Beowulf: Introduction to Chapter 23

Beowulf, famed for the monsters he had slain in his youth, Grendel among them, had been king of the Geats for fifty years when a dragon began to prowl the land. A desperate slave had stolen a single cup from its hoard – his master had taken more, admiring the fine work that had been made by a long-dead race, and placed in that barrow by its last survivor. For three centuries the dragon had slept, but now it scoured the land with its flame, in anger at the theft. It destroyed even Beowulf’s own hall, and Beowulf determined to confront it, having an iron shield made to protect himself. But neither Beowulf nor the dragon would survive much longer.