A number of outlines were employed during the writing of "The Saga of Beowulf," using a variety of methods, from index cards to chronological breakdowns. Below are two of those used in organizing the shape and structure of the story. The Scene Outline describes each key sequence in a brief prose summary, focusing on just the most important elements, while the Chapter Outline provides a means of determining the length of individual scenes, as well as the placement of each key group throughout the narrative via color coded entries. A Chronological Outline was done initially to help establish the "historical" sequence of events. The story, of course, changed considerably during the writing, so these outlines show events as they were envisioned at various stages of the process. To view further outlines, see the Beowulf Research section of the Archives.
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A) REVELRIES IN HEOROT - The Viking Danes under King Hrothgar celebrate the completion of Heorot, their new hall, built on the bones of their crushed enemies. The young Celtic Queen Wealtheow sits beside him, with their three children and nephew. The revelries are at once joyful and violent, a celebration of conquering strength and battle prowess. A bard begins a tale of Hrothgar's valorous deeds.
B) GRENDEL’S ONSLAUGHT - The ogre Grendel crashes in the great oaken entry doors. The beast ravages the hall, slaying everyone in its path. Hrothulf attempts to heft a sword and confront the beast, but is dragged from the hall by Unferth as the demon begins its slaughter. Among the slain is Edgtheow, father of Beowulf. The Danes flee in terror, leaving the Bard standing frozen in the middle of the hall.
1) SAILING TO ADVENTURE - Beowulf and his 14 Companions sail across the sea to Denmark, seeking fame and fortune. All but one are young like their leader, and nervous of the threat that awaits them. Beowulf and his closest companion, Hondscio, debate the futility of their venture and Beowulf’s real reason for undertaking it: the marriage of his love Hæreth to his lecherous uncle, King Hygelac.
2) ÆGNIR THROWS THE BONES - Sitting at the base of the mast is the cloaked and hooded figure of Ægnir, an aged and one-eyed Rune-Keeper. Ægnir rolls the bones, which foretell that one among them must die if they are to be successful in their quest. Beowulf assumes this means him, as he has resigned himself to death in battle. With Ægnir, a black raven travels, often perching upon his shoulder.
3) FAREWELL TO HÆRETH (FLASHBACK) - Beowulf thinks back on the events which brought about this journey. Before him on the shores of Götaborg stands the young and beautiful Hæreth. She hands him a silver swan brooch, just as King Hygelac steps into view, taking Hæreth’s hand in his. She averts her eyes as Beowulf closes his hand on the brooch.
4) THE SEA-SERPENT ATTACK - Beowulf is startled out of his reverie by the sounds of shouting and commotion as the ship comes under attack by a giant sea-serpent. Ottar goes overboard, Svein becomes the efficient weapons-master, Hrolf and Eofor back off, while young Wiglaf rushes to the forefront of the battle, sinking an arrow into one of the serpent’s eyes. Beowulf severs the serpents head with a blow from his mighty broadsword. The men return to their boastful revelries as they put the ship to order. Land is sighted.
1) LANDFALL - Beowulf’s ship is rowed slowly up the Danish Fjord into a land of brooding mist. The ship is beached on a sandy shore beneath towering cliffs, and the Geats begin to unload their war-gear. The atmosphere is one of apprehension and gloom.
2) THE COAST-GUARD'S CHALLENGE - A shadow looms up through the mist and the Geats quickly form a shield wall. They are approached by a lone sentinel, Wulfgar, who has seen them from his lookout tower. The mounted guard rides down to the shore and confronts the Geats concerning their intentions. Beowulf replies courteously, thereby earning the guard’s respect.
3) THE JOURNEY INLAND - Their ship secured, the Geats follow Wulfgar as he leads them inland along a broken track, thick with overgrowth. The men march warily in full war-gear, masking their growing anxiety as eerie sound emerge from the encroaching forest.
4) VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED - Cresting a hill where the track leads between rune-carved standing stones, the Geats get their first glimpse of Heorot, rising from amidst a sea of long-houses and burial mounds. From a distance the hall is resplendent in its shimmering golden glow. But the village is near deserted and signs of Grendel’s ravages are everywhere.
5) EMILY SEQUENCE - Six-year-old Emily emerges, wide-eyed with wonder, wearing tattered clothes and carrying a straw doll with one arm missing. She asks Beowulf if he has come to kill her monster, for Grendel has slain both her father and baby brother, Arni. Emily’s mother snatches her away, pulling her into a nearby hut and slamming the door, leaving Emily’s doll behind. Beowulf carefully sets it on the porch. Ægnir has a vision of the hall in flames. “Fire. Hall will burn.”
6) ENTRY INTO HEOROT - Approaching the hall, Grendel’s threat becomes more apparent and tangible: the doors are a mass of shattered bits cobbled together on wrenched iron hinges. The timbers are rent and torn, and the stone steps stained with blood. Two Danes stand guard, watching warily as the Geats approach. Inside, Wulfgar interrupts an argument between Æschere and Unferth to announce the arrival of the Geats, who enter the hall unannounced. Hrothgar knows Beowulf well, and welcomes him with open arms.
1) THE WELCOMING FEAST - The Geats are greeted with revelries and feasting. Amidst bouts of heavy boasting and contests of martial skill, the hall resounds once more with music and merriment. Queen Wealtheow extends formal greetings by the traditional sharing of the mead-cup. Meanwhile, out in the moorlands, Grendel cringes at the “sweet sound of the scop.”
2) UNFERTH’S CHALLENGE / THE SWIMMING CONTEST - Unferth, one of Hrothgar’s retainers, confronts Beowulf with drunken taunts, calling into question Beowulf’s manhood by mocking a story from his youth, the Swimming Contest. Beowulf’s reply to this is his oral recounting of the tale, which is told in flashback as an embroidered tapestry comes to life. Upon completing his version of the tale, Beowulf puts Unferth in his place in no uncertain terms, both verbally and physically, and we learn about Unferth’s dark past.
3) HROTHULF’S SCHEME - As the party continues, Unferth nurses his wounded pride, and we discover that he and Hrothulf have vague plans to usurp the Danish throne. The subplot underlying the main action is one of political intrigue in which the king’s nephew implements designs on the throne. Third in line of succession, but eldest among the royal children, Hrothulf uses Unferth to forward his scheme, and Unferth returns the favor in order to attain a position of greater authority. They have been biding their time, allowing Grendel to deplete Hrothgar’s resources, waiting for their moment to strike.
1) PREPARATIONS - As night comes on, the hall is left in Beowulf’s keeping. The Geats make ready for what awaits them, arranging themselves so as to appear asleep on their benches, but with hidden weapons at their sides. Beowulf sits on the golden throne and thinks back on past events from his youth, when life was carefree.
2) GRENDEL’S DEMISE - Beowulf’s reverie is shattered as Grendel arrives. The adversaries stare one another down, but Grendel attacks Hondscio, who sleeps nearest the door. The battle rages back and forth until Beowulf in pure mania tears Grendel’s arm from it’s socket and beats him with it, sending him yowling from the hall.
3) HONDSCIO’S FAREWELL - The hall timbers are battered and blood-stained, and Hondscio lies dying. As Beowulf begs his forgiveness, Hondscio makes him promise to return home and protect his own people, including Hondscio’s young wife and unborn child, and their new Queen Hæreth. Beowulf is wracked with grief and guilt.
1) HROTHGAR’S REACTION - The next morning the Danes approach the hall warily, seeing the great doors again lying shattered. Inside they witness a sight of immense horror: Beowulf and his men lying scattered throughout a blood-spattered hall. As Hrothgar bemoans his wicked fate, Beowulf wakes and the wails turn to cheers. Beowulf is proclaimed a hero and riders are sent to spread the news.
