A fearsome monster named Grendel was terrorizing King Hrothgar and his Danes. Nightly he sneaked into Herot and "[s]natched up thirty men, smashed them / [u]nknowing in their beds and ran out with their bodies" (Raffel 37-38).
The Danes did not know what to do. They sometimes "sacrificed to the old stone gods, / [m]ade heathen vows, hoping for Hell's / [s]upport, the Devil's guidance in driving / [t]heir affliction off" (90-92).
A Geatish warrior named Beowulf heard of the Danes' trouble and "quickly commanded a boat fitted out, / [p]roclaiming that he'd go [ . . . ], / [w]ould sail across the sea to Hrothgar, / [n]ow when help was needed" (113-116).
Beowulf introduces himself to Hrothgar and vows to "purge all evil from [Herot]." In a brave twist, he opts to fight Grendel without using a weapon, for the monster "needs no weapons and fears none" (261, 263).
Beowulf and his men set a trap for Grendel that evening. When Grendel attempts to grab a "sleeping" Beowulf, he immediately "[k]new at once that nowhere on earth / [h]ad he met a man whose hands were harder" (326-327). The epic battle ensued.
When the battle was over, Grendel fled to his mother's lair. As proof of what he has done, Beowulf kept a trophy: "From the rafters where [he] had hung it, was the monster's / [a]rm, claw, and shoulder and all" (409-410).