| Stories of Beowulf Told to the Children|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|The Anglo-Saxon saga retold in excellent English prose, with the heroic qualities emphasized. Relates how Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons, came to Daneland and how he overcame Grendel, the ogre, and the waterwitch; also how the fire dragon warred with the Goth folk and how Beowulf fought his last fight. Ages 8-10 |
HOW THE WATER WITCH WARRED WITH THE DANE FOLK
 And now while the people came and went, marvelling and
praising the skill of him who had overcome the Goblin,
men and women hurried hither and thither making gay the
The carving and gem work was much broken and destroyed
by the fearful combat which had taken place within. The
roof alone was quite unhurt. But beautiful tapestries
gleaming with gold and colours were hung upon the walls,
silken banners and embroideries were spread upon the
benches, until the whole Hall glowed in splendour.
 Then came the king with all his knights and nobles to
the great feast which was prepared. Never was there more
splendid banquet. Hart Hall from end to end was filled
with friends, and laughter, and rejoicing sounded
Then when the feasting was over Hrothgar gave to Beowulf
rich presents. A splendid banner he gave him richly
sewed with gold, a helmet and coat of mail, a sword the
hilt of which was all of twisted gold.
Eight splendid horses, too, were led into the court
about the Hall. Their harness was all of gold, and upon
one was a saddle gaily decorated and finely adorned with
silver. It was the saddle upon which Hrothgar himself
rode when he went forth to battle.
All these the king gave to Beowulf, and much wealth
 And to his companions also, to the mighty heroes who
were with their master, great treasure was given of
swords and gold. Also for the man whom Grendel had slain
Hrothgar ordered that much gold should be paid.
Then when the present-giving was over, the minstrel took
his harp and sang. He sang of love and battle, and of
the mighty deeds of heroes.
The singing ceased, and the noise of laughter and
merriment burst forth once more. Around the board the
cup-bearers carried the wine in vessels wondrously
Then came Queen Wealtheow forth once more, clad in
splendid robes, wearing a golden crown upon her head,
bearing in her hand a golden cup.
To the king she went where he sat with his sons and
Beowulf beside him.
 "Accept this cup, my beloved Lord," she said, "and be
thou happy. Far and near now hast thou peace. Hart Hall
is cleansed of the Evil One."
Then to Beowulf she turned bearing the cup to him with
friendly words. At his feet she laid a rich dress with
bracelets and a collar of fine gold.
"Take this collar, dear Beowulf," she said, "and this
mantle. Long mayest thou wear them and enjoy life. A
deed hast thou done this night that shall be remembered
for all time. Far as the seas circle the land shall it
be told of thee. Take thou my thanks, and be thou a
friend to my sons."
Then the queen went again to her place and sat beside
Once more there was song and laughter throughout the
Hall until the shadows of evening fell. Then the king
 arose, and went forth to rest, each to his
own chamber. But the Dane lords, as they had done so
often before in days gone by, spread their beds and
pillows upon the floor of the great Hall. For now that
the Ogre was dead they had no more fear.
At the head of his bed each man placed his shield. Upon
the bench near him stood his helmet, his sword and spear
and coat of mail. Then each man lay down to rest secure
and happy. For was not the terrible giant slain? No more
was there need to watch and fear.
So silence and darkness fell upon the Hall, and all men
sank to sleep.
But out on the wide moorland, far away in the Water
Dragon's lake, there was one who waked and mourned. Over
the dead body of her son Grendel's mother wept, desiring
 Very terrible was this Water Witch to look upon. Almost
as fearful as her wicked son she was. And as the
darkness fell upon the land she crept forth across the
moorland to Hart Hall.
On and on she crept until she reached the door. Then in
she rushed among the sleeping warriors, eager for
slaughter. The fear and confusion were great. A wild cry
rang through the Hall, and each man sprang to his feet
seizing his sword and shield.
Then the Water Witch, finding herself discovered, made
haste to be gone. No mind had she to face these swords
and spears. But ere she went she stretched forth her
hand and seized a warrior, and tightly holding him, she
carried him off to the moor. And though her haste to be
gone was great she found yet time to seize the hand of
Grendel and take it with her to her dark dwelling.
