Beowulf Discussion Questions
Using the space below, please answer each question in complete sentences. Remember
to address each part of each question.
1. The first lines of this reading are a description of the monster, Grendel. How is
Grendel feeling while the songs are being sung at Herot? What story, specifically, is
being told by the poets? Why does this song upset Grendel?
Grendel growls in pain – is impatient
The poets are telling the story of God’s creation of the world – pleasure
The song upsets Grendel because God drove the demons, like Cain out
exiled them – split into monsters, giants, fiends, goblins, one of whom is
2. What does the story of Cain and Abel have to do with Grendel?
Cain killed his brother Abel, so God punished Cain
All of Cain’s descendants will be cursed – Grendel is a descendant of
Cain, thus destined to be an outcast
3. How is Grendel characterized during his attack? What physical traits do we know he
possesses? What do we observe about his character?
Delighted with the night’s slaughter
Strong, bloodthirsty, ruthless
4. Who is Hrothgar? What is Herot?
Hrothgar = King of the Danes
Herot – Hrothgar’s mead hall – where the warriors gather to drink and talk
5. How long did Grendel’s raids on Herot go on for? The text says: “His (Hrothgar’s)
misery leaped the seas, was told and sung in all men’s ears”. What does this mean?
The raids go on for 12 years
Hrothgar’s misery is well-known; everyone has heard of it.
6. Consider the term wergild, or “man-price” – the reparations that would have to be
paid, either in blood or gold, after a murder has been committed. What in the text
suggests that Grendel is not concerned about wergild?
Grendel kept killing, “seeking no peace, offering no truce, accepting no
settlement, no price in gold or land, and paying the living for one crime only
with another” – he doesn’t want peace, and he doesn’t make amends for the
deaths he causes
7. Why do you think Grendel was unable to touch Hrothgar’s throne? What kind of
relationship exists between a king and God?
Grendel doesn’t dare to touch the throne because it is protected by God.
A king is protected by God.
8. On line 90, the poet begins discussing the Danes praying to heathen gods. What is his
opinion of these practices? What religious ideas are conflicting in this text?
The poet (Christian) says that the only hope the Danes have is to pray to the
heathen gods because they know nothing about God – the Devil/Hell is their
The Danes cannot be comforted nor can they hope because they do not know
of God’s glory.
Conflict: pagans vs. believers in God