Five Key Questions

1) Why does Beowulf want to fight Grendel?

Beowulf wants to fight Grendel in order to win treasure and, more importantly, fame (which he calls a warrior’s “best bulwark” [l.1389]). Under the ancient Northern European warrior code, a warrior should seek out the most challenging opponents he can find, in order to enhance his own reputation. Hrothgar suggests that Beowulf may have chosen to fight Grendel in order to discharge a debt to him, when he tells the story of paying a large sum of money on Beowulf’s father’s behalf. However, Hrothgar may simply be trying to save face: it is embarrassing for him to depend on Beowulf’s help.