Beowulf

In the epic story Beowulf, what's the name of the monster that's slain by the hero?

And the answer: Grendel.

Photo credit: Thoughtco.com

Believed to have been composed in the 10th or 11th century, Beowulf is the earliest European epic poem, and the longest one written in Old English. It tells the story of a kingdom terrorized by a monster named Grendel, who the hero Beowulf volunteers to destroy.

Impressively, the story of Beowulf survives by a single manuscript. The story has persevered throughout a thousand years of history and relocation, even remaining intact after a fire in its Westminster home. Due to the fact that the story was primarily passed down orally, historians struggle to place a date on the origins of this tale.

Beowulf has inspired countless authors and artists. Famed J.R.R. Tolkien fell in love with the story at a young age, and was said to quote the epic poem in its Old English during his literary club meetings. Irish poet Seamus Heaney was so inspired by the narrative that he wrote a translation for modern audiences, winning him a best-seller. Author Micheal Crichton of the Jurassic Park series wrote a novel wholly inspired by Beowulf.

Did you know?

The language used in Beowulf is a mash-up of dialects from four different areas of medieval Britain: Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex. The result shows just how developed and complex a language Old English was at the time the poem was written. For example, the poem uses a total of 36 different words for "hero." "Hæle" and "eorl" are just two of the Old English words that can be translated to "hero"in Modern English.


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