Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king of the Geats.After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle.

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The warriors form a kind of brotherhood linked by loyalty to their lord.

Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and his warriors.

Beowulf is considered an epic poem in that the main character is a hero who travels great distances to prove his strength at impossible odds against supernatural demons and beasts.

The poem also begins in medias res or simply, "in the middle of things", which is a characteristic of the epics of antiquity.

Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel, abandon Heorot.

Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel.

He attacks the dragon with the help of his thegns or servants, but they do not succeed.

Beowulf decides to follow the dragon to its lair at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf, whose name means "remnant of valour", dares to join him.

After his death, his attendants cremate his body and erect a tower on a headland in his memory.

The full poem survives in the manuscript known as the Nowell Codex.

Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a giant's sword that he found in her lair.