Beowulf (/ˈbeɪəˌwʊlf/; Old English: Bēoƿulf [ˈbeːo̯wʊlf]) is a legendary Geatish hero in the epic poem named after him, one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the English language.
When King Hroðgar, his wife Wealhþeow, and his court were terrorized by the monstrous Grendel, Beowulf left Geatland (West Götaland) and sailed to Zealand with fourteen warriors in order to pay his father's debt. During the night, Grendel arrived to attack the sleeping men and devoured one of the other Geats before seizing Beowulf. As no manmade weapon could harm Grendel, Beowulf fought back with his bare hands and tore off the beast's arm. Grendel fled back to the bog to die from his wound, and his arm was attached to the wall of Heorot. The next day, Beowulf was lauded and a skald (scop) sang and compared Beowulf with the hero Sigmund.
However, during the following night Grendel's mother arrived to avenge her son's death and collect weregild. As Beowulf slept in a different building he could not stop her. He resolved to descend into the bog in order to kill her. They fought beside Grendel's corpse, and Beowulf finally won with the aid of an enchanted giant sword stolen from the lair's plunder.
Beowulf ruled the Geats for 50 years, until his realm was terrorized by a dragon after a thief stole a golden cup from its hoard of treasure. After unsuccessfully attacking the dragon with his thegns, Beowulf decided to pursue the monster into its lair at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf dared join him. Beowulf finally slew the dragon by cutting it in half with a seax, but was mortally wounded by being stabbed with the dragon's poisonous horn. Dying, he was carried out by Wiglaf and with his last breaths named Wiglaf his rightful heir. He was buried in a barrow by the sea.