Beowulf Part 2: Summary & Analysis

Beowulf Part 2: Summary & Analysis
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  • 0:00 Beowulf Part…
  • 1:21 Beowulf Travels to…
  • 2:39 The Battle with…
  • 3:32 The Hero Returns Home
  • 4:22 Analysis
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

The second part of the epic poem 'Beowulf' starts with the discovery of yet another monster stalking the mead hall Heorot, and our hero sets off again to prove his valor and save Denmark.

Beowulf Part 2

The second part of Beowulf picks up after the first part ends, around line 1008 and extends through to about line 1924 or so. The fiend Grendel has been defeated, his arm and claw hang in the rafters of Heorot as proof and as a trophy, and Beowulf is being celebrated as the hero he is. But another monster stalks the thanes of Denmark, and Beowulf's skills are about to be tested again. This lesson deals with the summary and analysis of the second part of Beowulf, which covers the time he spends dealing with, traveling to, and battling Grendel's mother before heading back home to have further adventures and battles covered in the next part of the epic poem.

Grendel's Mother's Revenge

For the first time in twelve years, the Danish thanes have been able to sleep in Heorot. Since Beowulf has disposed of the fiend Grendel, there is nothing to worry about… or so they think as they drift into slumber. Beowulf and his men have been given other beds, so they aren't there when another monster arrives.

Upon her son's death, Grendel's mother has decided to seek revenge. She leaves her underwater cave and travels to Heorot and sees Grendel's arm hanging on the wall. So she grabs the claw and one of King Hrothgar's closest friends, and heads back to her lake. When the thanes wake up to the missing man and arm, a great outcry arises.

Beowulf Travels to Grendel's Mother's Lair

Beowulf and his men report to the grieving Hrothgar, who tells them that he forgot to mention there was another monster. If Beowulf will agree to kill Grendel's mother as well, Hrothgar will lavish upon him so much treasure in his ship that it sits low in the water. Beowulf agrees and the warriors follow the blood trail to the lake where Grendel's mother lives. As if to taunt them, she leaves the thane's head sitting on the lake shore.

The lake itself is a vile place. The water is blood-red and boiling, and huge sea monsters and snakes lay on and around the water's surface. The trees that line the lake are frozen, dripping icicles despite the heat of the water.

Gathering his resolve, Beowulf puts on his chain mail. Unferth surprises everyone by giving Beowulf his sword, Hrunting. Beowulf takes Hrunting and tells his men to wait for him, or to send his armor to their king, Hygelac, if he fails to return. Then Beowulf dives into the water.

Beowulf sinks through the nasty water. Soon, Grendel's mother seizes him in her claws, though they cannot penetrate his chain mail. Other serpents and sea monsters try to attack Beowulf too, but the chain mail holds them at bay. Grendel's mother pulls Beowulf into her underground lair, which is a dry cave as big as a mead hall, glowing with flames.

The Battle with Grendel's Mother

Immediately, we see that this battle will be tough for our hero. Hrunting is useless against her thick skin, and Beowulf is unable to overpower her the way he did with Grendel. She bites at his head, and her teeth pierce his helmet. Grendel's mother gets Beowulf on his back and sits on his chest. She tries to stab him with a rusty dagger, but it slides off his chain mail. Beowulf pushes her off and manages to get to his feet.

On the wall, he sees a huge sword with a jeweled hilt, obviously made by giants. He struggles to get the sword off the wall, but manages to cut Grendel's mother's neck, causing her to drop dead at his feet. Light fills her cave, and Beowulf sees the corpse of Grendel, lying where he fell. Beowulf cuts Grendel's head off to replace the trophy his mother stole. Grendel's blood melts the giant's sword, but Beowulf grabs the hilt of Hrunting and Grendel's head and swims to the surface.

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