The Choice of Beowulf

Posted by Byron Pendason on August 25, 2023 CE, in , , ,

Wes hāl!1 This is an original tale that I’ve written, inspired both by Beowulf (obviously) as well as Hercules at the Crossroads (also known as The Choice of Hercules). I hope you enjoy it!

Beowulf stared at his cup , deep in thought.

“What’s on your mind?” Weohstan asked him.

“I’m thinking about Hrothgar, and the monster that is plaguing his people.” Beowulf answered him.

Their friend Godlif spoke up, “The scop2 probably made the story up. Don’t let it bother you!”

“He’s not the only one who’s told us about Grendel,” Beowulf replied slowly, “Those poor people, they’ve lived under that reign of terror for twelve long years.”

“For sooth, a sad story,” said Godlif, “It’s too bad that there isn’t anything we can do about it.”

Godlif downed his cup. A servant was quick to refill it with more mead.

“I’m not sure that’s true,” Weohstan said thoughtfully.

“What are we going to do?” Godlif asked, laughing. “Show up in Heorot, slay the ettin, and be the heros of the land?”

Beowulf fixed his gaze on Godlif, “Why not?”

Weohstan said excitedly, “If anyone can do it, it is the great Beowulf!”

“But my lord!” Godlif exclaimed, “All who have tried to take on the monster haven’t lived to tell the tale. There’s no need to risk your life for people so far away.”

“For twelve long years people have been dying at the hands of that monster,” Weohstan countered. “Countless children made into orphans, countless women made into widows. Just think about that!”

“You have a great life here!” Godlif told Beowulf. “A nice, easy life. We feast every night, and wake up each morning in the arms of beautiful women. A journey so far away would mean a hard trip, with a guaranteed death at it’s end. No one will blame you for staying home and living the good life!”

Beowulf stood up. “That is not true. I would blame myself for acting so cowardly while my father’s friend was facing such a horrible fate. Such a life is anything but good.”

Beowulf raised his voice, and ordered, “Ready my men, and a ship! We leave for Heorot in the morning!”

This plunged the hall into turmoil. Beowulf was well loved by the people of Geat, and all were convinced that taking on Grendel was foolhardy. They tried pressing into him the importance of prudence.

“Prudence is indeed a virtue,” Beowulf declared. “But so is Justice, Courage, and Steadfastness in loyalty to those with whom we have Frith bonds. To Heorot!

We, of course, know how this story ends. Beowulf had a monumental choice to make, but staying home while his father’s ally suffered was really no choice at all for the great Beowulf. Beo gesund!1

  1. Wes hāl and Beo gesund are Old English greetings and farewells that literally mean Be well/whole/healthy. The first seemed to be more common among the Anglian dialects and the second more common among the Saxon dialects. I prefer to use both though, the first as a greeting and the second as a farewell.  2

  2. A bard