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Sophi Angela L.



Exercise on Beowulf

Part 1:Short Answers

1. Review lines 37-49. Describe how the poem draws from the Bible and from myth in its

accounts of Grendel’s ancestors.

The poem draws from the Bible because Grendel is a descendant of Cain, which makes him

evil. In the bloodline of Cain, many mythical monsters before Grendel were born.

2. Unforthcoming taunts Beowulf by saying he was beaten in an oceanic swimming match

by a man named Breca. Drawing on lines 131-160, describe 3 points Beowulf makes in

his account of the race to defend himself from ridicule.

Beowulf defends himself from ridicule by pointing out that Unferth was drunk, he intentionally

came later because he had to fight off monsters, and that neither Breca nor Unferth would

survive what he went through. Because Unferth was drunk, he had a skewed perspective on

what happened, so Beowulf said his version of the swimming contest. After 5 days and 5 nights

at sea, he was dragged down by a savage sea monster and he managed to kill that monster

and eight others so that they would not bother their seas anymore. Lastly, he boasts his

strength and confidence by saying no one else but him could survive what he did, least of all

Unferth who had no adventures to speak of.

3. Carefully study lines 212-289, which contain the fight between Beowulf and Grendel.

Describe the basic events of the battle in your own words. Also, explain why swords are

ineffective against Grendel and how Beowulf is able to defeat him despite this.

After Grendel eats a soldier in the hall, he reaches Beowulf but Beouwulf grips Grendel so

tightly, the monster could not remember any man as strong as him. Grendel was humbled and

began to fear for his life so he tries to escape but it is useless against Beowulf. Grendel

removes his hand from Beowulf’s grip but his bones are cracked. They grappled and wrestled

hand-to-hand. The other warriors try to help Beowulf but their iron swords were useless

because iron could not pierce Grendel’s skin. The hall shakes, the benches are strewn

everywhere, and the cries of Grendel and shouts of the warriors could be heard everywhere.

Grendel tries to shake off Beowulf but Beowulf doesn’t let go. Soon, Grendel’s arm is ripped off

his body and the monster screeches and leaves the hall. Beowulf is victorious and he hangs his

spoil of war: the arm of Grendel.

4. Review lines 463-474. Describe 2 thoughts that make Beowulf glad he is dying.

Beowulf is glad he is dying because he knows he’s left a good legacy. He has lived a fulfilled life

as a good king of the Danes. He protected his people from monsters and scared off neighboring

enemies. He is also glad because he left many riches for his people. He accumulated gold and

treasures so his people may prosper.

5. Starting in line 475, Beowulf speaks to Wiglaf and makes 2 parting requests. Describe

these 2 requests.

He asks Wiglaf to look after his people and build a burial mound for him. After he was cremated,

he wanted his burial mound to be called Beowulf’s Barrow and be seen by his people.
6. Anglo-Saxon poetry had between 3 to 5 repetitions of an alliterating consonant per line.

Review the text and identify lines in which the translator successfully imitates this

alliterative aspect of Anglo-Saxon verse. Quote 3 such lines and write out their line

number in parentheses.

“”Ranging the wastes, where the wretched wight” (39)

“The groans of Grendel, the foe of God” (252)

“He forgets the future, unmindful of Fate” (423)

7. Certain parallels (similarities) may be drawn between Beowulf and Christ, and between

Beowulf’s companions and Christ’s Apostles. This is most apparent in the section with

the fire dragon, where many details parallel details from the Passion and death of Christ.

For example, Jesus had 12 Apostles and Beowulf had 12 fellow warriors in this scene.

Focusing only on the fire dragon section, discuss 3 other parallels.

Both Beowulf and Jesus Christ sacrificed their lives for their people. Jesus died on the Cross

and Beowulf died in battle with the dragon. They both knew their end was coming but still chose

to die for the greater good. In both their “battles”, their followers left them except for one.

Everyone left Jesus, even Peter, the leader of the Apostles, hid during Christ’s Passion. Only

John, the youngest Apostle, stayed by His side in the Crucifixion. Beowulf’s fellow warriors

feared for their lives and left Beowulf to fight the dragon on his own. They all hid in the forest

except for Wiglaf, the youthful warrior. Lastly, they passed on something important to the young

warrior who stayed with them. Jesus told Mary, “Woman, behold your son” and to John, “Son,

behold your Mother”. He gave John a very important role in His death. Beowulf passes on the

mantle of his kingship to Wiglaf when he dies. He gives him orders to rule in his stead and

instructions for his burial.

Part 2: Paragraph Answer

8. A character trait is not a physical ability or a skill but a quality that is ingrained in a

person’s makeup, such as shyness, gloominess, grumpiness, cheerfulness, cowardice,

curiosity, excitability, and so forth. Write a paragraph (75 words minimum) naming 3

distinct character traits of Beowulf and giving a specific example- a particular incident

from the poem- to illustrate each. Use brief quotes as support. Use topic and concluding


In the epic, Beowulf displays his bravery, selflessness, and faith in God. Beowulf displays his

bravery often in killing the many monsters that plague the Danes. He kills Grendel, Grendel’s

mother, the dragon, and many monsters at sea during his swimming match. He showed”such

daring with dripping swords” (170) unlike other warriors. He also defeats these monsters

selflessly. He fought Grendel for the Danes, when he is from “the land of the Geats”. Also, when

he was about to die, he thought about his people when he thanked God for the dragon’s

treasure that he won for them. He told Wiglaf was to “heed… the wants, the need of my people”

(475). Lastly, Beowulf has faith in God. He “gave thanks to God that His grace had granted” (81)

when his journey ended. He also thanks God for the dragon treasures he got from his battle.

Beowulf is clearly defined as a good man by his brave, selfless and faithful character.

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