In the boroughs then Beowulf, bairn of the Scyldings,
          Belovèd land-prince, for long-lasting season
          Was famed mid the folk (his father departed,
          The prince from his dwelling), till afterward sprang
5       Great-minded Healfdene; the Danes in his lifetime
          He graciously governed, grim-mooded, agèd.
          Four bairns of his body born in succession
          Woke in the world, war-troopers' leader
          Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halga the good;
10      Heard I that Elan was Ongentheow's consort,
          The well-beloved bedmate of the War-Scylfing leader.
          Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given,
          Waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen
          Obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood,
15      A numerous band.  It burned in his spirit
          To urge his folk to found a great building,
          A mead-hall grander than men of the era
          Ever had heard of, and in it to share
          With young and old all of the blessings
20      The Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers.
          Then the work I find afar was assigned
          To many races in middle-earth's regions,
          To adorn the great folk-hall. In due time it happened
          Early 'mong men, that 'twas finished entirely,
25      The greatest of hall-buildings; Heorot he named it
          Who wide-reaching word-sway wielded 'mong earlmen.
          His promise he brake not, rings he lavished,
          Treasure at banquet. Towered the hall up
          High and horn-crested, huge between antlers:
30      It battle-waves bided, the blasting fire-demon;
          Ere long then from hottest hatred must sword-wrath
          Arise for a woman's husband and father.
          Then the mighty war-spirit endured for a season,
          Bore it bitterly, he who bided in darkness,
35      That light-hearted laughter loud in the building
          Greeted him daily; there was dulcet harp-music,
          Clear song of the singer. He said that was able
          To tell from of old earthmen's beginnings,
          That Father Almighty earth had created,
40      The winsome wold that the water encircleth,
          Set exultingly the sun's and the moon's beams
          To lavish their lustre on land-folk and races,
          And earth He embellished in all her regions
          With limbs and leaves; life He bestowed too
45      On all the kindreds that live under heaven.
          So blessed with abundance, brimming with joyance,
          The warriors abided, till a certain one gan to
          Dog them with deeds of direfullest malice,
          A foe in the hall-building: this horrible stranger
50      Was Grendel entitled, the march-stepper famous
          Who dwelt in the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness;
          The wan-mooded being abode for a season
          In the land of the giants, when the Lord and Creator
          Had banned him and branded. For that bitter murder,
55      The killing of Abel, all-ruling Father
          The kindred of Cain crushed with His vengeance;
          In the feud He rejoiced not, but far away drove him
          From kindred and kind, that crime to atone for,
          Meter of Justice. Thence ill-favored creatures,
60      Elves and giants, monsters of ocean,
          Came into being, and the giants that longtime
          Grappled with God; He gave them requital.


  1. The poet alludes to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which the wicked Cain kills his brother and is thus expelled by God from human society. The story states that all of Cain’s descendants also became outcasts and eventually monsters. The poet establishes Grendel as a kinsman of Cain, supporting the idea that he is partly human. This allusion thus applies a Christian lens to pagan lore by viewing such monsters and “ill-favored creatures” as products of Cain’s sin.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Swamps, marshes, and bogs are often depicted as the lairs or habitats of evil creatures in stories. Such landscapes are sparsely populated by humans and full of unseen dangers from animals, disease, and the terrain. The addition of the word “fastness”—meaning secure refuge—suggests that Grendel’s land is difficult to enter, and therefore perilous to would-be adventurers.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Derived from the Old English “wald,” the noun “wold” refers to forest or wooded upland. The “winsome wold” refers to all the land of the earth, “encircled” as it is by water. This duality between land and sea directly resembles the Christian creation story laid out in the opening passages of the biblical book of Genesis.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The pronoun “He” refers to the singer, from whom the war-spirit creature hears the creation myth of the world. Such a story, full of the blessings from the “Father Almighty,” serve to further enrage the war-spirit, soon to be known as Grendel. While the people in Heorot celebrate the blessings that Hrothgar has received, the monster grows resentful and full of malice.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This expression aligns with how God is commonly referred to in Christian doctrine. It stands in opposition to the kenning in the first chapter “God-Father,” which could also refer to the Norse god Odin. Such an expression is further evidence of the inconsistency between the poet’s Christianity and the pagan lore at the heart of the tale.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Heorot loosely translates to "Hall of the Hart." A hart is a male red deer, a much larger species of deer than seen in North America. To Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon cultures, the hart symbolizes strength, bravery, and aggressiveness.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. While the poet has yet to tell us more about this “he” creature, we can infer from this passage a little bit about it. Since it is jealous and upset at hearing the joyous sounds and stories in the mead-hall, we are led to believe that it is or was once human because these feelings result from its inability to participate in the celebrations in the hall.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. The meaning of the verb “save” here actually means “except.” So, Hrothgar willingly shares all the blessings he can with his people except for his life and property. Additionally, earlier in this line the text read "than men of the era / Ever had heard of." During the time this tale was told, and translated, it was common to use the word men to refer to all people. This has fallen out of favor in recent years, as more inclusive words are preferred.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Among the Geats and Danes, there were two main sources of personal worth: glory through heroic feats and honor through one's bloodline. In a fashion similar to stories in the biblical Old Testament, the poet recounts the children and heirs of Scyld. Here, Hrothgar's worth is presented through his ancestry. Additionally, such a style of introducing a story would have been a familiar approach for the poet's Christian audience.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The earlier section “List of Words and Phrases not in General Use” states that a “bairn” is a son or child. The Oxford English Dictionary clarifies this to state that a “bairn” simply refers to any offspring, a son or a daughter.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. This is not the titular Beowulf. This is the son of Scyld Scyf. To avoid confusion, some later translations have shortened the name to Beow. The poet continues to tell his audience the historical context of the Beowulf epic as a means of building authenticity to his narrative.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor