HEROES OF GREAT BRITAIN
ADAPTED BY H.E. MARSHALL
HOW BEOWULF OVERCAME THE OGRE AND THE WATER-WITCH
Long ago, there lived in Daneland a King, beloved of all, called Hrothgar. He was valiant and mighty in war, overcoming all his foes and taking from them much spoil. Looking upon his great treasure, King Hrothgar said, “I will build me a great hall. It shall be vast and wide, adorned within and without with gold and ivory, with gems and carved work. It shall be a hall of joy and feasting.”
Then King Hrothgar called his workmen and gave them commandment to build the hall. They set to work, and becoming each day more fair, the hall was at length finished. It stood upon a height, vast and stately, and as it was adorned with the horns of deer, King Hrothgar named it Hart Hall. The King made a great feast. To it his warriors young and old were called, and he divided his treasure, giving to each rings of gold. And so in the hall there was laughter and song and great merriment. Every evening when the shadows fell, and the land grew dark without, the knights and warriors gathered in the hall to feast. And when the feast was over, and the great fire roared upon the hearth, the minstrel took his harp and sang. Far over dreary fen and moorland the light glowed cheerfully, and the sound of song and harp awoke the deep silence of the night. Within the hall was light and gladness, but without there was wrath and hate. For far on the moor there lived a wicked giant named Grendel, prowling at night to see what evil he might do.
Very terrible was this ogre Grendel to look upon. Thick black hair hung about his face, and his teeth were long and sharp, like the tusks of an animal. His huge body and great hairy arms had the strength of ten men. He wore no armor, for his skin was tougher than any coat of mail that man or giant might weld. His nails were like steel and sharper than daggers, and by his side there hung a great pouch in which he carried off those whom he was ready to devour. Day by day the music of harp and song was a torture to him and made him more and more mad with jealous hate.
At length he crept through the darkness to Hart Hall where the warriors slept after feast and song. Arms and armor had been thrown aside, so with ease the ogre slew thirty of the bravest. Howling with wicked joy he carried them off and devoured them. The next night, again the wicked one crept stealthily through the darkening moorland until he reached Hart Hall, stretched forth his hand, and seized the bravest of the warriors. In the morning each man swore that he would not again sleep beneath the roof of the hall. For twelve years it stood thus, no man daring, except in the light of day, to enter it.