Beowulf was a famous Anglo-Saxon poem.
It is not know who wrote Beowulf as it was composed orally and passed on by word of mouth for hundreds of years.
We can learn a lot about Anglo-Saxon culture from the poem, particularly about the 'heroic code' of loyalty to one's leader and bravery in battle.
Here is a summary of the poem:
- A grim and greedy monster Grendel raids the King's hall at night, eating the warriors as they lie asleep, drunk after their feasting.
- The hero Beowulf slays the evil creature but the following night Grendel's mother erupts from the lake in which she lives to seek revenge.
- Beowulf follows her into the lake and after a fierce battle kills her with his magic sword.
- Many years later Beowulf, who is now a king himself, has to face a dragon which has been terrorising the countryside.
- A golden cup has been stolen from the dragon's hoard and the dragon flies out at night to set fire to the fields and villages.
- Beowulf seeks the dragon and kills it, but is wounded in battle and dies.
- His people bury him with his treasure and light a pyre (bonfire) at his funeral.