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Beowulf's Ending: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:02 Background on the…
  • 0:59 Beowulf's Final Battle
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret English

Meg has taught language arts in middle school, high school and college. She has a doctorate in Educational leadership

Beowulf's epic story ends when Beowulf dies following a big fight with a formidable opponent, a fire-breathing dragon. In this lesson, discover how Beowulf's final days are meaningful to modern readers.

Background on the Beowulf Story

Readers of Beowulf's story may recall that Beowulf is the legendary Anglo-Saxon hero who is a courageous warrior, monster hunter, and prince of the Geats. As a young man, Beowulf receives an SOS call from King Hrothgar in distant Denmark. Hrothgar's meade hall has been ravaged by a monster called Grendel, who has a healthy appetite. Grendel likes the taste of Hrothgar's warriors, and so he eats two or more men every night. Hrothgar is at his wit's end. It's not safe to drink meade anymore and he can't afford to lose any more warriors. Beowulf answers the call immediately, travels across the great sea, and saves the day. He fights Grendel with his bare hands, rips off Grendel's arm, gives it to Hrothgar as a trophy, and then fights Grendel's angry mother, too. Beowulf is an impressive hero!

Beowulf's Final Battle

Like all mortal heroes and normal people too, Beowulf finds himself slowing down in later years. At the end of the story, he has been king of the Geats for fifty years. Under Beowulf's rule, the Geats have known peace and prosperity. Beowulf deserves to take it easy, right? However, when a fire-breathing dragon begins to terrorize the Geats, Beowulf accepts the call into action one last time with his characteristic courage. Beowulf says,

I am old now,

But will fight again, seek fame still,

If the dragon hiding in his tower dares

To face me still

With a group of warriors he selects himself, Beowulf also takes his sword with him to the dragon's lair. In previous battles, Beowulf fought alone and with his bare hands.

As an older man, Beowulf has gained wisdom but his life-long values have not changed. Beowulf seems to know that the end is near and he takes the opportunity to reflect on the heroic ideals that have remained constant throughout his life. Peace, justice, family, loyalty, honor, and courage are still highly prized as Beowulf demonstrates by his actions even to the end. He proclaims that he is, 'ruling as well as I knew how protecting the Geats.' Furthermore, Beowulf says he never kills anyone 'Born of my own family.' Beowulf's core values make sense even in the modern world. Certainly, these values have not gone out of style. If anything, they may be even more important to people today.

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