The Adventures of Beowulf
an Adaptation from the Old English
by Dr. David Breeden
Illustrated by Randy Grochoske
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Grendel's Mother

The adventures of Beowulf, Episode 6

--The Queen Speaks--

Then Wealhtheow came out
under a golden crown
to where the good men sat,
nephew and uncle (at that time
there was peace between the two,
each still true to the other).

Unferth the spokesman
sat at Hrothgar's feet--
everyone considered him
brave in spirit though
he had not been kind to
his kin at the sword's play.

Spoke then the queen of the Danes:
"Receive this cup,
my dear lord,
giver of treasure.
Be in joy,
gold friend of men,
and speak to these Geats
with kind words
as men should do.
Be gracious to the Geats
and mindful of the gifts
you have from near and far.
A man said to me
that he would have
this warrior for a son.
Herot, the bright ring hall,
is purged. Give while you can
many rewards and leave
to your kin people and land
when you must go
to learn fate's decree.
I know my nephew Hrothulf
will keep his honor
if you, king of the Danes,
leave this world earlier that he.
I know Hruthulf will remember
what we two wish
and the kindness we showed
when he was a child."

Wealhtheow turned then
to the bench where her sons
were, Hrethric and Hrothmund,
children of warriors,
the youth together.
There the good ones sat,
Beowulf of the Geats
and the two brothers.
To him the cup was carried
and friendship offered in words.
Wound gold was kindly bestowed:
two arm ornaments, shirts
of mail, rings, and the largest
neck ring I have heard
tell of on the earth.

I have not heard
of any greater hoard-treasures
under the sky since
Hama carried away
to his bright fortress
the necklace of the Brosings.
He fled a treacherous quarrel
from the king of the East Goths
with the ornament and its setting,
choosing everlasting gain.

(This is the ring Hygelac
of the Geats, grandson of Swerting,
uncle of Beowulf, would have near
when he guarded the battle-spoil
under his banner. Fate would take him
when he courted trouble--
out of pride--in a feud
with the Frisians. He would wear
those noble stones over
the cup of the waves. He would
fall beneath his shield. His body,
his armor, and the ring also, would
pass into the power of the Franks.
Bad warriors rifled the corpses
after the battle slaughter.
The Geat people remained
in the field of corpses.)

Music filled the hall. Wealhtheow
spoke before the company:
"Enjoy this neck-ring,
beloved Beowulf, young hero,
and use this armor, these
treasures of the people.
Thrive well, be known
for valor, and give kind
instruction to these two boys.
I will remember your deeds.
You have earned forever
the praise of men,
from near and far,
even to the home of the winds
and the walls of the sea.
Be blessed while you live, prince!
I wish you well with the treasures.
Be gentle, joyful one, to my sons.
In this place is each warrior
true to the other, mild
in spirit, an d faithful
to his king. The warriors
are united, the men drink
deep, and they do my biding."

She went to her seat.
There was a choice feast,
men drank wine.
They did not know
that grim fate
would come to many nobles
after evening fell
and powerful Hrothgar
went to his house to rest.

Countless warriors guarded the hall,
as they had often done:
they cleared the floor of benches,
spread out beds and cushions.
One of the beer drinkers,
doomed and fated,
lay on the couch.
They set by their heads
their war gear and bright
wood shields. There on the bench
over each warrior could be seen
a towering helmet, ringed armor,
and a huge wooden spear.
Their custom was that they were
always ready for war, both
in the field and at home, each
ready anytime his king needed him.
Those were good people.

end of episode six

Part Two: Grendel's Mother
--The Attack of Grendel's Mother--

They sank into sleep.
One paid dearly for
his evening's rest,
as had happened often
since Grendel had come
to the gold hall
performing his evil
until the end came to him,
death after his sins.

It was soon learned
and widely known among men
that an avenger yet lived
after that war-trouble:
Grendel's mother, a monster
woman, she who lived in
the terrible water,
the cold streams,
thought of her misery.

After Cain killed his brother,
his father's son,
he went in guilt,
marked by murder,
fleeing the joys of men
to occupy the waste land.
There awoke many fated spirits,
Grendel being one,
that savage, hateful outcast.
At Herot he found a man
awake and ready for war.
The monster laid hold of him,
but Beowulf kept in mind his
strength, the precious gift
God had granted, and God gave
him help and support.
Thus Beowulf overcame that enemy,
subdued that hellish demon.
Then Grendel went,
the enemy of mankind,
deprived of joy,
seeking his death place.