2) UNFERTH’S ERRAND - Unferth is given the task of following the bloody trail to whatever end it leads. Reluctantly, Unferth takes Æschere and Yrmenlaf and departs, following the blood-spattered footsteps that lead up into the dank and misty moorlands. At the edge of a boiling lake they find Grendel’s lifeless body cradled in the arms of its weeping mother, a Troll-Hag. As the Hag leaps to defend the body of her son, Unferth quickly dispatches his two comrades and offers them up as a sacrifice. He rides home, leaving the Hag to her supper.
3) PEACE-WEAVER - Back at Heorot, the mess is being cleaned up and the damage repaired as travelers begin to arrive from all over the land to witness the spectacle of Grendel’s arm. Among them is Hrothgar’s daughter Freawaru with her new husband Ingeld, Prince of the Heathobards. There is some tension here due to the nature of the union: Freawaru is a peace-weaver between the warring clans, a feud begun by Ingeld’s father Froda, who slew Hrothgar’s father Healfdene. The intentions are good, but anger yet burns beneath the surface.
4) HONDSCIO’S TOMB - Meanwhile, on a hillside overlooking the village a dolmen is raised in which to house the fallen Hondscio. Towards evening the funeral is held, and Hondscio is sent on his final voyage to Valhalla.
1) THE FEAST OF DELIVERANCE - For the first time in many years festivities are held out in the open in the village square and surroundings, which are lit up with torches and bonfires. There is much drinking and merriment as the Danes celebrate their freedom from a decade-long reign of terror. Beowulf comically recounts his battle in exaggerated narrative for the children. The Geats rejoice in a successful exploit, assured of their immortal fame.
2) GIFT-GIVING & PRAISE - Beowulf and his men are richly rewarded with gold and lavish war-gear. Hrothgar proclaims Beowulf his adopted son, much to Hrothulf’s chagrin. In an aside we discover that Hrothulf has sent an invitation to his father-in-law Onela, husband of Hrothgar’s daughter Yrsa and slayer of Beowulf’s mother. Unferth chuckles with glee at the prospect. Wealtheow presents the Brosing Necklace, an ancient (but unknowingly cursed) heirloom. Unferth publicly apologizes to Beowulf for his rude welcome, feigning friendship. Emily gives Beowulf a gift of her own.
3) THE OLD FIGHTER’S TALE - Unferth furthers his plotting with Hrothulf and the vengeful and ambitious Ingeld, inciting Ingeld’s rage by pointing out where Hrethric now wears Froda’s sword, Ingeld’s rightful heirloom. Unferth tells them to wait until the time is ripe, which it soon will be. Unferth needs a bit with Hrethric too. This segment is all about building and heightening suspense, the sense of impending doom, and fragile relationships, the intricate interweaving of loyalties. Onela arrives and the festivities come to a screeching halt.
4) THE TROLL-HAG’S ATTACK - As the festivities draw to a close, Beowulf & his men are given rich quarters to sleep in, while some seek maiden's beds. As the village slumbers, we follow a lurking shadow through the stillness, towards the golden hall. In his quarters, Beowulf is troubled by a restless sleep, haunted with visions of impending doom and the soft voice of Hæreth, professing her eternal love. He wakes with a start to screams of terror. Rushing into the square, Beowulf and Hrothgar are just in time to see Æschere being dragged away into the night. Despair once again grips the Danes. Offerings are made to Odin.
1) TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION - Beowulf orders torches brought and the gathered warriors immediately set out to follow the trail of blood, hoping to save Æschere. A procession of flaming torches proceeds into the night. Unferth is made to take the lead, since he had followed the trail only a day before. He is clearly uneasy about it, wanting them to wait until daylight. Beowulf, on the other hand, states that he will follow the trail alone if he must. Hrothgar orders Unferth to proceed, and the armed troop sets out.
2) THE LAKE OF FIRE - Arriving at the edge of the misty mere, the men find Æschere’s severed head hung on a craggy tree, in the company of others in various states of decay. The lake itself is afire with an eerie glow. All is mist and gloom as Beowulf gives a parting speech. No one else is willing to proceed further, and the only way on is through the bog itself. As a show of camaraderie, Unferth gives Beowulf his sword, a war-famed weapon which has never failed in battle; however, unknown to Beowulf, Unferth has had it weakened and scored through, so as to break easily. Archers and spearmen slay several serpents.
1) THE MURKY MERE - Beowulf trudges into the reeking bog, neck-deep at times, torch in one hand, sword in the other. He is hard pressed by creatures that attack both from above and below. The deeper he goes the thicker it gets. At the far end of the fen a cavern opens beneath an archway made of human bones and rusted armor, lit by flickering torches, from which the foul stench of death emanates. Images from Beowulf’s past flicker before his mind’s eye, and the sounds of childhood waft through the night air, haunting him. Beowulf enters the lair.
2) THE TROLL-CAVE - Inside, Beowulf is greeted by a ghastly sight: a mocking likeness of Heorot, where slain warriors sit at tables filled with platters of human flesh. In the center of the hall, between the fire pit and the throne, Grendel’s lifeless body lies upon a bier. On the throne the Troll-Hag sits, ready to welcome her visitor. The two gaze warily at one another over Grendel’s corpse. Beowulf hesitates momentarily, perplexed by this unexpected element of humanity. Seeing her chance, the Hag lunges. Unferth’s sword fails, leaving Beowulf exposed, and the Troll-Hag gains the advantage.
3) DEPARTURE OF THE DANES - Back on the shore the men grow restless. Wiglaf wants to go after him, but Ragnar says that he will only end up like Hondscio, the first crack in a rift which will culminate in the Geats’ desertion at the end. At Unferth’s urging, the Danes depart, leaving only the Geats to watch and wait. Meanwhile, Beowulf reaches for the Giant’s Sword, hung upon a wall, and with a mighty swing severs the Troll in two. Beowulf cuts off Grendel’s head and the blade melts on contact with the venomous blood.
4) BEOWULF’S RETURN - At the lake’s edge, the Geats themselves begin to grow disenchanted, dividing into factions. Wiglaf leads the loyal ones while Hrolf is the main dissenter. We learn some things concerning Beowulf’s past, and his reasons for coming on this voyage. The debate is about to break out into open warfare when the first shafts of the morning sunlight cuts through the fog and Beowulf emerges from the mere, outlined in the hazy glow of dawn. He carries two severed heads and the hilt of the Giant’s Sword. Riotous rejoicing rends the silence, and the feud is forgotten. The Geats march proudly back to Heorot.
1) TREACHERY & TREASON - Meanwhile, back at Heorot, the Danes despair of their ill fortune. The hall is joyless as the men drown their sorrows in drink. With the Geats out of the way, Unferth sees his opportunity and spurs Ingeld to action. Ingeld attacks Hrothgar, and Hrothulf slays Hrothmund. Hrothgar is mortally wounded in the attack, but Hrethric leaps to defend him. The hall is set afire by fallen torches and scattered embers.
2) HEOROT AFLAME - From a distance, the Geats hear the blast of Hrothgar’s war horn and race to the valley, where they find a battle raging and the golden hall a fiery pyre. Hrothulf and Unferth have secured the doors so that none might escape. At Beowulf’s approach, Unferth runs away and Onela retreats after a brief skirmish. Beowulf slays Hrothulf and kicks the doors in. Inside, Hrethric defends the fallen Hrothgar against a manic Ingeld, who is then trapped under a fallen timber. Beowulf helps drag Hrothgar outside as the hall crumbles.
3) HROTHGAR’S SERMON - With the hostilities quelled, Beowulf and Hrethric rush to the side of the dying Hrothgar, who lies watching his legacy go up in flames. With his last breaths, Hrothgar inveighs against pride and arrogance, urging the younger men to pursue the course of truth, loyalty, and generosity. Tearful farewells are said, and Hrethric is officially proclaimed heir to the Danish throne. Beowulf vows to pursue Onela and Unferth.
1) BEOWULF’S GOODBYE - A month has passed, and another new tomb rises behind Heorot. Rubble has been cleared, giving way to the foundation of a new hall. Beowulf stands before Hondscio’s Barrow and says his final good-byes. The Raven cries its farewell song, and flits into the sky. The Geats heft their reward and set off toward the sea, this time followed by a great procession of well-wishers, among whom is little Emily. Final farewells are spoken as the treasure is loaded into the waiting ship. Beowulf vows to return if ever they have need of him.
2) THE RETURN JOURNEY - The Geats boast of their deeds and the fame it assures them, but Beowulf grows increasingly despondent the nearer to home they get. By starlight the Song of Swanhild is sung by the wandering minstrel Widsith who has joined them, and Beowulf’s mind wanders through the Dreams of Lost Children. He sees images from his childhood, endless summer days with his friend Hondscio and his love Hæreth, both now lost to him. He dreads his homecoming, and the news he must bring to Hondscio’s widow. He imagines Hæreth and Hygelac in bed together, and envisions slaying the King.
1) ARRIVAL IN GEATLAND - Land is sighted and the ship sails into an enclosed harbor which is virtually deserted. A lone watchman - Hæreth’s younger brother Erik - announces their arrival with a blare of the war-horn, and brings them news that the Swedes have attacked in his absence, capturing Queen Hæreth and holding her ransom.
2) THE WAR COUNCIL - Beowulf meets hastily with Heardred, the King’s young son by his first wife, where he learns that the Swedes ambushed a hunting party and captured the Queen. Hygelac has taken his troops to battle and is camped at Ravenswood. The thriving village is now quiet and empty. The young Erik wants to ride with Beowulf and his men, but Beowulf will not allow it. There is clear tension between Beowulf and Heardred, resulting from the fact that Heardred’s mother died while under Beowulf’s protection earlier that year. It was due to this that the King married again, and why he chose Hæreth.
1) THE BATTLE OF RAVENSWOOD - The Geats mount up and ride out, pressing their steeds to the limit through a lush river valley and on towards a dense forest. At Ravenswood the Geat army is surrounded and vastly outnumbered, being harassed and heckled by the Swedes. Hygelac is hard pressed on all sides and things look grim for them. But beyond all hope Beowulf and his men return, breaking through the lines and turning the tide.
2) BATTLE PLANS - After a brief reunion, Beowulf holds council with Hygelac to determine the next step. Hæreth has been taken to the fortress of Upsala, and Beowulf demands that they press on to rescue her. But Hygelac says they are outnumbered and cannot hope to mount a siege. They must, Beowulf replies, and he’ll go alone if he has to. The two butt heads but ultimately, plans for a siege are laid, and set in motion. Beowulf has a great deal of anger towards the King, but is also his subject and kinsman. Thus, his loyalties are at odds.
3) THE SIEGE OF UPSALA - The Geats surround and lay siege to the great fortress of the Swedish King. The Geats batter the defenses relentlessly but are hard put to it, and the battle rages from side to side. Throughout this sequence the viewpoint shifts between the battle outside and the Queen inside. Eventually, Ongentheow is slain and the gates burned. Beowulf mounts the rescue of Hæreth, and the two are reunited in a passionate (and public) embrace, their emotions overcoming any sense of decorum. The love is still strong, but is quickly hidden again. The Geats return home victorious.
1) WELCOME HOME - Returning to Götaborg, the Geats finally get to celebrate Beowulf’s success, now a dual celebration due to the slaying of Ongentheow. Everyone but Beowulf rejoices in this. He knows that the Swedes will seek to avenge this death. “But not today!” is Hygelac’s reply. They will need to reorganize under a new leader, the eldest son Othere will be King now. He is weak and mild, and little threat to them. But Onela will urge him on, and they have a new presence at court: Unferth. “Perhaps I should marry my daughter to him instead!” scoffs the King.
