Beowulf for beginners

Swimming Contest with Breca

a voice came from the mead-benches. Unferth, son of Eglaf, spoke. Unferth was a well-known warrior, an important man among the Danes. He could not bear to think that anyone was braver or could do more famous deeds than he.

swimming in the Sea 'Aren't you the Beowulf who had the swimming contest with Breca?' Unferth asked. 'He certainly beat you there, after seven days in the icy waves of the open sea. Day and night the two of you struggled in the grip of the icy ocean. But Breca reached home before you. You won't last long if you dare to wait for Grendel and meet him face to face.'

'Well now, Unferth, my friend. No wonder you talk so much after all that beer. You have a lot to say about Breca and what he did. Breca was my best friend. When we were still boys we vowed one day to try out our strength against the sea.

We took our swords to ward off the whales and swam into the freezing waves. For five days and nights we stayed together in the icy water, until a furious North wind swept us apart in the dark night. Breca was washed ashore but I stayed at sea. For the anger of the water-beasts had been roused and I had plenty to do. They attacked me, meaning to make a feast of me - one even dragged me to the bottom - but my mail-shirt protected me and my sword hacked at them hard.

Nine monsters I killed that night. Their bodies lay on the shore when morning came. They would no longer attack ships as they crossed the swan's riding-place.

As for you, Unferth, I haven't heard any tales of you offering to fight Grendel. The monster knows he has nothing to fear from you.'

Unferth could make no reply.

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