Beowulf Lesson for Kids: Story, Summary & Facts

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  • 0:04 The Story of Beowulf
  • 0:55 Summary of Beowulf
  • 2:05 Facts About Beowulf
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

'Beowulf' is an epic poem with adventure, monsters, dragons, and, of course, a good hero. Find out about the history of this famous poem and how the story ends in this lesson!

The Story of Beowulf

An adventure story about a good prince who has to fight evil monsters and dragons sounds like it could be a movie you'd see in the theaters or a video game you'd play today. But it's also what happens in a poem written more than a thousand years ago called Beowulf!

Beowulf (pronounced bey-uh-woolf] is an epic poem; it's long and tells a story about a hero. It's actually the longest epic poem in Old English with about 3,000 lines! Old English is different from the language we speak today. It originated with the Germanic people who settled England around the year 400. Some words are found in both modern and Old English, but there are differences in how we spell and say the words. If you tried to read Beowulf in Old English, you'd find it very hard to understand!

First page of Beowulf in Old English
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Summary of Beowulf

The hero of the poem is a prince named Beowulf who rules over the Geats near Denmark. For 12 years, the evil monster Grendel has been attacking people in Denmark and eating the king's soldiers. Beowulf goes to Denmark with a group of soldiers and says he'll help get rid of Grendel. When Grendel comes to Denmark to make trouble, Beowulf fights the monster and rips off his arm, after which Grendel dies.

The people in Denmark celebrate, but soon Grendel's mother comes looking for revenge, which means to get back at a person. Beowulf kills Grendel's mother, too. The people in Denmark are very appreciative and send Beowulf home with many presents.

Fifty years then go by. Beowulf, now king of the Geats, is an old man. After many years of peace, a dragon attacks Beowulf's kingdom. In a brutal battle that is much tougher than the fights with Grendel and Grendel's mother, Beowulf kills the dragon. But Beowulf also gets hurt and dies.

The poem ends with Beowulf's funeral and a description of his heroic qualities. What do you think makes someone a hero?

A Dragon Fatally Wounds the Mighty Beowulf
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