 Great was the sound of woe throughout the Hall. For the
warrior whom the Water Witch had carried off was a dear
comrade of the king. He was the best beloved of all
Now when messengers came running in all haste to the old
king with the direful news, he was filled with grief and
anger. His joy at the death of Grendel was all dashed
with grief for the loss of his friend.
"Oh that Beowulf had been there," he moaned.
Then all men's thoughts turned to Beowulf. Quickly they
ran to fetch him, and he, waked thus suddenly out of his
sleep, came with his comrades wonderingly to the king
where he awaited them.
The sun had not yet risen, and all the Hall was dim in
grey shadow, as Beowulf and his men marched through it,
 the stillness with the clang of their weapons
"My lord king," said Beowulf, as he reached the
Gift-seat, "hath the night not passed fair and
pleasantly with thee? Is some evil chance befallen that
thy messengers seek me thus early?"
Hrothgar leaned his head upon his hand and sighed.
"Ask not thou of happiness," he moaned. "Sorrow is
renewed to the Dane folk. My dearest comrade is dead, my
friend and counsellor. Thou didst slay Grendel
yesternight, but one hath come to avenge him, even his
mother. She it is who hath carried off my dear warrior
to slay and devour him in her dwelling.
"Scarce a mile hence lieth that grim lake. Dank trees
overshadow it and no man knoweth its depth, for all shun
the gloomy place. Yet if thou durst, seek it out. Rid me
of this Water Witch, avenge
 there the death of my
comrade, and with treasure and twisted gold will I
reward thee," and overcome with grief Hrothgar ceased
"Sorrow not, O king," replied Beowulf. "It is ever
better to avenge than to grieve for one's friend. To
each of us must death come, and well for him then who
hath done justice while he yet lived. Arise, O king, let
us see quickly the track of Grendel's kin. I promise
thee she shall not escape. Do thou but have patience
this day, that only do I ask of thee."
Then up sprang the aged king. "May the gods be praised," he
cried, "who have sent me such a man."
Quickly he gave orders that horses should be brought,
and mounting, he rode forth with Beowulf. After them
came a great train of warriors as across the moor they
went, following the track of the Water Witch to her
 By rocky gorges and lonely ways over the murky moor they
went, following always the gory track of the foe. At
length they came to the place where gloomy trees hung
over red and troubled waters. Upon the bank lay the head
of that Dane warrior, Hrothgar's dear friend, and at the
sight of it the knights were again filled with woe.
Upon the dark water there swam strange Sea Dragons, many
kinds of snakes and savage worms. But when they saw the
company of Danes upon the bank, and heard the blast of
the war-horn, they fled swimming away, diving into the
Yet ere they vanished Beowulf drew his bow and shot one
of them. Then quickly with boar-spears and hooks the
warriors drew him to land, and as he lay there dead they
gazed in wonder upon the grisly monster.
 And now once more did Beowulf prepare himself for
battle. He wore his trusty coat of steel, and upon his
head was a wondrously wrought helmet, through which no
sword might bite.
Then as Beowulf made ready, Hunferth came to him. In his
hand he bare an ancient and famous sword named Hrunting.
The edge of it was stained with poisonous twigs and
hardened in gore. Never had it failed a man, who
carrying it went forth to ways of terror and war. Many
valiant deeds had it wrought.
And now Hunferth, remembering how he had taunted
Beowulf, and in sorrow at the memory, brought the famous
sword to the Goth hero.
Hunferth himself durst not venture his life amid the
waves to do the deed, and thus fame was lost to him. But
he was now eager to aid Beowulf. And the Goth,
thought no longer of Hunferth's taunting words, received
the sword right gladly.
Then Beowulf turned to King Hrothgar. "I am ready, O
prince," he said, "for my journey. Let me but first call
to thy mind what we have already spoken. If I for thy
need lose my life, be thou a friend to my fellow-thanes.
And do thou also send the treasure which thou hast given
unto me to my king, Hygelac. Then by that gold may he
know that I did fight manfully, and found in thee a
"But to Hunferth I pray thee to give the curious
war-sword which is among thy gifts, for he is a right
noble warrior. With his Hrunting I will work renown, or
death shall take me."
Then, waiting for no answer, Beowulf plunged into the
dark lake and was lost to sight.
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