Chapter VI

HROTHGAR, THE CROWN of the Scyldings, spoke: “I knew him from his young days; his aged father was named Ecgtheow, to whom Hrethel the Geat gave his only daughter. It is surely their offspring that comes hither to visit a steadfast friend. And surely did the seamen say—those who carried my gifts thither to the Geatish court—that he has the strength of thirty men in his grip and is bold in battle. The blesséd God in His mercy has sent this man to the Western Danes as a hope against Grendel's terror. I must grant the brave youth treasures for his greatheartedness. Be quick, and bid the band of kinsmen come before me. Say to them that they are welcome guests of the Danish folk.”

Wulfgar declared the word at the hall's door: “To you has my lord, the king of the Eastern Danes, sent this message: He knows your noble kin, and he bids you welcome from over the ocean's waves! Now may you go in your warlike attire, with helm on head, to greet Hrothgar; let your war-shields abide here with the wooden spears until your parley is at its end.” Then the mighty one rose up with his men about him, a brave band of thanes; some remained there to guard the battle-gear, as their leader commanded. Then did that band go where the herald led them beneath Heorot's roof. Standing near the hearth, the hero spoke from beneath his helm—his coat of mail gleamed, a war-net woven by the smith's skill—“Hail, Hrothgar! My followers and I are Hygelac's kinsmen. I have gained much fame in my youth! These deeds of Grendel have been heralded clearly in my homeland. Seafaring men say that this hall, best among halls, lies empty of your thanes and useless when the evening sun is hidden away in heaven's harbor. So did the best of my people, sagacious among men, advise me to seek you here, noble Hrothgar, because they know full well the strength of my might. They themselves were witnesses when I came from battle, flecked with my foes' blood; there I bound five beasts and bested the brood of giants. I slew beasts by night on the waves, avenging at my own peril the Geats, whose woe they sought—I crushed these grim ones. Grendel, this cruel monster, will now be mine to best in single battle! And so I seek from you, sovereign of the glorious Danes, bulwark of the Scyldings, a boon—and, friend of the peoples, shield of the warriors, do not refuse it now that I've come from afar—that I alone, with my liegemen here, this stalwart band, may purge Heorot! I also hear that this fell beast in his swaggering despises weapons, and, therefore, I shall forgo the same—and in this as well, may Hygelac also be beneficent to me—and will bear neither sword nor buckler nor gold-colored shield, but with my hand's grip, I will face the fiend and fight for life, foe against foe. There shall the one taken by death resign himself to the Lord's doom.”

“I suppose that, if he wins the fight, he will in this golden hall fearlessly devour my Geatish band, as he often did before to those most noble thanes. Nor then will you need to shroud my head, as I will then be his, if death takes me, gory and bloody—he'll take my bloodstained body away as prey, and that lone vagrant will ruthlessly devour it while my life's blood reddens his lair in the fen; you'll have no need to care for my corpse! If battle takes me, send to Hygelac the peerless armor that protects my breast, most stalwart of vests, heirloom of Hrethel and work of Wéland. Destiny will go as she must.”