Beowulf Book Summary - Beowulf Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Beowulf summary


A Young Warrior’s Battle With Beasts and His Rise to Kingship

4.6 (174 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Beowulf by Unknown is an epic poem that tells the story of a hero who battles monsters to protect his people. It explores the themes of heroism, loyalty, and fate.

Table of Contents

    Summary of 4 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 4

    The first battle: the monster Grendel

    In Denmark, King Hrothgar rules. One of his many achievements is the construction of a splendid mead hall, known as Heorot. This vast hall is the king’s throne-room, and a place for feasts. But the festivities don’t last long. 

    One night, evil arrives at Heorot in the form of a prowling monster, Grendel. He lurks outside while the men eat and drink in the hall. And when they go to sleep, Grendel strikes. The monster grabs 30 men from their beds and drags their mangled corpses back to his lair. The following night, Grendel strikes again. And then again.

    Night after night, for 12 years, the people at Heorot live in fear. They’re helpless and hopeless, as their prayers to the pagan gods go unanswered. But then another visitor arrives at the hall – a young prince and warrior who’s sailed across the sea. His name is Beowulf.

    He tells the king that he and his men have heard of the relentless attacks at Heorot. They’ve come to offer their help. Defeating Grendel won’t be easy, says Beowulf. And he knows that he risks ending up as the monster’s next meal. But the young prince isn’t afraid. He puts his trust in God. “Fate goes as fate must,” says Beowulf. At last, for the first time in years, there’s a glimmer of hope at the king’s hall.

    That evening, after a warm welcome and a hearty feast, Beowulf and his men brace themselves for Grendel’s arrival. In the middle of the night, the door swings open. Grendel paces the room, gleefully eying up the sleeping warriors. What he doesn’t know is that Beowulf is awake and watching.

    Then, the monster strikes. Grendel sinks his claws and teeth into one of the sleeping men. He bites down to the bone, drinking the man’s blood and devouring him piece by piece, until there’s nothing left. Grendel then creeps toward Beowulf’s bed, ready to seize his next victim. But instead, it’s Beowulf who seizes him, grabbing hold of the monster’s arm.

    And so the fight begins. No weapons, just pure physical strength as Beowulf and Grendel wrestle, stumbling and crashing through the hall. Benches are knocked over, and the very timbers of the great hall start to shake.

    Grendel lets out a blood-curdling wail of pain. Not because of the sword blows from Beowulf’s men, who have rushed to their leader’s defense. The swords don’t leave a scratch. Only Beowulf himself is able to injure the monster, using his bare hands.

    He keeps Grendel locked in his powerful grip until a wound appears on the monster’s shoulder. It gets bigger and bigger until the sinews split and the bone breaks. Beowulf rips off Grendel’s entire arm.

    The battle is over. Mortally wounded, Grendel staggers away from the hall, leaving a trail of gore in his wake. He returns to his lair in the marsh, where the water turns red with blood. And there, the monster breathes his last.

    Back at Heorot, the people are jubilant. Thanks to Beowulf’s extraordinary strength and heroism, they no longer have to live in fear.

    The next morning, the hall is repaired, and a grisly new decoration is added – Grendel’s arm now hangs from the eaves of the roof. Overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, the king tells Beowulf that he now considers him a son. He showers him with gifts, including weapons, armor, horses, and a magnificent gold neck chain. Spirits are high that night, as the men feast and celebrate. Little do they know that outside, a new danger is lurking.

    Want more?
    Read or listen to the key ideas
    from 7,000+ titles

    Key ideas in Beowulf

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Beowulf about?

    Beowulf is a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature, set in sixth-century Scandinavia. The narrative poem recounts the heroic exploits of Beowulf, who battles monsters and eventually becomes king.

    Best quote from Beowulf

    Then it became clear, obvious to everyone once the fight was over, that an avenger lurked and was still alive, grimly biding time.

    example alt text

    Who should read Beowulf?

    • Fantasy fans
    • People who enjoy stories of adventure and heroism
    • Anyone interested in the origins of English literature

    About the Author

    The authorship of Beowulf is unknown and still a topic of critical debate. The poem was most likely composed by a single author in England, sometime between the eighth and eleventh centuries and has survived through a manuscript which dates from the tenth or eleventh century. 

    Categories with Beowulf

    Book summaries like Beowulf

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    29 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial