Quotes from Chapter V: Beowulf of Robert Nye’s Beowulf: A New Telling. Be sure to catch the first, second, third, and fourth chapter’s highlights if you haven’t already.
I’ve also got a pexels collection where you can check out all the photos (and more) that I’ve gathered for this chapter’s moodboard.
Page numbers listed herein may not match the page numbers in yours.
- 25: Hrothgar’s hair, once red as fire, had turned white with worry about Grendel. His heart was sickened by slaughter. So many men had waited in hall Heorot to face the fiend, and been eaten for their courage, that the king had come to think he was being punished for his pride in building such a magnificence. He rested his jutting jaw on his hand, and welcomed Beowulf without much confidence.
- 25, Beowulf speaking: “[…T]he bat knows well enough where he is going in the night, and so do I.”
- 26: Beowulf sat down on the steps by the king’s throne. His manner was relaxed and easy. Hrothgar could not help liking this plain young man―there was such an air of simplicity about him. He shuddered and touched the scars on his own face―livid marks made by Grendel’s claws―as he thought what the monster would do to that simplicity.
Beowulf was eating an apple. He bit into it with cheerful determination. The tips of his fingers were square. Hrothgar noticed how strong his wrists were.
- 27: Beowulf laughed. Hrothgay thought that it was a long time since he had heard such a free and easy sound in hall Heorot.
- 27: “I don’t peel them myself,” [Beowulf] said. “Things seem to lose something with their skins off, don’t you think? But every man to his own taste.”
- 28: Some of the Geats guffawed, delighted by their leader’s quick wit. The Danes laughed too. Unferth was unpopular, and they liked the way this mild-tempered stranger had put him in his place. Unferth could not stand it.
- 28: “You think that bad brings forth bad only, and that the good man should hold apart from it. I suggest that things aren’t so simple, so black and white. Even the wickedest person can do good for someone. The truly good man finds good where he can.”
- 28: “Bad teeth don’t only belong to witches. I have some myself.” He opened his mouth and pointed.
- 29: “Well,” said Wealhtheow, “I think that Beowulf is trying to show us that in order to overcome evil, we have to admit to a little bit of it in ourselves. He can eat the witch’s apple and come to no harm, because he has sufficient strength of character to find the good in it.”
“Strength?” scoffed Unferth. “Bat’s eyes and rat’s teeth!”
“Quite so,” said Wealhtheow. “He admits to his weaknesses and in the admitting they become strengths. This is no usual kind of hero.”
Hrothgar nodded thoughtfully. “I’m inclined to agree with you, my love, although reasoning things out isn’t my best point, and I can’t pretend to have understood all this apple business as readily as you have.”
- 30: [Hrothgar] could not help thinking of the witch, but neither could he help admitting that the apple was delicious. “It’s fine and ripe,” he said at last, smacking his lips. “Neither too sour nor too sweet.”
- 30, Unferth speaking: Not a pretty story, is it, Beowulf?
- 30-31: After Unferth’s outburst some of the Geats wanted to throttle him, they were so furious at this insult to their leader. But Beowulf walked among them coolly, advising restraint. Hrothgar shifted about uneasily on his throne, glaring at Unferth, wanting to apologize to Beowulf for his henchman’s uncouth behavior. But Queen Wealhtheow caught at his sleeve and whispered to him to wait and see what Beowulf had to say. “It’s a kind of test,” she murmured behind her hand. “So far everything has gone the stranger’s way. Let’s watch how he deals with this.”
Beowulf came and stood before them. His face was pale. His eyes had a faraway look. He spoke with a straightforward seriousness that made everyone fall silent. His voice echoed compellingly in the hushed hall.
- 32-33: King Hrothgar was stirred by the telling of such brave deeds. He was a warrior at heart, and here was something he could easily understand and appreciate. He commanded for his servants to prepare a banquet fit for a hero. The feasting and drinking went on for hours.
- 33-34: Long shadows crept into hall Heorot. Night was coming on. Some of the Danes grew restless and apprehensive. They did not like to show their fear of Grendel, but their hands quivered where they held the drinking-horns, and their eyes kept returning to the door.
Hrothgar consulted Wealhtheow. Then he said to Beowulf: “You are determined to face Grendel, come what may?”
“I am,” said Beowulf quietly.
“What is your plan?”
“The best plan,” said Beowulf. “No plan.”
Hrothgar shook his head. “You are the bravest man I have ever met,” he said, standing up to salute his guest. “If anyone can kill Grendel, it is you.” He suddenly noticed something about Beowulf that had escaped his attention before. “Where is your sword?” he asked.
Beowulf shrugged. “My sword? Oh, I left it in the sun somewhere. I need no sword.”
“No sword! But how―?”
“Does Grendel use a sword?” demanded Beowulf.
“Of course not. But he will eat―”
“Have swords been any good against him in the past?” Beowulf pursued relentlessly.
Hrothgar had to admit that they had not. But he could not see how one man, however good and strong, dared face the fiend without weapons.
Beowulf held up his hands. “Here are weapons enough,” he said. “I put more trust in these ten fingers than in a hundred swords.
- 34-35: Wealhtheow silenced her husband’s objections. She brought the banquet to a close by giving Beowulf a golden cup to drink from.
Beowulf drank deep, his eyes not leaving hers.
He handed the cup back to her and smiled as though he had taken sustenance from the deepest well in the world.
Then, as the Danes were about to leave, the night already rustling at Hall Heorot’s doors, Unferth surprised them all, and perhaps himself, by saying: “I am going to stay. I want to see what happens when this fool tries to shake hands with Grendel.”
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- Homework (links in this piece):
- HFE productions.
- pexels collection ― Robert Nye’s Beowulf: A New Telling.
- spotify playlist for this book.
- youtube playlist for this book.
- @GiveBatsABreak: Bats are not under the cover of night committing crimes for which it should be ashamed, but providing invaluable services to our ecosystems and communities.
- HFE productions.