The Great Books: Beowulf

by Lisa on October 20, 2009

It seems if a book is touted as a great classic, then it shall be made into a movie. Beowulf is no different, and if you aren’t familiar with this English literature, then you probably recognize it from the 2007 movie version which starred Angelina Jolie. I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the epic poem. Unfortunately, I barely remember it,  so today we’ll take a brief look at the plot and the significance of Beowulf.


Beowulf is a young prince from Geatland (a place south of Sweden) who arrives unexpectedly with a group of armed men to a Danish town. This town, belonging to King Hrothgar, has been continually terrorized by a monster named Grendel who breaks in at night and devours the King’s warriors. When Beowulf and his men arrive, they fatally injure Grendel who then runs off to his swamp to die. Grendel’s mother tries to avenge her son’s death, but Beowulf is able to find her at her lair and kill her first. There he sees Grendel’s corpse and decapitates it to bring the severed head of the monster back to Hrothgar’s town. The Danish town cheers and celebrates when Beowulf returns with Grendel’s head and rejoice over the fact that their town is now monster-free. Eventually, Beowulf returns his hometown of Geatland as a hero. Soon after, he takes the thrown and rules for fifty years. A hero to the core, Beowulf protects the Geats from a terrorizing dragon, but it is in this same battle that he is fatally wounded. The Geats burn Beowulf’s body in a large funeral pyre and bury him with treasure. Thus, the story of Beowulf ends.

Beowulf wrestles with Grendel, Lynd Ward (1939)
Beowulf wrestles with Grendel, Lynd Ward (1939)

What’s the significance of Beowulf?

So why has Beowulf persisted as one of the great works of literature through the ages? One reason is that the story portrays a mix of pagan and Christian traditions. Set around 500 A.D. in, a more pagan era, the story’s characters often exhibit many Christian thoughts and beliefs yet their action do not always match this.

Beowulf is often introduced as the first great influence on the development of English literature. Although many scholars stand by this, it was not actually wide read until the 1800s.  Regardless, it still holds great historical and literary value. J.R.R. Tolkien, writer of The Lord of the Rings, was heavily influence by Beowulf.

So the next time someone brings up Beowulf or makes an allusion to it (you never know!), you’ll now have the basic idea, and be able to give a smart, little reply back.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Martin October 21, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I haven’t seen the movie or read the book. if it is a classic I should.

Robert Martin


Steve Chambers October 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Don;t know much about Beowulf other than I found the poem boring. I’ll check out the movie.

Steve Chambers, Body Language Speaker


Rob Northrup October 23, 2009 at 11:40 am

beowulf is one of many in the classic Hero formula. If you’ve watched Star Wars or The Matrix you already know the basic plotline.

Seize thee Day,

Simple Survivaal Tips For Disasters and Emerrgencies


Jose Escalante October 25, 2009 at 1:13 am

This is a really cool story!

Jose Escalante


Darryl Pace October 27, 2009 at 3:05 pm

We read Beowulf when I was in either grade school or high school — I don’t remember which. All I remember about the book is that we read it. Thank you for the refresher on it.

Health, Fitness for Working People — Darryl Pace


Lorri Godyn February 24, 2011 at 11:17 pm

In That Respect there r surely a lot of details like that to take into consideration


richard February 25, 2011 at 10:22 am

Whats up, This is a good summation, I located your blog checking google for any similar subject and observed this. I couldnt find as well much other tips and information on this posting, so it was wonderful to discover this one.


Lauran Foutain February 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Excellent blog post, I look forward to reading much more.


Marion Bartuska March 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Gold! you save my day 😉


Carlotta Deshaies March 2, 2011 at 11:43 am

I’ve been here a few times and it appears like your articles get more informative every time. Maintain it up I enjoy reading them.


Royce Sahm March 3, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!


Nereida Lammey -edit July 17, 2011 at 11:57 am

I am often to blogging and i actually recognize your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and preserve checking for new information.


FAT LARD September 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

hey yall i love this movie. so if you dont, then go to hell. If you like it, ill thank you. if you dont, then dont believe it at all.


Previous post:

Next post: