What Is a Simple Summary of Beowulf?

Beowulf is a poem written by an unknown Anglo-Saxon poet around 700 A.D., and it follows the story of a warrior named Beowulf who travels to Denmark with a small group of men to fight a "demon" named Grendel. Grendel attacks King Hrothgar's kingdom every night for years after the noise from a party makes him mad. Hrothgar showed Beowulf's father favor once, so Beowulf asks to repay Hrothgar by defeating Grendel.

Once Beowulf and his company arrive, Hrothgar throws them a large feast where tensions rise between Beowulf and Unferth, a Dane in attendance. Beowulf describes some of his accomplishments, lifting the spirits of the people who party through the night. Disturbed by the noise, Grendel shows up and fights an unarmed Beowulf. Beowulf is stronger and more capable in battle, and he drives Grendel away after tearing off his arm and ensuring his death. Hrothgar rewards Beowulf and throws him another party the next night.

Grendel returns to his lair to die, and his mother is outraged over his death. She takes revenge by killing Hrothgar's adviser, Aeschere. Beowulf tracks her down and kills her using a giant's sword. He finds Grendel's corpse and decapitates it, bringing it back to Hrothgar. Beowulf returns to his homeland, Geats, and gives most of his earnings to his king, Hygelac.

Years later, after Hygelac's death in battle, Beowulf becomes king of Geats and rules over the land for 50 years. When he is old, his land is plagued by a dragon, so he decides to fight it. He kills the dragon, but only after the dragon bites him, ensuring his death. His people bury him in a barrow overlooking the sea and fill the barrow with a great treasure.