Chapter X

THEN HROTHGAR, SHIELD of the Scyldings, went forth from the hall with his retinue of men; the warlord desired to lie with Wealhtheow his queen. The glorious king had set a guard against Grendel—so the men told one another—a defender of the hall who protected the monarch and watched for the monster. In truth, the prince of the Geats gladly trusted in his valorous might and the mercy of God!

He then cast off his iron corselet and the helmet on his head, and gave to his esquire the richly-gilt sword, the best of weapons, giving him command to guard the battle-gear. He then spoke vaunted words to the valiant men before he sought the bed: “I reckon myself to be in the ready for grim deeds of war, and in no way weaker than Grendel. For this reason will I not give his life to the sleep of death with a sword, although I could. He has no skill to strike me with sword or hew through shield, mighty though he may be in his horrific feats. We shall both spurn the sword this night if he dares to seek me here and make war without weapons. Let the wise God, the holy Lord, decree success on whichever side seems right to Him!”

Then the warrior reclined, and the pillow received the face of the prince, while all about him many stout sea-warriors sank into their beds in the hall. None thought their steps would ever go thence back to the people and the fortresses that fostered them, to the lands they loved. They knew full well that death in battle had seized many warriors of the Danish clan in the banquet hall. But the Lord granted them comfort and help, weaving a good web of war for the Geatish folk that, by the might of one, the strength of a single man, they might prevail against their enemy. It is said truly by all that God has ever governed over mankind!

He came striding in the dim night, the shadow-walker. The defenders, whose charge it was to guard the gabled hall, all slept—save one.

It was widely known that the marauder could not hurl him into darkness against God's will, yet even so he, vigilant against the foe, awaited, bold and full of warrior's wrath, for the battle's outcome.

Footnotes

  1. Given the circumstances of Grendel's expected attack, it may seem strange that anyone could sleep. However, despite their bravery, they are all too intoxicated to stay awake after the revelry in the hall. That Beowulf doesn't fall asleep either indicates that he also has a heroic constitution, or that he didn't drink as much as his comrades.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The Geats express some of their doubts in this passage, knowing how many Danes have been slain by Grendel. The poet offers a comforting thought to his audience that probably wouldn't have occurred to the Geats. For their struggle with Grendel to lead to glory and honor, it must be a battle between men and monster without a pre-determined outcome by divine intervention.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. In another example of the Christian/Pagan tension, the poet has Beowulf appeal to God's will in the outcome of the fight. However, Beowulf would have likely appealed to Fate instead, declaring that whatever happens will happen.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Beowulf fulfills his promise to battle Grendel without the aid of his arms or armor. Beowulf justifies his choice by declaring that since Grendel doesn't use such gear, he must fight Grendel on the same conditions. Considering what we later learn of Grendel, Beowulf's decision is viewed as extremely cunning.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This is an interesting comment because it indicates that Grendel, even though no longer part of God's world, is ultimately governed by the will of God and, more important, that Grendel cannot destroy Beowulf unless God wills it.

    — Stephen Holliday