In the epic poem Beowulf, Heorot, also known as the “Hall of Hart,” is King Hrothgar’s lavish mead hall where he and his thanes gather to feast and drink. Not only is Heorot the “heart” of Hrothgar’s kingdom and center of Danish society, but it represents a sacred place with a throne. Grendel, the corpse-maker, defiles the sacred space but is unable to approach the throne because he is an outcast of God. A bard “telling the mastery of man’s beginnings,/how the Almighty had made the earth” triggers the demonic Grendel to ransack the mead hall nightly (91-92). Grendel, a descendent of Cain, kills many of Hrothgar’s thanes, who unsuccessfully try to defeat him “For twelve winters” (147). But Beowulf, a noble hero from Geatland, finally conquers Grendel. Beowulf’s qualities of honor, integrity, and purity make him a sacred warrior, enabling him to defeat the “fiend out of hell” and purify Heorot with the assistance of God because his own heart is pure (100).
Grendel, the “grim demon,” disturbed by the mead hall, constantly strikes the sacred Heorot hall and terrorizes the thanes for twelve brutal years (102). Heorot is a
…great mead hall meant to be the wonder of the world forever it would be his [Hrothgar’s] throne-room and there he would dispense his God-given goods to young and old…
This ornate mead hall, “radiant with gold” and covered in jewels, represents a sacred space where the thanes reside (308). The narrator observes, “nobody on earth knew of another building like it [Heorot]./Majesty lodged there, its light shone over many lands” (309-310). Heorot is a place of light and joy which represents the divine power that signifies and protects human life. When Grendel is in the abandoned mead hall, he is unable to approach “the throne itself, the treasure-seat” (168) for “he was the Lord’s outcast” (169). God prevents Grendel from approaching the sacred throne because he is a descendent of Cain. Because Grendel is from the line of Cain, he is incapable of overthrowing God, especially in his sacred space.
Grendel embodies “a powerful demon” who represents sin and defiles Heorot Hall because he is infuriated by the mention of God’s creation (86). According to the narrator, Grendel is “among the banished monsters,/Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed/and condemned as outcasts” (105-107). Grendel, a demon of hell, is a descendent of the biblical outlaw, Cain. Thus, he is inherently wicked. Grendel begins “ to work his evil in the world” (101) and attacks Heorot out of anger which “harrowed him” (87). Angered by God’s creation,
…the God-cursed brute was creating havoc: greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men from their resting places and rushed to his lair, lushed up and inflamed from the raid, blundering back with the butchered corpses…
This “fiend out of hell” murders and devours Danish warriors every night in Heorot Hall who fail against Grendel’s wrath (100). This merciless beast is “insensible to pain and human sorrow” (119-120). He slaughters the comitatus and devours them after tearing the Danes limb from limb. The narrator observes that Grendel’s sinister rampages in the dark have caused “the havoc he has wreaked upon us [Hrothgar and his thanes] in Heorot” (476). The “shadow-stalker” raids the sacred space nightly as a result of his anger towards God (703). Beowulf is a mighty and “truly noble” (250) sacred Geat warrior that purifies Heorot from the brutal Grendel with God’s assistance because of his pure heart. According to the narrator, Beowulf “is no mere/hanger-on in a hero’s armor” (250-251). He is not a poser, but is truly heroic and is the real deal. Beowulf exemplifies the traits of a perfect hero, such as honor, integrity, and purity. Because of his inner character, he is willing to engage in any challenge. Beowulf takes on the “privilege of purifying Heorot” by