Beowulf Answer Key
Reading Guide Questions, pp. 42-49
What evidence indicates the Christian influence on lines 1-15?
“The Almighty making the earth…” (line 7)
Identify the demonic characteristics of Grendel.
“Down in the darkness” suggests an evil lower world. Haunted the moors, made his
home in a hell, spawned in slime
What Biblical allusion identifies Grendel’s ancestors?
Cain, son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel
Again, how is the theme of good vs. evil made evident?
“The Almighty drove/Those demons out…/A brood forever opposing the Lord’s/Will,
and again and again defeated.”
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------5. What “conditions” made it easy for Grendel to raid Hrothgar’s hall?
Warriors were asleep and dreaming, suspecting nothing
What deductions can be made about Grendel’s size and strength?
Huge stature; incredible strength – “snatched up thirty men, smashed them unknowing
in their beds and ran out with their bodies…”
How does Hrothgar react to the deaths of his men?
Joyless, mourning, wept, “fearing the beginning might not be the end”
What was Grendel’s intention when he came again the next night?
To quench his lust for evil, but nothing would be enough
How did the warriors “cope” with the threat of Grendel?
Tried to escape and stay as far away from him as possible
10. What is significant about line 58?
Hate had triumphed. Evil prevailed over good.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------11. How long did Herot stay empty?
12 years
12. Identify the kenning on line 64.
Hell-forged hands. It suggests that Grendel is a creature of hell, in league with the Devil.
13. How did the horror of Grendel’s presence spread from place to place?
The sailors spread the news. “His misery leaped the seas…”
14. To what lengths did the Danes go in order to remedy the problem with Grendel?
Sought peace by offering truces, settlements, gold or land, etc./offered sacrifices to “old
stone gods” (paganism)
15. State the kennings on lines 74 and 79.
“shadow of death” and “mankind’s enemy”
16. Why was Grendel unable to touch King Hrothgar’s throne? What reference does this reinforce?
Hrothgar is protected by God. (divine right—king is considered to be God’s representative on
earth)The conflict of good versus evil is reinforced by associating
Grendel with Satan (“mankind’s enemy”) and Hrothgar with God (“glorious/Throne, protected
by God – God,/Whose love Grendel could not know.”)
17. What remedies were considered by Hrothgar and his council?
Offered sacrifices to the old stone gods (paganism) and made heathen vows, hoping for
Satan’s support against Grendel
18. What is the significance/meaning of lines 94-104?
Possible inclusion by the scribes warning the people about seeking the devil’s guidance
in getting rid of Grendel; these heathens (who had hell in their hearts and did not know
God’s love) should beware of taking extraordinary means (even to compromise what
you know to be right) in order to get rid of Grendel; but praise to those who will “rise
to God” and seek God’s peace (Good vs evil)
19. In lines 104-109, how is Hrothgar’s situation characterized?
Harsh and unending, violent and cruel, and evil
20. Why was Beowulf allowed to journey over the seas to the land of the Danes?
The omens were good (pagan reference)
21. How many men did Beowulf select for his journey to help Hrothgar?
14 of the mightiest men he could find - the bravest and best of the Geats
22. How is Beowulf received by Hrothgar and his men? Explain.
He is warmly received—they know of his noble birth as well as his reputation. He
is escorted by a Danish guard, Wulfgar, to Herot.
23. What is Beowulf asked to leave behind? Why is this significant?
His battleshields and spears to ensure he is not there to harm the king.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------24. How does Beowulf indicate that he heard of Hrothgar’s plight?
The sailors
25. Why did the wise men of Beowulf’s kingdom compel him to help Hrothgar?
It was his duty to help Hrothgar. Beowulf’s strength will enable him to defeat Grendel.
26. What specific “job qualifications” does Beowulf possess?
1. Has risen from the darkness of war dripping with my enemies’ blood,
2. Drove five great giants into chains
3. Chased all of that race (giants) from the earth
4. Swam in the blackness of night, hunting sea monsters and killing them one by one
27. State the two kennings found between lines 160-165.
“shelterer of warriors” and “people’s loved friend”
28. What is Beowulf’s single request?
That he alone and with the help of his men defeat Grendel.
29. Why will Beowulf fight Grendel without weapons?
Because Grendel needs no weapons, and he doesn’t want Higlac to think less of him.
30. Who will decide the victor?
God/Fate (according to last line of section)
31. If Beowulf should die, what is his request of Hrothgar?
To send his armor to Higlac
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------32. What previous connection did Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, have with the Danes?
Hrothgar had come to the aid of Edgetho, who was taken in by the Danes. (See #34.)
33. Why is this “history” significant?
It reveals that Beowulf is, in a sense, paying back his father’s debt to Hrothgar.
34. How was Hrothgar named as king and how did Hrothgar help Beowulf’s father?
Hrothgar was made king after his older brother’s (Hergar’s) death. Edgetho killed
Hathlaf, a Wulfing warrior. Fearing war, the Geats did not allow Edgetho to return, so
he traveled to the land of the Danes. Hrothgar made peace with the Wulfings on
Edgetho’s behalf by sending ancient treasures to make amends.
35. What happened to Hrothgar’s men as they foolishly attempted to defeat Grendel?
Drunken men tried to defeat him and were killed.
36. What gesture is made by Hrothgar’s men to indicate their respect of Beowulf and his men?
Hrothgar’s men gave their places in the mead-hall to Beowulf and his men. Essentially, they
were giving up their places of honor and admitting they needed help.
Beowulf Character Chart
King Hrothgar
As king of the Danes, he serves as the model for the ideal king. He needs
Beowulf’s help in ridding the land of Grendel. This gives Beowulf the
opportunity to reveal his courageousness in battle and to demonstrate his
characteristics as a fearless warrior.
Herot (place)
Great mead-hall built by Hrothgar for his men to congregate
The villain of the epic. Grendel, who was a cannibal and dragon from the
seed of Cain, terrorized the land ruled by Hrothgar. Grendel and his mother
live in a poisonous and infectious swampland full of mists and cold night.
King of the Geats, Beowulf’s uncle
Hrothgar’s father
The hero of the epic. Strong, fearless, and an advocate of freedom and
justice, Beowulf typifies the Anglo-Saxon ideal of personal conduct.
Higlac’s follower, strongest of the Geats, greater and stronger than anyone
anywhere in this world
Hrothgar’s soldier who greets Beowulf and his men
Former king of the Geats, Higlac’s father, Beowulf’s grandfather
Beowulf’s father, killed Hathlaf, was welcomed by Hrothgar who paid his
debt to the Wulfings
Wulfing warrior killed by Edgetho
Hrothgar’s deceased older brother