2) BEARER OF BAD NEWS - Beowulf leaves the party, having had enough. He heads off down the road towards Hondscio’s farm and is quickly joined by Hæreth. The two visit Hondscio’s widow Hannah, and Beowulf offers to marry her. She declines, but he promises to help her tend the farm and help her raise her child. Hæreth and Beowulf walk home under a star-filled sky, with the aurora borealis in full bloom. On the edge of Beowulf’s farmstead the two stop at the tomb of Beowulf’s mother. Meteors flash across the sky, ominous portents of some dread event to come. There is much tension in the air as they part.
3) SOMETHING LIKE A NORMAL LIFE - Beowulf attempts to get his life back in order, working both his farm and Hannah’s, repairing the outbuildings and tools. The village is back in full swing, a thriving market town filled with vendors hawking their produce and wares. Summer passes by.
1) HYGELAC’S GREED - With his kingdom prospering and no wars underway, Hygelac determines to go on a raiding expedition in the south, where he has heard of vast riches in the land of the Frisians and Franks, which has been divided among the sons of Clovis. Beowulf is against this, but must comply, owing allegiance to his King. He counsels against it, as he expects an attack from the Swedes at any time. Hygelac scoffs and mocks his “cowardice”. Beowulf is forced to accompany him, but he sends some of his own men away on “errands”.
2) THE VIKING EXPEDITION - The Geats sail south with a fleet of warships, attacking and burning innocent farmsteads along the way, including the market port of Alborg in Denmark. Beowulf avoids conflict as much as possible, and is reprimanded for it, being relegated to the status of a deckhand.
3) THE FRISIAN DISASTER - This culminates in a disastrous battle in which the Frisians fight back desperately to defend their homes and kin, and Beowulf realizes they are just like him. He stands dead still in the middle of the raging battle, watching the destruction with sadness, unmoving as the men are cut down around him. He watches as his King is slain before his eyes, locking eyes with the dying kinsman. He is shot with several arrows and doesn’t even flinch, completely unfeeling. He walks off the battlefield, leaving the dead and dying behind.
1) BEOWULF’S RECOVERY - Several weeks later Beowulf washes up onto the shores at Götaborg, wounded and nearly dead. Hæreth nurses him back to health, until at last he can tell with horror the tale of Hygelac’s fall. At this news, Hæreth offers the crown to Beowulf, but he declines it in favor of the rightful heir, Heardred. This is an incredibly difficult decision, and although the right one. Instead, he will act as regent until the young king is old enough to rule alone. Thus, Heardred is crowned, and Beowulf remains a faithful subject.
2) OTHERE VENDEL-CROW - Meanwhile, in Sweden, Onela and Unferth have been busy. Unable to persuade their new king to attack the Geats to avenge Ongentheow’s death, they plot to overthrow him. Othere is captured by men loyal to Onela - and bought off by Unferth - and staked to his own burial mound in Vendel, where he is eaten alive by crows, thus gaining his moniker. Othere’s two young sons, Eanmund and Eadgils, flee from certain death at the hands of their uncle, the new King of Swede-Land.
3) ARRIVAL OF EANMUND & EADGILS - As the new boy-king plans his own attack on the Swedes, against Beowulf advice, the fugitive brothers arrive, seeking refuge. Heardred sees this as a perfect opportunity to defeat the Swedes, using their own against them. Onela is sure to come for them, and when he does we’ll kill them all.
4) SIEGE OF GEATBURG - As expected, the Swedes attack under Onela’s command, but Beowulf is ready for them, and they are beaten back. But in his arrogance and pride Heardred pursues them, wanting to slay the Swedish king himself. This proves to be his demise. In the battle as well, Wiglaf is forced to slay his own father Weohstan, a half-Swede in the service of Onela, as it is he who slays Heardred. Overcome by anger, Beowulf pursues the Swedes against his better judgment. He is now the rightful King of the Geats, but he doesn’t care.
1) CHASE TO THE LAKE - Beowulf’s anger gets the best of him as the Geats pursue the retreating Swedes right into a trap. The main force of Swedes has remained hidden, ambushing the Geats as they enter a narrow river valley. Beowulf and his men fight valiantly, barely escaping with their lives.
