The narrator of Beowulf describes at length not only Grendel's attacks on Heorot, but the way that they get publicized. People begin to talk about Grendel, bards make up songs about his vicious cruelty and cannibalism, and his reputation spreads far and wide. Although Beowulf isn't officially summoned or called to fight Grendel, we get the sense that any great warrior living at this time would feel challenged by an adversary of this nature.
So far, everything seems to be going just fine. The Geats survive a perilous sea-crossing and are able to explain their presence to the Danes. Everybody is getting along and things are going smoothly. Until…
At this point, Beowulf begins a roller-coaster ride of wild emotional ups and downs. First Beowulf meets Grendel in hand-to-hand combat, and it seems like he might be defeated. When he finally manages to deal Grendel a mortal wound by tearing his arm out of the shoulder socket, he only gets to relax for a little bit before Grendel's angry mother shows up.
The narrator has been reminding us all along that Beowulf lives or dies at God's whim and that he can't escape his eventual doom. Even Beowulf himself feels a little nervous about this final confrontation with the dragon. Well, maybe not nervous exactly – but he's definitely not expecting to win.
Beowulf has had several thrilling escapes, but he's run out of luck this time. After all, the greatest test of a warrior is how he behaves when he knows he could die. Plus, Beowulf may not escape death, but he does escape ignominy. He orders a barrow to be built over his funeral pyre, commemorating his heroic deeds. So, even though Beowulf dies, his memory will stay alive – that may sound like a cliché, but it was very important to Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon warriors.