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.
22,926 words, with a reading time of ~ 1.4 hours (~ 91 pages), and first published in 1815. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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Now Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings, leader beloved, and long he ruled in fame with all folk, since his father had gone away from the world, till awoke an heir, haughty Healfdene, who held through life, sage and sturdy, the Scyldings glad. Then, one after one, there woke to him, to the chieftain of clansmen, children four: Heorogar, then Hrothgar, then Halga brave; and I heard that -- was -- 's queen, the Heathoscylfing's helpmate dear. To Hrothgar was given such glory of war, such honor of combat, that all his kin obeyed him gladly till great grew his band of youthful comrades. It came in his mind to bid his henchmen a hall uprear, a master mead-house, mightier far than ever was seen by the sons of earth, and within it, then, to old and young he would all allot that the Lord had sent him, save only the land and the lives of his men. Wide, I heard, was the work commanded, for many a tribe this mid-earth round, to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered, in rapid achievement that ready it stood there, of halls the noblest: Heorot he named it whose message had might in many a land. Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt, treasure at banquet: there towered the hall, high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting of furious flame. Nor far was that day when father and son-in-law stood in feud for warfare and hatred that woke again. With envy and anger an evil spirit endured the dole in his dark abode, that he heard each day the din of revel high in the hall: there harps rang out, clear song of the singer. He sang who knew tales of the early time of man, how the Almighty made the earth, fairest fields enfolded by water, set, triumphant, sun and moon for a light to lighten the land-dwellers, and braided bright the breast of earth with limbs and leaves, made life for all of mortal beings that breathe and move. So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel a winsome life, till one began to fashion evils, that field of hell. Grendel this monster grim was called, march-riever mighty, in moorland living, in fen and fastness; fief of the giants the hapless wight a while had kept since the Creator his exile doomed. On kin of Cain was the killing avenged by sovran God for slaughtered Abel. Ill fared his feud, and far was he driven, for the slaughter's sake, from sight of men. Of Cain awoke all that woful breed, Etins and elves and evil-spirits, as well as the giants that warred with God weary while: but their wage was paid them!