Beowulf Sample

This page features a sample of Beowulf, retold for children aged 8 and above by Books for Learning.

Night fell slowly over the city. King Hrothgar and all his host1 began to withdraw from the hall. The king was the last to go. ‘Brave young man, I fear you do not understand the danger you are facing. Good fortune be with you.’

Beowulf smiled. ‘Great Hrothgar, people say that I have the strength of thirty men. This I will prove to you tonight.’

Beowulf and his men were soon alone. They locked the doors, even though they knew that locks would not keep Grendel out. Every movement echoed through the hall. Night had fallen, and they waited in darkness, swords ready for battle. Only a faint moonlight allowed them to see at all.

Beowulf put down his sword, for he knew it would be useless now. This monster could not be killed with swords. It was strength and courage alone that Beowulf must rely on.

As his companions went to sleep, Beowulf waited, listening. If Grendel came, he hoped there would be time to wake the Geats. Hour after hour passed. Even Beowulf himself came close to sleep.

Then, a noise. Doors crashed open. In the dark, something moved. A scream ripped through the silence—a man was taken! Grendel had already grasped one of Beowulf’s soldiers and ripped him in half! The Geats leapt to their feet, fumbled for swords, looked madly about trying to see in the dark.

Grendel’s green, angry eyes glowed in the darkness. As he reached for another man, suddenly he felt an iron grip lock around his arm. Whatever grasped him had the strength of many men, and for once he himself felt fear.

Beowulf had Grendel by the arm, and the monster howled like a trapped animal. He wanted to escape and madly pulled against the grip of Beowulf. The hero tightened his hold with all his might, and the two foes staggered about the hall, smashing chairs and tables in a mighty struggle. The monster snarled and shrieked, and Beowulf kept a stony silence, save for his panting breaths.

The other Geats stayed still, not daring to swing their swords in the darkness lest they2 hit their leader. Whenever they got a glimpse3 of Grendel, one would swing his sword, but it only bounced off the thick hide of the monster. Outside, the Danes listened in horror to the crashing and groaning within, having been woken from their beds.

Finally, in terror and despair, the monster made one last effort to break free from Beowulf’s hold. And he did free himself, but with a terrible cry, for his arm had ripped off at the shoulder. Through the door he ran, screaming into the night, and Beowulf fell to the floor, exhausted, holding the bleeding arm.

The Geats lit torches and rushed to Beowulf’s side, looking in wonder at the limb. They took it from him and held it up. ‘No one, not even a monster, could survive a wound like this,’ they cried. ‘He has run away, but he will die soon. Grendel is no more!’

  1. host—men.
  2. lest they—in case they might.
  3. glimpse—sight.