Beowulf is the key that unlocks an ancient riddle.

Beowulf is a composite name – a kenning.

Bee Wolf

Bee Hunter

Bear, the animal that has an insatiable love of honey.

Did Beowulf have this name for his bearlike strength or for his ability to find bees’ nests and skill at extracting the honey?

Certainly Beowulf is described as having great strength when he fought with Grendel but why was he not able to kill the monster outright?

After a wild battle Grendel lost a limb and crawled away to die from loss of blood.

Beowulf is left holding a poison claw that he hangs up for all to see.

There have been many attempts by artists to try to picture Grendel and animate him even in films. The poem does not describe him in any detail apart from his arm and clawed hand that was wrenched out of its socket. He was a shadowy creature that some believed was a personification of evil.

“It was then that this monster, who moved by spite

against human kind, had caused so much harm

– so feuding with God – found at last

that flesh and blood were to fail him in the end;

for Hygelac’s great-hearted kinsman

had him by the hand; and hateful to each

was the breath of the other. A breach in the giant

flesh-frame showed then, shoulder muscles

sprang apart, there was a snapping of the tendons,

bone-locks burst. To Beowulf the glory

of this fight was granted; Grndel’s lot

to flee the slopes fen-ward with flagging heart,

to a den where he knew there could be no relief,

no refuge for a life at its very last stage,

whose surrender-day had dawned….

As a signal to all

the hero hung up the hand, the arm

and torn-off shoulder, the entire limb,

Grendel’s whole grip, below the gable of the roof.”

Grendel – as a riddle.

What fierce creature dies when it leaves its claw in your hand?

woodcut dragon 1610

Here is a visual riddle.