2) THE LAKE OF FIRE - With his few remaining men, Beowulf hatches a plan. Under cover of night they surround the Swedish camp at the edge of Lake Vænír, setting the forest alight and forcing them onto the frozen ice. There they fight a pitched battle, greatly outnumbered. Feigning retreat, they draw the Swedes after them. At Beowulf’s signal, archers fire burning arrows into the Swedish army, setting alight a pool of oil poured there during the night. The ice melts out from under the Swedes, who are caught between fire and ice. Eadgils returns home to Sweden, vowing peace between their nations.
1) THE KING CROWNED - Beowulf is crowned King of the Geats in a grand ceremony before the entire population of his nation, and many others besides. Lavish gifts are bestowed upon everyone, and Beowulf showers the common people with wealth. Generosity will be his platform, kindness his policy, peace his promise.
2) THE WEDDING CEREMONY - In a smaller, private ceremony, Beowulf and Hæreth are wed at long last. The two finally profess their eternal love for one another, and plight their troth in the traditional Norse manner, with the blessing of the gods. The people are genuinely happy, and a reign of peaceful prosperity seems assured.
1) A THIEF IN THE NIGHT - Meanwhile, Unferth seeks shelter for the night in a nearby cave at the edge of the barrow fields. Inside, he finds a wondrous treasure hoard, but it’s guarded by a great dragon. Quietly, he attempts to steal away with some of the riches, but awakens the dragon in the process. He runs from the cave, engulfed in a spout of flame.
2) THE LOVE SCENE - The lovers embrace for the first and last time, surrounded by the golden glow of candlelit riches. Hygelac had hoarded his treasures too.
3) THE WRATH OF THE DRAGON - A great commotion outside interrupts their lovemaking, and Beowulf goes to the window to see the village under attack by a great fire drake. The longhouses are on fire and the people run about frantically trying to put them out, or merely flee from the onslaught. Beowulf races to the battlements, calling the archers to arms, hefting a huge bow himself in an attempt to slay the flying beast, but to no avail. The village destroyed, the dragon soars away in the night, leaving the town in ruins.
1) BEOWULF’S RESOLVE - Beowulf, as the protector of his people, resolves to slay the dragon, and orders a great iron shield constructed. Hæreth has a premonition of doom, seeing Beowulf consumed in flames, and tries to prevent him from going, but he will not yield. It is his duty, and he cannot neglect it. He tries to make light with jokes, saying he’s not dead yet, that there is a chance he might actually defeat the dragon, slim though it may be. She doesn’t tell him about her vision. They kiss for the last time and part, never to see one another alive again.
2) MARCH TO THE MOUND - Beowulf sets out with the handful of men remaining to him, most of them now scarred and debilitated, battered and broken shadows of the men they once were. They make a good show of their support and urge Beowulf on to his glory, but don’t believe he can hope to win out against such a creature. Only Wiglaf stands firm by his side.
3) THE DRAGON BATTLE - Beowulf gives a parting speech and bravely turns to face his final foe, calling it out in mocking and comic terms. He’s determined not to give in or go down easy. He’ll die proud and fierce, fighting to the end. Which is exactly what he does. Ultimately, in his moment of greatest need, only Wiglaf comes to his aid, the remaining men fleeing for cover from the fiery winged demon. Beowulf slays the dragon - with Wiglaf’s help - but is in turn mortally wounded by it. He says his last words and hands his kingdom over to the loyal thane.
1) THE FUNERAL PROCESSION - The Geats carry Beowulf’s body to the edge of Eagle’s Cliff, opposite the cave entrance. There they lay him in a great ship, loaded with all his earthly possessions.
2) WIGLAF’S LAMENT - Wiglaf mourns for their nation, which must now surely fall into ruin without the protection of their fearless leader. He rebukes the men for their cowardice and prophesies their doom.
3) HÆRETH’S FAREWELL - Hæreth is given a lighted torch, with which she sets the ship aflame, sending Beowulf on his final voyage into the unknown. With a few parting words, she turns and walks into the flames as the smoke mounts into the sky.
DANES GEATS SWEDES GAULS