Beowulf got ready,
donned his war-gear, indifferent to death;
his mighty, hand-forged, fine-webbed mail
would soon meet with the menace underwater.
It would keep the bone-cage of his body safe:
. . .
[His helmet] was of beaten gold,
princely headgear hooped and hasped
by a weapon-smith who had worked wonders. . . .
These lines describe Beowulf’s preparation
for his battle with Grendel’s mother. The treatment of weaponry
and armor is of great importance to the
This passage is also characteristic in its exposition
of the idea of fate. The poet’s narration, though always in the
past tense, often looks ahead to what will happen either in the
immediate future—in the next few lines of the poem, even—or in the
long term. The poet tells us, for example, that Beowulf’s armor
“would keep the bone-cage of his body safe.” Though this tendency
violates the reader’s expectation that a narrator won’t give away
what will happen next, the poem is composed with a different set
of literary expectations in mind. According to the warrior culture
in which the poem is set, part of the meaning of fate is that future
events are already contained in the present. To the