Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 94

Now the tale of Grendel's deeds went forth into many lands; and amongst those who heard of it were the Geats, whose king was Higelac. Chief of his thanes was a noble and powerful warrior named Beowulf, who resolved to go to the help of the Danes. He bade his men make ready a good sea-boat, that he might go across the wild swan's path to seek out Hrothgar and aid him; and his people encouraged him to go on that dangerous errand even though he was dear to them.

So Beowulf chose fourteen of his keenest warriors, and sailed away over the waves in his well-equipped vessel, till he came within sight of the cliffs and mountains of Hrothgar's kingdom. The Danish warder, who kept guard over the coast, saw them as they were making their ship fast and carrying their bright weapons on shore. So he mounted his horse and rode to meet them, bearing in his hand his staff of office; and he questioned them closely as to whence they came and what their business was.

Then Beowulf explained their errand, and the warder, when he had heard it, bade them pass onwards, bearing their weapons, and gave orders that their ship should be safely guarded.

Soon they came within sight of the fair palace Heorot, and the warder showed them the way to Hrothgar's court, and then bade them farewell, and returned to keep watch upon the coast.

[Pg 166] Then the bold thanes marched forward to Heorot, their armor and their weapons glittering as they went. Entering the hall, they set their shields and bucklers against the walls, placed their spears upright in a sheaf together, and sat down on the benches, weary with their seafaring.

Then a proud liegeman of Hrothgar's stepped forward and asked:

"Whence bring ye your shields, your gray war-shirts and frowning helmets, and this sheaf of spears? Never saw I men of more valiant aspect."

"We are Higelac's boon companions," answered Beowulf. "Beowulf is my name, and I desire to declare my errand to the great prince, thy lord, if he will grant us leave to approach him."

So Wulfgar, another of Hrothgar's chieftains, went out to the king where he sat with the assembly of his earls and told him of the arrival of the strangers, and Hrothgar received the news with joy, for he had known Beowulf when he was a boy, and had heard of his fame as a warrior. Therefore he bade Wulfgar bring him to his presence, and soon Beowulf stood before him and cried:

"Hail to thee, Hrothgar! I have heard the tale of Grendel, and my people, who know my strength and prowess, have counseled me to seek thee out. For I have wrought great deeds in the past, and now I shall do battle against this monster. Men say that so thick is his tawny hide that no weapon can injure him. I therefore disdain to carry sword or shield into the combat, but will fight with the strength of my arm only, and either I will conquer the fiend or he will bear away my dead body to the moor. Send to Higelac, if I fall in the fight, my beautiful breastplate. I have no fear of death, for Destiny must ever be obeyed."