Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
HOW BEOWULF OVERCAME THE WATER WITCH
 Down and down and down Beowulf dived. It seemed to him
that he dived for a whole day's space ere he reached the
bottom of that dark lake.
But as soon as he touched the water, the grim and greedy
Water Witch knew by the movement of the waves that a
mortal man was coming. So she made ready to seize the
daring one in her horrid clutches.
No sooner then did Beowulf near the bottom than he was
grasped by long and skinny fingers. The fingers crushed
him, and tore at him, but so strong and trusty was his
coat of mail that the Water Witch could in no wise hurt
 Then seeing that she could not so easily as she had
hoped harm him, she dragged him into her dwelling. And
so fast was Beowulf in her clutches that he could not
unsheath his sword.
As the Water Witch dragged Beowulf along, wondrous
sea-brutes followed them. Beasts they were with terrible
tusks, shining scales and sharp fins. With these they
attacked the hero so fiercely that his armour was rent,
yet was he unwounded.
At last the Water Witch reached a great cave. Here there
was no water, and a fire burned with a strange weird
flame, lighting up the vast dim place.
Then by the pale light of the goblin fire Beowulf saw
that it was no other than Grendel's mother, the Water
Witch, who held him. And he knew that the time for
battle had come.
With a mighty effort he wrenched
him-  self free. Then
drawing the sword Hrunting which Hunferth had given him,
he dealt with it many great blows. But all his strength
was vain. Hrunting, so famous in many battles, was
useless against the Water Witch. No harm could the
warrior do to her.
Then in wrath Beowulf threw the shining blade upon the
ground. He would trust no more in weapons but with his
hands alone would he fight.
Seizing the Water Witch by the shoulders, he dragged her
downwards. But she grappled with him fiercely. Then was
there a fearful fight in that dim hall, deep under the
water, far from all hope of help.
Back and forth the two swayed, the strong warrior in
armour and the direful Water Witch. So strong was she
that at last she bore him to the ground and
 kneeled upon
his breast. She drew her dagger. Now she would avenge
her son, her only son.
She bore him to the ground and kneeled upon his breast
The dagger shone and fell again and yet again. And then
truly Beowulf's last hour had come had his armour not
been of such trusty steel. But through it neither point
nor edge of dagger might pierce. The blows of the Water
Witch were all in vain, and again Beowulf sprang to his
And now among the many weapons with which the walls were
hung, Beowulf saw a huge sword. It seemed the work of
giants. Its edge was keen and bright, the hilt of
Quickly Beowulf grasped the mighty weapon. And now
fighting for his very life he swung it fiercely, and
smote with fury.
Down upon the floor sank the Water Witch, and from the
red-dyed blade a
 sudden flame shone out, and all the
cave was lighted up.
Curiously Beowulf gazed around him. Dead at his feet lay
the Water Witch, and hard by on a couch lay the body of
Then Beowulf was minded to bear away with him some
prize. So once more swinging the great sword, he smote
off the Ogre's head.
Meanwhile far up above beyond the water-waves Hrothgar
and his men and all Beowulf's comrades sat waiting and
watching. And now as Beowulf smote off Grendel's head
they saw the waves all dyed with blood.
Then the old men shook their heads and spoke together.
They talked sadly of the brave champion who had gone
alone beneath that awful water. For now that they saw
the waves red-dyed they
 had no longer hope that he would
ever return. Nay, these red and turgid waters seemed to
prove to them that the Water Witch had overcome Beowulf
and torn him in pieces.
So as the hours passed, and Beowulf came no more,
Hrothgar arose, and he and all his warriors sadly wended
their way homeward. Nevermore did they hope to see the
But Beowulf's comrades would not go. Sad at heart they
sat by the lake's edge gazing into the water, wishing,
but hardly hoping, that they might see their dear lord
And now far beneath the dark waves a strange thing
happened. As Beowulf struck off the head of Grendel, the
great sword began to melt away. More quickly than ice
when the thaw is come melted the shining steel, until
there was nothing
 left but the golden hilt which Beowulf
held in his hand. Such was the poison of the Ogre's
Beowulf gazed in wonder at the miracle. Then he made
haste to be gone. All around him lay great treasure.
Gold and gems gleamed in the pale firelight. Yet of it
all Beowulf took nothing save the hilt of the sword
wherewith he had slain the Water Witch.
Hunferth's sword, Hrunting, he once more hung at his
side, then, with the grisly head of Grendel in his hand,
he dived up through the waves. And as he swam through
it, all the water was made pure and clear again, for the
power of the grim Ogre was over for ever.
Long time Beowulf swam upwards, but at last he reached
the surface and sprang to land. Then round him, greatly
rejoicing, crowded his thanes. Quickly they
 loosed his
helmet and coat of mail, and joyed to find that he had
suffered no hurt.
They carried with them the hideous head of Grendel
Then right merrily they turned back to Hart Hall. With
them they carried the hideous head of Grendel, which was
so huge and heavy that it had need of four of them to
bear it. Yet gladly they bore it, rejoicing as they went
at the return of their master.