Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem is considered the oldest surviving old English poem, over three thousand alliterative verses celebrating the Great-Dane who protected King Hrothgar, conquered Grendel and was ultimately defeated by a dragon. Though its authorship is unknown, the poem was written between 925 and 1025, preserved as the Nowell Codex, badly damaged in a London fire which housed medieval works collected by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, moved to the British Library where it remains today. [First page of manuscript pictured at right].

The poem's events mix fictional elements with real historic events as the Anglo-Saxons made their journey to England. There are strong Scandinavian connections, with Geatish origins. Enjoy the opening summary of the poem's story, as well as line summaries throughout the verses to better understand the Old English. [We chose the 1892 translation by Lesslie Hall. Illustrations by Frederick Lawrence from The Story of Beowulf by Ernest Kirtlan.]

Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem, manuscript first page in Nowell Codex Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem, Grendel

Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem, Beowulf and Wiglaf Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem, Beowulf Fights the Dragon

Table of Contents

The Story

Glossary of Proper Names

List of Words and Phrases Not in General Use

I - The Life and Death of Skyld

II - Skyld's Successors, Hrothgar's Great Mead-Hall

III - Grendel the Murderer

IV - Beowulf Goes to Hrothgar's Assistance

V - The Geats Reach Heorot

VI - Beowulf Introduces Himself at the Palac

VII - Hrothgar and Beowulf

VIII - Hrothgar and Beowulf continued

IX - Unferth Taunts Beowulf

X - Beowulf Silences Unferth - Glee Is High

XI - All Sleep Save One

XII - Grendel and Beowulf

XIII - Grendel Is Vanquished

XIV - Rejoicing of the Danes

XV - Hrothgar's Gratitude

XVI - Hrothgar Lavishes Gifts Upon His Deliverer

XVII - Banquet (continued) - The Scop's Song of Finn and Hnaef

XVIII - The Finn Episode (continued) - The Banquet Continues

XIX - Beowulf Receives Further Honor

XX - The Mother of Grendel

XXI - Hrothgar's Account of the Monsters

XXII - Beowulf Seeks Grendel's Mother

XXIII - Beowulf's Fight With Grendel's Mother

XXIV - Beowulf Is Double-Conquer

XXV - Beowulf Brings His Trophies - Hrogarth's Gratitude

XXVI - Hrothgar Moralizes - Rest After Labor

XXVII - Sorrow At Parting

XXVIII - The Homeward Journey - The Two Queens

XXIX - Beowulf and Higelac

XXX - Beowulf Narrates His Adventures to Higelac

XXXI - Gift Giving Is Mutual

XXXII - The Hoard and the Dragon

XXXIII - Brave Though Aged - Reminiscences

XXXIV - Beowulf Seeks the Dragon - Beowulf's Reminiscences

XXXV - Reminiscences (continued) - Beowulf's Last Battle

XXXVI - Wiglaf the Trusty - Beowulf Is Deserted by Friends and By Sword

XXXVII - The Fatal Struggle - Beowulf's Last Moments

XXXVIII - Wiglaf Plunders the Dragon's Den - Beowulf's Death

XXXIX - The Dead Foes - Wiglaf's Bitter Taunts

XL - The Messenger of Death

XLI - The Messenger's Retrospect

XLII - Wiglaf's Sad Story - The Hoard Carried Off

XLIII - The Burning of Beowulf


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