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Beowulf and the dragons

The kingdom of Denmark is terrorized by a dragon, Grendel, which comes after dark to seize warriors from the great hall where they feast with their king, Hrothgar. The crisis has reached the point where no Dane will stay in the hall after dark. Beowulf, a nobleman from the tribe of the Geats in southern Sweden, arrives with fourteen warriors of his own to challenge the monster.

After being feasted by Hrothgar, they stay alone in the hall. Grendel duly arrives. Beowulf grapples with him and with his bare hands wrenches off Grendel's arm. This object is the centrepiece of the next night's feast - interrupted by the arrival of Grendel's dragon mother to reclaim the limb.

Clearly the hero's work is not complete. Beowulf dives into the lake where the dragons live, and after terrifing adventures kills the mother. He brings back Grendel's head as a trophy (the monster has meanwhile died of his wound), and is rewarded with many gifts by the grateful Hrothgar.

Back in Sweden, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats and has a long and successful reign. In his old age a new dragon threat emerges - a fire-breathing and vengeful monster, guardian of a vast treasure. To protect his land, the aged king confronts the beast and kills it. But he dies a hero's death in doing so. He is cremated and his ashes are buried, with the dragon's treasure, beneath a great mound.

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