Beowulf vs. Grendel’s Mother
The celebration of Beowulf’s victory against Grendel was like an Anglo-Saxon rock star: it partied incredibly hard and died young.
The very next night, after Hrothgar’s people and Beowulf’s thanes went to sleep in Herot, Grendel’s mother crept in and slaughtered a good portion of the partygoers. After all the rewards that had been heaped on Beowulf for slaying Grendel, he felt obligated to help Hrothgar again, and in the morning everyone who could hold a sword set out to track Grendel’s mother to her lair.
Beowulf and the Geats and Hrothgar and his Danes followed her tracks to the water, frothing red with blood, and filled to the brim with monsters. Hrothgar himself shot and killed one aquatic-beast with an arrow, but no one was especially eager to follow Grendel’s mother into her wet home. Luckily, “bloody and full of monsters” is exactly how Beowulf gets his bath-time on. In he jumped, thrashing about with an ancestral sword lent him by one of Hrothgar’s men. His armour protected him from the claws and tusks of the sea-beasts, but once Grendel’s mother grappled him and dragged him into her own monstrous hall the game changed entirely; the gifted sword broke against her magic hide, and she hit him hard enough to send the hero sprawling.
From his new vantage point on the ground, Beowulf spotted a magic sword among the hoarded treasure splayed around the hall. Lose one enchanted blade, find another; the universe never closes a door without opening a window, I guess. It was an ancient sword of the Eotens (giants) that Beowulf managed to lift with his vast strength, and in one mighty swing he finished the fight by decapitating his foe. His blade melted like ice under her corrupted blood, so Beowulf returned victorious with her head as his only trophy. In fact, it was a two-for-one head sale that day: the corpse of Grendel had been displayed by the late Grendel’s Mom in her cavernous abode as an attempt to brighten up the place, and it was just begging to have its head removed.
So finally, up comes Beowulf after nine hours to at last celebrate his victory and the safety of the Danes. There aren’t words in the English language to accurately describe how much mead was consumed that night, but most scholars estimate is was close to “a buttload.”