Chapter XXII

BEOWULF, SON OF Ecgtheow, spoke: “Keep in mind, honorable son of Healfdene, gold-friend to men, and wise sovereign, what you once said: that if I should lose my life for your cause, you would be loyal to me for the sake of my father, though I fall! Be then the guardian of my group of thanes, my warrior friends, if I am taken by War; beloved Hrothgar, send to Hygelac the gifts you have given me! So will Geatland's king understand, and Hrethel's son will see, when he gazes upon the treasure, that I had won a friend famed for generosity, and took joy while I could in my bestower of jewels. And allow Unferth, thane of far-flung fame, to wield the ancient heirloom, the wondrous hard-edged sword; with Hrunting I now seek glory for myself, or death shall take me.”

After these words, the lord of the Weder-Geats hastened off, not waiting for any answer. The eddying floods engulfed the hero. It took most of the day before he could reach the land at the bottom.

That grim and greedy goblin who had held the watery domain for a hundred winters soon found that one from among mankind had come from above and was exploring her realm of monsters. She reached out for him with grisly talons and seized the warrior, but she did not wound his healthy body—the breastplate prevented this, and she tried to shatter that war-cuirass of well-knit links with her loathsome fingers. Then this wolf of the waves, upon reaching the bottom, bore the ring-covered prince to her lair. Though his valor held, he struggled in vain to wield weapons against the terrifying monsters that set upon him while he swam. Many sea-beasts tried to tear his mail with fierce tusks when they swarmed upon this stranger.

He soon noticed that he was now in some strange cavern where no water could harm him and the fangs of the depths could never reach him through the roof. He saw firelight flung in beams from a bright blaze. The warrior saw that wolf of the deep, the monstrous lake-hag. He swung his blade with a mighty stroke, and did not hold back. Then the fair blade sang its wild warsong upon her head. But the warrior found that Hrunting would not bite and take life: its edge failed its noble master in time of need, even though it had known strife in many hands of old, had split helmets and war-gear of the doomed. This was the first time that the glory of the gleaming blade fell. Hygelac's kinsman stood firm and his courage did not quail, as he had exploits in mind. The wrathful warrior flung away that decorated, jewel-studded blade; steel-edged and stark, it lay upon the earth. He trusted in his strength and the grip of his mighty hand.

So should a man do whenever he thinks of earning lasting fame in battle—he will not fear for his life!

Then the lord of the war-like Geats who did not shrink from combat seized Grendel's mother by the shoulder; that fierce one filled with rage then flung his deadly foe, and she fell to the ground. She swiftly paid him back with her grisly grasp, and grappled with him. Spent with struggle, the warrior stumbled—that fiercest of fighters fell. She hurled herself on the hall's visitor, and drew her broad, brown-edged knife to avenge her only son. The braided mail about his breast prevented death, and barred point and blade from entering.

The life of the son of Ecgtheow, prince of the Geats, would have ended there underneath the wide earth if his armor of war, hard net of battle, had not aided him; and the Holy God, wisest Maker, wielded the victory. The heavenly Ruler championed his cause, and he soon stood on his feet again.