Beowulf vs. Grendel -

Here’s what happens:
Beowulf vs. Grendel
 Hrothgar entrusts Beowulf with Heorot Hall, which is the first
time he’d ever done that so he’s really putting some faith is
Beowulf. Then, Hrothgar leaves the hall and leaves Beowulf to it.
 Beowulf says Grendel had better watch out because he “counts
[him]self as dangerous” as he is. Then, he swears off the use of
any weapons and lies down to rest and wait.
 Grendel sees all of Beowulf ’s men asleep in the hall and he is
disgustingly excited, and when he finally breaks in, he gobbles up
a Geat.
Here’s what happens:
Beowulf vs. Grendel
 Grendel approaches Beowulf, who is still lying down,
and Beowulf puts him in the armlock of all armlocks,
“a handgrip harder than anything he had encountered
in any man.”
 Beowulf holds his handgrip and eventually it rips
Grendel’s arm clean off, which forces Grendel back to
his lair to die. Beowulf hangs his big monster arm
trophy up in Heorot Hall as a sign of victory.
It’s poetry
Here are a few lines from the battle against Grendel that I think are
poetic and powerful:
“In off the moors, down through the mist bands/ God-cursed
Grendel came greedily loping.”
Beautiful and scary imagery. I love the idea of a monster
greedily loping. It seems a very monster thing to do. The
alliteration of moors and mist bands and God-cursed and
Grendel is nice, too. It’s fun to say if you read it aloud, and
that’s part of what makes it poetic.
“Fingers were bursting,/ the monster back-tracking, the man
So awesome! The parallelism of bursting, back-tracking, and
overpowering makes these lines stick in your head. Plus, it’s
pretty much the best, most poetic way ever to tell the audience
that the evil monster is at the point of defeat.
It’s poetry
One more…
“Clear proof of this/ could be seen in the hand the hero displayed/ high
up near the roof: the whole of Grendel’s/ shoulder and arm, his
awesome grasp.”
This is kind of like the first one with the imagery of a monster hand
nailed to a roof beam and the alliteration of hand, hero, high, arm,
and awesome, but there’s some extra special about these lines. That
last phrase “his awesome grasp” encompasses the fight and Beowulf ’s
power. I think it’s really beautiful, too, ending the line and stanza that
There’s Seamus Heaney, and
there’s everybody else.
Beowulf ’s been around for forever.
Who said it the best for us in the year
My vote, of course, is for
Seamus Heaney. Maybe it’s because I
know a lot of his other poems and I
think he’s brilliant, but I don’t think
that’s all.
There’s something very real and very
poetic about this ancient story and
text translated by SH, and I have to
believe that and go by how
contemporary poetry reads and feels,
and this version reads and feels like
modern poetry. That’s why I like it
and teach this version.

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