How does Beowulf defeat Grendel?


Quick Answer

In a famous English epic poem, Beowulf defeats Grendel by waiting for him in the great hall of King Hrothgar, grappling with him, and using his great strength to rip one of Grendel's arms and shoulders from his body. Grendel runs away, mortally wounded, and bleeds to death in his home in the swamp.

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Full Answer

As the poem opens, Beowulf, while in his home in southern Sweden, hears of a monstrous threat to the kingdom of Hrothgar and determines to fight the beast. He gathers a group of 14 warriors, sails to Denmark and vows to Hrothgar and his queen that he shall kill Grendel or die. After a feast, everyone leaves the hall except Beowulf and his warriors, and all but Beowulf fall asleep. Grendel arrives and kills one of Beowulf's warriors, but then Beowulf seizes him in his powerful grip and refuses to let go. Although Beowulf's warriors try to help, their swords have no effect upon Grendel. After Beowulf rips off Grendel's arm, warriors follow the monster into his swamp and find that the waters are red with Grendel's blood.

Although Grendel is dead, the kingdom is still not safe. Grendel's mother returns the next night to seek vengeance. She carries off one of Beowulf's warriors. Beowulf follows Grendel's mother to her lair in a cavern at the bottom of a lake and beheads her with a sword he finds there. Upon further examination of the cavern, he finds the corpse of Grendel, cuts off his head and carries the head back with him to the surface. Beowulf and his warriors return with Grendel's head to King Hrothgar's hall.

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