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Beowulf vs. Dragon

Beowulf bids farewell to his men and sets off wearing a mail-shirt and a helmet to fight the dragon. He shouts a challenge to his opponent, who emerges from the earth. Man and dragon grapple and wrestle amid sheets of fire. Beowulf hacks with his sword against the dragon’s thick scales, but his strength is clearly not what it once was. As the flames billow, Beowulf’s companions run in terror. Only one, Wiglaf, feels enough loyalty to come to the aid of his king. Wiglaf chides the other warriors, reminding them of their oaths of loyal service to Beowulf. Now the time has come when their loyalty will be tested, Wiglaf declares, and he goes by himself to assist his lord. Beowulf strikes the dragon in the head with his great sword Naegling, but the sword snaps and breaks. The dragon lands a bite on Beowulf’s neck, and blood begins to flow. Wiglaf rushes to Beowulf’s aid, stabbing the dragon in the belly, and the dragon scorches Wiglaf’s hand. In desperation Beowulf pulls a knife from his belt and stabs it deep into the dragon’s flank. The blow is fatal, and the writhing serpent withers. But no sooner has Beowulf triumphed than the wound on his neck begins to burn and swell. He realizes that the dragon bite is venomous and that he is dying. He sends Wiglaf to inspect the dragon’s treasure and bring him a portion of it, saying that death will be easier if he sees the hoard that he has liberated. Wiglaf descends into the barrow and quickly returns to Beowulf with an armload of treasure. The old king, dying, thanks God for the treasure that he has won for his people. He tells Wiglaf that he must now look after the Geats and order his troop to build him a barrow that people will call “Beowulf’s Barrow.” After giving Wiglaf the collar from his own neck, Beowulf dies.

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