Beowulf for beginners

At the Mere

hrothgar rides out on a horse with a plaited mane. He is handsomely dressed and his warriors and advisers go with him, following the clear trail of the she-monster across the moors.

Beowulf goes ahead with a handful of men. They scrabble up steep rocky paths until they come to the mere, a wide stretch of water under the shadow of an ugly grey rock.

the Mere There is nothing lovely to be seen, only the jagged cliffs and the twisted roots of trees. Water-snakes lie on the ledges of the cliffs and on the grey rock overhanging the water.

Looking into the water many monsters can be seen streaking beneath the waves. One wave-thrashing creature raises its head out of the water but an arrow from Beowulf's bow catches it in the throat and cuts off its thread of life. It tries to swim but the men attack it with spears and haul it onto the shore. It is as long as a ship, a terrible sight.

Hrothgar and his men soon reached them and the battle horn's voice rang out through the air. At once they saw a horrible thing - Æschere's head lying on the shore.

Then Beowulf put on his armour, his silver-grey helmet decorated with the fierce faces of wild boars and a mail-shirt to protect his body. Unferth, Hrothgar's best warrior, offered Beowulf his sword. Its name was Hrunting. It had belonged to Unferth's family for many years, and tasted blood in many battles. But Unferth himself did not dare to dive into the dark pool. He lost his reputation there because of that.

Beowulf spoke, son of Edgetheow:

'I am keen to get started, wise lord Hrothgar. Remember, if I am killed, you have promised to act as a father to me. Do the same for my men and send them safely back to Hygelac with the gifts you have given me. Then Hygelac will know that I got good treatment from a generous jewel-giving lord. Let Unferth keep my sword, if I do not return, for with his weapon, hard-edged Hrunting, I shall do this famous deed or meet my death.'

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