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Beowulf was the son of Ecg■eow, a banished warrior of the apparently Swedish WŠgmundings. His father Ecg■eow had slain Heaolaf, a man from another clan named the Wulfings (according to Scandinavian sources, they were the ruling dynasty of the Geatish petty kingdom of Ostrogothia). Apparently, due to the fact that the victim was from a prominent family, the weregild was set too high, and so Ecg■eow was banished and had seek refuge among the Danes. The Danish king Hrogar generously paid the weregild, and had Ecg■eow swear an oath.
During the night, Grendel arrived to attack the sleeping men. Beowulf attacked him without his sword and tore the arm off the beast. Grendel returned to the bog and his arm was attached to the wall of Heorot.
The next day, Beowulf was lauded and a skald (scop) sang and compared Beowulf with the hero Sigmund. However, during the following night Grendel's mother arrived to avenge her son and collect weregild. As Beowulf slept in a different building he could not stop her.
He resolved to descend into the bog in order to kill Grendel's mother. They fought beside Grendel's dead corpse, and Beowulf finally won with his enchanted sword. Beowulf was recompensed with gold and horses by queen Wealh■eow, and they returned to Geatland.
Having returned, Beowulf took part in a historic raid against the Franks with his king Hygelac. His king died, however, during the raid and Beowulf swam home in full armour. Back in Geatland, queen Hygd offered Beowulf the throne but Beowulf denied in favour of the young prince Heardred.
However, Heardred received two Swedish princes, Eadgils and Eanmund who reported that they had fled their uncle Onela who had usurped the Swedish throne. This lead to a Swedish invasion in which Heardred was killed. Beowulf was proclaimed king and decided to avenge Heardred and to help Eadgils become king of Sweden.
The event when Onela was slain was probably a historic event. Even though, it is only briefly mentioned in Beowulf, it occurs extensively in several Scandinavian sources where it is called the Battle of the Ice. Snorri Sturluson, for instance, wrote: Onela rode Raven, as they rode to the ice, but a second one, a grey one, hastened, wounded by spears, eastwards under Eadgils. [...] In this fight Onela died and a great many of his people. Then king Eadgils took from him his helmet Battle-boar and his horse Raven (although, in Snorri's text the names are in their corresponding Old Norse forms).
Then Beowulf ruled the Geats for 50 years, until his realm was terrorized by a dragon. He attacked the dragon with his thegns, but they did not succeed. Beowulf decided to follow the dragon into its lair, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf dared join him.
The dragon was finally slain by Beowulf but he was mortally wounded and was carried out by Wiglaf. He died after prophesizing that the Swedes would attack the Geats once again.
In Scandinavian sources, Beowulf corresponds in several ways to B÷dvar Bjarki. However, since centuries of oral traditions have modified a number of events and it is no longer possible to find 100% matches between Beowulf and Scandinavian sources, the Beowulf-Norse saga alignment is not uncontroversial.
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|King of the Geats|| Succeeded by:|
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