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The first true masterpiece of English literature, Beowulf depicts the thrilling adventures of a Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century. A true pleasure to read, the work has influenced many important writers, including J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Part history and part mythology, Beowulf begins in the court of the Danish king, where a demon named Grendel devours men in their sleep. The mighty warrior Beowulf kills the monster, but rejoicing turns to terror when Grendel’s mother attacks the hall to avenge the death of her child. After slaying the mighty beast, Beowulf becomes king, ruling peacefully for fifty years. But the day comes when he must confront a foe more powerful than any he has yet faced–an ancient dragon who guards a horde of treasure. Once again Beowulf must gather his strength and courage to defeat the monster, but this time victory exacts a terrible price.
LO, praise of the prowess of people–kings of spear–armed Danes, in days long sped, we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many a tribe, the mead–bench tore, awing the earls. Since erst he lay friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who house by the whale–path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts: a good king he! To him an heir was afterward born, a son in his halls, whom heaven sent to favor the folk, feeling their woe that erst they had lacked an earl for leader so long a while; the Lord endowed him, the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown. Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him, son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands. So becomes it a youth to quit him well with his father’s friends, by fee and gift, that to aid him, aged, in after days, come warriors willing, should war draw nigh, liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds shall an earl have honor in every clan.