Beowulf The Supernatural 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.
"Time and again, foul things attacked me,
lurking and stalking, but I lashed out,
gave as good as I got with my sword.
My flesh was not for feasting on,
there would be no monsters gnawing and gloating
over their banquet at the bottom of the sea.
Instead, in the morning, mangled and sleeping
the sleep of the sword, they slopped and floated
like the ocean's leavings." (559-567)
Beowulf's swimming contest with Breca is made more impressive by the addition of dozens of writhing sea-monsters, turning this straightforward athletic contest into an adventure worthy of being included in an epic.
When they joined the struggle
there was something they could not have known at the time,
that no blade on earth, no blacksmith's art
could ever damage their demon opponent.
He had conjured the harm from the cutting edge
of every weapon. (799-804)
Grendel, the narrator tells us, is magically impervious to all edged weapons, like swords. Of course, the Geats and Danes don't know this, but Beowulf's seemingly foolish decision to fight Grendel hand-to-hand turns out to be a brilliant strategy after we know about this spell.
"I have heard it said by my people in hall,
counsellors who live in the upland country,
that they have seen two such creatures
prowling the moors, huge marauders
from some other world. One of these things,
as far as anyone ever can discern,
looks like a woman; the other, warped
in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale
bigger than any man, an unnatural birth
called Grendel by country people
in former days. They are fatherless creatures
and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past
of demons and ghosts. (1345-1357)
Earlier in Beowulf, the narrator explained that Grendel and his mother are the descendants of Cain, connected to an Old Testament story and a Christian way of understanding the world. However, in this passage they seem more like Halloween creatures – "demons and ghosts."