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Tolkien's Middle-earth:
Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Two: Runes, Riddles, and a Ring of Power


Beowulf and Grendel

Original Old English (in modern alphabet):

Da com of more     under mist-hleothum
Grendel gongan     Godes yrre baer

Literal translation:

Then up from the marsh     under misty cliffs
Grendel came walking     God's wrath he bore

Excerpt from Beowulf, Part XI:

Up from the moorland, from the misty crags, Grendel came walking, bearing the wrath of God. The monster had a mind to seize from the mead-hall someone of human kind; under dark clouds he walked till he saw the stately palace, the house shining with gold. Not for the first time did he seek the home of Hrothgar, yet never would he find luck harder, or heroes hardier, in that hall!

The cursed warrior came to the portal, raging, striking the door; he ripped open the hall-mouth, though it was bolted with iron. Then the fiend trod the fair-paved floor, full of anger; flashes of fire streamed from his eyes.

He saw in the hall a band of heroes, kinsmen sleeping clustered, the liegemen of Hrothgar. He laughed in his monster's heart, thought to sever their souls from their bodies, devouring each one of them in a savage banquet before dawn.

After that evening, Wyrd forbade the fiend to feed more on mankind; for mighty Beowulf, Geat-king's kinsman, was watching, waiting for his foe's attack. Not that the monster was minded to pause! Straightway he seized a sleeping warrior, tore his guts and drank his blood; swallowed him in pieces, swiftly devoured the dead man, even his feet and hands.

The monster moved on, caught Beowulf with his claw. The hero, still in bed reclining, propped himself on one elbow, clutched boldly that claw in return. Soon the shepherd of sins discovered that never, in any part of Middle-earth, had he met a hand-grip so strong...


mead = alcoholic beverage made from honey

hardy = tough, strong

liegemen = sworn followers

straightway = immediately

Wyrd = fate, destiny, doom

Geat(s) = Beowulf's tribe

shepherd of sins = Grendel

(adapted from the poetic translation by Francis B. Gummere; original text in the public domain)

Unit Two Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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