As the warriors sleep in the mead-hall, Grendel’s mother, a horrible monster in her own right, descends on Heorot in a frenzy of grief and rage, seeking vengeance for her son’s death. Whenshe falls upon and seizes a sleeping man, the noise wakes the others. The warriors seize their swords and rush toward her. The monster panics and flees, still carrying her victim, Hrothgar’s trustedadviser, Aeschere, in her grasp. Beowulf, having been given other sleeping quarters, is away from Heorot when Grendel’s mother makes her raid. By the time he arrives at the hall, she is gone. Thewarriors discover that she has stolen Grendel’s arm as well.
Devastated with grief over the loss of his friend and counselor, Hrothgar summons Beowulf and explains what has occurred. He entreats Beowulf toseek out and kill Grendel’s mother, describing the horrible, swampy wood where she keeps her lair. The place has a magical quality. The water burns and the bottom of the mere, or lake, has never beenreached. Even the animals seem to be afraid of the water there.
Hrothgar tells Beowulf that he must depend on him a second time to rid Heorot of a demon. He says that he will give him chests of goldif he rises to the challenge. Beowulf agrees to the fight, reassuring Hrothgar that Grendel’s mother won’t get away. The warriors mount up and ride into the fens, following the tracks of their enemy.When they reach a cliff’s edge, they discover Aeschere’s head lying on the ground. The scene below is horrifying: in the murky water, serpents and sea-dragons writhe and roil. Beowulf slays one beastwith an arrow.
Beowulf, “indifferent to death,” prepares himself for combat by donning his armor and girding himself with weapons (1442). Unferth loans him the great and seasoned sword Hrunting,which has never failed in any battle. Beowulf speaks, asking Hrothgar to take care of the Geats and return his property to Hygelac if he, Beowulf, should be killed. He also bequeaths his own sword...