The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Long, long ago, perhaps nearly a thousand years before the adventures of the Knight of Rhodes of whom you have just heard, there lived a King of Denmark called Hrothgar. That is a curious name, you may think; but you can recognise it in our own word ' Roger,' which, of course, is common enough. This King lived in a palace, called Heorot, a princely abode, beyond what the sons of men had ever heard of; he had a beautiful wife called Waltheow, and gold, silver, and riches in abundance were his; moreover as his knights, earls, and retainers were all devotedly fond of him, he seemed to have everything in the world which could make him happy. In those days, when feasts were being held in the great halls, it was customary for one who was called a ' skald'—that is, a poet or minstrel—to sing or recite poems before the assembled company. On one of these occa­sions the ' skald ' made poems about all sorts of evil things, wicked spirits, demons who abode in darkness, giants, ghosts, and sin and wickedness generally. It was, perhaps, not quite the sort of song to make merry the hearts of the feasters, and, in fact, it had the opposite effect, for they broke up ill at ease, as if some deadly peril were in store ; nor were their presentiments without reason. That night there came to the Palace a monstrous and superhuman being named Grendel, who was the very incarnation of all cruelty and malice. He was a creature
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