then!) by one of Hrothgar’s warriors, Unferth, who had at first doubted Beowulf’s abilities to defeat Grendel when the Geats first arrived (Beowulf readily accepts this generosity, if for nothing else than to please the man, as his own sword is just as good if not better. It’s an honor thing!). Before diving into the water, Beowulf had a number of demands for King Hrothgar, seeing as how he has a fifty-fifty chance of coming out of this alive: taking care of his men and also offering up all of Beowulf’s land to Unferth for his generous donation of his sword. Hrothgar agreed wholeheartedly and made his promises, and with that taken care of, Beowulf turned to the murky, muddy, frigid waters of the uninviting pond where certain death awaited in the form of Grendel’s mother…and big, sharp pointy teeth.

Bones, death and treasure...
Bones, death and treasure...

It doesn’t take long before he is attacked head-on by the vicious beast; Grendel’s mother was BUILT for swimming in the muddy murk and relentlessly attempted to rip into him with her powerful jaws. Luckily for our hero, his armor deflected her death-dealing fangs, but that didn’t stop her from dragging him down further and further into her watery domain. No amount of stabbing at her thick hide got her to let him go, and she finally dragged him into a huge underground cavern beneath the lake; her soggy, gloomy, stalagmite-filled cave. Home Sweet Home. Beowulf didn’t have much time to soak up the sight of it, but what he did see chilled him to the bone. Covering the stony, damp floors of the cave were the bones of hundreds of warriors, each with various body parts ripped off, countless rusting swords and pieces of armor, and in some cases, relatively fresh kills; the stench of decomposing bodies filled the musty, thick air. On top of all of the death that lay strewn about the cave were mountains of treasure stolen from untold kings and princes, gold coins and bars, crowns, gems and enough riches to last many lifetimes. The final detail that Beowulf noticed before Grendel’s mother made it impossible for him to really focus on anything else but her was the form of Grendel, dead in a heap of ugly on the floor at the far end of the cavern. This cave, Beowulf realized, was the lair of Grendel and his mother. This was their headquarters, from where they had caused so much misery for the people who lived in the surrounding lands, and this was where the nightmare would end, one way or the other. Before another thought could hit his brain, Grendel’s mother was on top of Beowulf, shredding away at his armor and attempting to get her jaws into his flesh…

The final showdown: Beowulf vs. Grendel's mother!
The final showdown: Beowulf vs. Grendel's mother!

Wielding Unferth’s sword, Hrunting, he again tried to cut his way into Grendel’s mother’s tough flesh, but the sword just wasn’t up to the task. Flinging it aside, Beowulf knew he was quickly running out of options. Praying to the gods for assistance, Beowulf found himself being thrown all about the cavern, smashing head-first into the stalagmites and stalactites that grew out of the floors and ceiling; if he couldn’t come up with a strategy, this was NOT going to end well. Just when the end seemed near for the mighty warrior, the gods seemingly answered his prayers, because lying there on the ground, directly next to the place where Grendel’s mother had just tossed him like a sack of meat, was a sword unlike any other; a magical sword that glowed with a godlike aura. Just as Grendel’s mother was about to move in for the final kill, Beowulf snatched up the sword and neatly hacked her head clean off of her unspeakable neck in one smooth stroke.
Taking off the head...
Taking off the head...

Her tremendous bulk full to the cave floor with a gigantic rumble of now-dead monster flesh and her head went tumbling down the length of the cavern, coming to rest next to the body of her dead son. The magical sword, upon hitting the even-more-toxic acid blood of Grendel’s mother, begins to hiss and melt away, until there was nothing left but the hilt. Collecting the head of Grendel’s mother and the sizzling sword hilt, Beowulf dove back into the water, swam back to the surface of the lake and much to the surprise of all of the anxiously waiting men, came lumbering out of the water with the head of Grendel’s mother held high like a trophy of war (honestly, even his best buds weren’t expecting to see Beowulf alive again, and so it was quite a shock when he broke the surface of the lake, beat up and bloodied, but still alive!).

Beowulf victorious!
Beowulf victorious!

