An Anglo-Saxon poem of mythological wonders. The folk
tales on which the poem is based may date from the fifth century.
The epic itself was composed ca. 700 C.E. Beowulf was most
likely regarded as one of the Sons of Light or Men of the Sun
whose business it was to fight the powers of darkness until they
The legend recounts the tale of Beowulf fighting the monster
Grendel; after losing the fight, the giant escapes only by
leaving his arm in Beowulfs grip. But Grendels mother, a merwoman
(see mermaids), revenges him and slays many people.
When Beowulf hears of this, he takes up the quarrel. Diving to
the bottom of the sea, where her palace lay, he kills her after
a fierce fight.
Later on Beowulf is made regent and then king of Gothland,
where he reigns about 40 years. He is eventually poisoned by
the fangs of a dragon during a mighty struggle and dies from
the effects. He is buried on a hill named Hronesnas and is
deeply mourned by his people.
There are numerous translations of Beowulf (see C. B. Tinker,
The Translations of Beowulf, 1903), as well as many critical
works and study guides. A manuscript Beowulf (Cotton Vitellius
A. xv) ca. 1000 C.E. is preserved in the British Museum Library
Beowulf. Edited by F. Klaeber. Boston, 1950.
Beowulf. Translated by John R. Clarke. Rev. ed. New York
C. L. Wrenn, 1954.