Beowulf Strength and Skill Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Seamus Heaney's Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
The story goes
that as the pair struggled, mead-benches were smashed
and sprung off the floor, gold fittings and all.
Before then, no Shielding elder would believe
there was any power or person on earth
capable of wrecking their horn-rigged hall
unless the burning embrace of a fire
engulf it in flame. (774-781)
Beowulf's strength is depicted as nearly, or maybe actually, superhuman. His wrestling contest with Grendel causes more destruction than anyone had thought humanly possible.
The monster's whole
body was in pain, a tremendous wound
appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split
and the bone-lappings burst. Beowulf was granted
the glory of winning; Grendel was driven
under the fen-banks, fatally hurt,
to his desolate lair. (814-820)
How strong does a medieval Scandinavian hero have to be? Strong enough to rip a demon's arm out of its socket. That's how strong.
There was less tampering and big talk then
from Unferth the boaster, less of his blather
as the hall-thanes eyed the awful proof
of the hero's prowess, the splayed hand
up under the eaves. Every nail,
claw-scale and spur, every spike
and welt on the hand of that heathen brute
was like barbed steel. Everybody said
there was no honed iron hard enough
to pierce him through, no time-proofed blade
that could cut his brutal, blood-caked claw. (979-989)
It's not enough for Beowulf to tell stories of his physical prowess; he also needs to display concrete evidence of his deeds. For example, Exhibit A: the severed arm of Grendel hanging from the rafters of Heorot Hall.