Officially presenting King Hrothgar with the head of Grendel’s mother and the melted sword handle, Beowulf let the king know that the job was done and that he had nothing else to fear from the vicious mother-and-son monster team. Naturally, Hrothgar was beside himself. He sighed a heavy sigh of relief, and instantly began planning an even BIGGER feast at Heorot Hall for the next night to honor Beowulf to the max. Hrothgar goes over the top in his event planning and brings out all of the top-shelf mead, slaughters nearly half the country’s meat animals for the grill and rolls out all kinds of amazing gifts for the hero, including his family’s heirloom sword, the exquisitely-designed Nægling (and when a man gives you his family’s personal sword, which has been handed down for generations, you KNOW he’s grateful and seriously honoring you!). Hrothgar also gave a speech to honor Beowulf, but told him, in a section of the speech called “Hrothgar’s sermon,” that he should always beware of becoming too proud of his awesomeness and that he should take care of and never forget his friends and thanes (servants); wise advice which Beowulf promises to follow. After the party of the century that evening, Beowulf and his men begin preparing for the journey back home across the sea to Geatland, packing the boats with all of the goodies that Hrothgar had given them and relieved that they had lived to fight another day. Wishing the king of the Danes well, the hero and his bros sail back home to glory and fame with a cargo hold full of gold and one heck of a story to tell.
Sailing home to Geatland!
Sailing home to Geatland!


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King Beowulf of the Geats...
But that’s not the end for Beowulf! Due to his amazing exploits, eventually he himself is made the king of Geatland, and for fifty years ruled his kingdom with wisdom and patience, following the advice given to him by King Hrothgar. Geatland prospered, the people were relatively happy, content and above all, SAFE. Beowulf proved the perfect fit for the throne and does indeed take care of his people as best he can. And one fateful day, as an old man but still buff and tough, Beowulf is summoned forth once again on a seemingly impossible quest to save his kingdom from death and destruction. The problem? The slave of a wealthy man in Geatland had unknowingly wandered into the cave-lair of a mighty dragon (who sadly was never given a name in this story!) near an area of Geatland called Earnaness.

Slumbering dragon? He'd never miss ONE cup...!
Slumbering dragon? He'd never miss ONE cup...!

Luckily for the slave in question, the massive, muscular dragon was fast asleep, allowing him to explore the cave a bit (though to be honest, any sane person would turn right around and get the heck out!). Finding a beautiful, carved golden cup sitting next to the slumbering giant, the slave decided to make off with it before the dragon could detect him, figuring that the beast would never even know. Big, BIG mistake. When the dragon finally stirred from its slumber and found its treasured cup missing, it went absolutely berserk, flew out of the cave in an unholy rage and began flash-frying towns all over Geatland out of spite and revenge. When the tales of crisped villages reached the palace, that’s when Beowulf knew that his strength and reputation as a monster-killer were needed once again, even in his old age. And so, rallying up his men, the hero-king rode out into the countryside to do battle with the fiery, winged menace, but quickly found that even he was no match for the fury of the ticked-off dragon, which was whole levels worse than Grendel or his mother could have ever been! Able to spew fire from a far distance and fly around while doing it? Try as he might, there’s nothing Beowulf could do to successfully fight that himself! His men, terrified that even the great Beowulf was at a standstill, freak out like a bunch of girly-men and take off into the woods to hide from the dragon, leaving the king all by his lonesome to deal with the beast. All except one: one of Beowulf’s most loyal men, Siglaf, who felt great distress at the thought of abandoning his king in his greatest moment of need, stayed behind to face the dragon alongside Beowulf.
Beowulf's last battle...
Beowulf's last battle...

In a battle that shook the countryside, Beowulf and Siglaf managed to finally down and slay the rage-blinded dragon, but not before it finally does what no other monster could; it mortally wounded the great Beowulf, who found himself weakly bleeding out on the ground from a gut-wound made by one of the dragon’s massive, sharp claws. Siglaf can do nothing but watch his king die, but he knew that he would do all in his power to make sure that the legendary king received a send-off burial fit for the gods. After his death, his people, wailing and sobbing, mourn the death of their great leader, and build a massive funeral pyre in the center of Geatland. Placing his body on top, they lit the pyre on fire and solemnly and tearfully watched as Beowulf’s ashes and spirit floated up to Valhalla to be with the Norse gods, the Aesir. In a final tribute to their fallen king, the people of Geatland constructed a huge barrow, a burial mound, atop the spot where Beowulf finally ascended to the gods, one so large that it could be seen from the sea…

The Geats mourn their dead hero-king...
The Geats mourn their dead hero-king...


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Beowulf in Old English...
Beowulf proved to be the ultimate example of what the people of the English Isles in Medieval times sought out in a hero, looking to the Norse who had once ruled their lands as models. Strength, bravery, and wisdom, all used to face the evils of the world in the form of monsters, dark magic and unwinnable odds. Sounds a lot like a good “hero vs. evil” story or movie today, right? Even though we have no idea who the author of the original Beowulf was, his legacy lives on and the stories of the great hero-turned-king are still told today, over a thousand years from the first telling, somewhere around a campfire on a cold, desolate English night…


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The myth, the legend: Beowulf.
The myth, the legend: Beowulf.