Beowulf: Introduction to Chapter 26

Beowulf, who in his youth had slain Grendel, was now old, and in his final battle. A dragon, fierce and flaming, had been ravaging the land of the Geats that Beowulf had ruled for fifty years. Beowulf confronted it alone, but soon he was wreathed in flames. The twelve men he had brought with him fled in fear, all but one, the loyal Wiglaf, who scolded them for their unwillingness to stand by their lord, and hastened to Beowulf’s side though he had never yet been tested in battle. With talk of glory, Wiglaf encouraged Beowulf once more, but the mighty blow Beowulf struck broke his sword, leaving the dragon unharmed, and first blood was drawn from Beowulf’s neck by the dragon’s fangs.