So his mother, greedy
and gloomy as the gallows,
went on a sorrowful journey
to avenge her son's death.

So she came to Herot where
the Danes slept in the hall.
The fortunes of the noble ones
changed when Grendel's mother
got inside: the terror was less
by just so much as
is the strength of a woman,
the war-horror of a woman,
is less than the horror of
a sword forged with hammer
and stained in blood
shearing the strong edges
of the boar on a helmet.

Hard edges were drawn in the hall,
swords off the benches,
and many broad shields fast in hand,
though they forgot about helmets
and broad mail shirts when
the terror seized them.

After they had seen her,
she was in haste
to get out of there
and save her life.
She quickly seized
one of the warriors
then headed back to the fens.
The warrior she killed,
in his sleep, was Hrothgar's
most trusted man, famous
between the two seas,
a glorious hero.

(Beowulf was not there,
for after the treasure-giving
the famous Geat had gone
to another house.)

She took her son's famous
blood-covered hand.
An outcry came from Herot,
care had been renewed
and returned to the dwelling
place--that was not a good
bargain, that both sides paid
with the lives of friends.

The wise old king,
the gray warrior,
was in a savage mood
when he heard his
chief warrior was dead.
Beowulf was quickly
fetched to the chamber.

As day broke the noble champion
together with his warriors
went to the wise ones, the hall's
wood floors resounding.
The wise ones all wondered
if ever the Almighty would
remove this woeful spell.

Beowulf asked with words
if the night had been
according to his desire
and all things agreeable.

Hrothgar, protector of the Danes, spoke:
"Don't ask about happiness!
Sorrow is renewed
among the Danish people.
Aeschere is dead, Yrmenlaf's
elder brother, my confidant,
the bearer of my advice, my
shoulder companion when troops
clash and boar helmets smashed.
As a noble prince should be,
such Aeschere was!
Now he has been slain
in Herot by the hands
of a restless, murderous spirit.
I do not know where
his carcass has gone
to be gladly feasted on.
She has avenged the feud
for your violent killing
with hard hand clasps
of Grendel yesternight
for diminishing and destroying
my people for so long.
Grendel fell in battle,
forfeited his life, and
now another has come,
a mighty man-eater
to avenge her kin,
as is seen by many
a warrior who mourns for me,
treasure giver, weeping in
their minds for my heavy
sorrow, a hand lying lifeless
who gave good things to you.
I have heard tell
among my people
and councilors that
they had seen two mighty
wanderers in the waste land
moors keeping guard,
alien spirits. One was,
as far as they could see,
the likeness of a woman.
The other miserable thing
in the stature of a man,
though he was larger
than any other man,
as they trod the paths of exiles.
In the days of old
earth dwellers called him Grendel.
We have no knowledge of a father,
of any forebears among evil spirits.
They occupied the secret land,
the wolf's retreat--
windy bluffs, perilous fens,
where a waterfall
darkens under bluffs
and goes down under the ground.
It is not far from here,
by measure of miles,
that the mere stands.
Over it hangs a frost-covered
grove, woods rooted deep-
shadowing the water.
There each night
a portent may be seen:
fire on the water.
No wise one among
the sons of men
knows the bottom.
Though the heath-stalker,
the strong-horned hart,
harassed by hounds, seeks
the forest in his flight,
he will give his life
rather than protect his head
by going there.
That is not a good place!
There water surges up,
black, to the clouds,
and the wind stirs up
hateful weather so that
the sky turns gloomy and weeps. . .
Again it has happened that
the remedy lies with you alone.
The land, the dangerous place
where you might find
this criminal is unexplored.
Seek it if you dare. . .
For that fight I will pay
as I did before with
wound gold and ancient
treasures. . .if you survive."

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
"Do not sorrow, wise king!
It is better for a man
to avenge a friend
than mourn much. Each of us
must await the end of this
life. He who wishes will
work for glory before death.
That is best for the warrior
after he is gone.
Arise, guardian of the kingdom,
let us go quickly
to see Grendel's kin.
I promise you this:
she will not escape to shelter--
not into the earth's bosom,
not into the mountain's wood,
not into the sea's bottom,
go where she will!
For this day, have
patience in each woe."

The veteran leapt up then,
thanking God, the Mighty One,
that the man had so spoken.

* * *

In episode seven a sword fails and Beowulf takes a dive.

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