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You may think it odd that Beowulf, so much smaller than Grendel, could fight so easily, but goodness and nobility create strength, and so the struggle between man and monster raged on. When Beowulf’s men heard the row, they ran outside, their swords drawn.
“Drop your swords,” Beowulf cried to his men, “for they will do no good. I must do this alone.”
Grendel struggled to free himself from Beowulf’s grasp, and when at last he broke away after many hours, he disappeared into the darkness, weak and spent. He dragged himself back to his lair, where he died from exhaustion and from the humiliation of being defeated by a mere mortal.
Word spread of Grendel’s death. The king and his people celebrated, singing songs about their new hero. They told stories in his honor, and believed that from that day on they would live in peace. But they had forgotten one thing: Grendel’s sorceress mother lived still and had sworn revenge for his death.
One night she stole into Heorot and carried off one of Hrothgar’s sleeping thanes. Again the old king knew there would be no real peace in his kingdom until the sorceress witch was destroyed. He begged Beowulf to help him once more.
Beowulf set off for the dark, fetid swamp where the witch lived in a great cavern beneath tangled marshes and brackish streams. When he reached the lake that was her home, he dived in. The moment he did, the lake burst into flame. Even this did not stop Beowulf, though his men, standing onshore, could only watch in horror.
Beowulf swam deeper and deeper, until at last he saw Grendel’s mother.
She clasped him in her gigantic arms and sped toward her cave. They came to a place so well-lighted that Beowulf at last could see the creature whose evil heart had turned her so ugly she dared not show herself to those who lived above. Beowulf struggled with her until he finally overcame her with her own enchanted sword.
But Beowulf’s warriors, waiting near the edge of the lake, were filled with fear as the hours passed and their master did not return. When they saw the water running red, they cried, “Our leader has been slain.” But as they turned to flee, they heard a shout behind them. They saw the exhausted Beowulf crawling from the lake of fire.
The men ran to him. As they dressed his wounds, they asked, “Did you destroy her?”
“She destroyed herself,” Beowulf answered. “Evil turns upon itself. She wished only destruction, and that is what she has found.”
And so it was that Hrothgar’s people learned from the great Beowulf the strength of an honest heart, and they lived for many years in peace.
by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson
Read Part One Here
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Jamaican Medium Contributing Author