When all but Beowulf are asleep, Grendel enters, the iron-barred doors having yielded in a moment to his hand.
This supposition is confirmed by evidence that seems to show that the Grendel legend was popularly current in this country.
There are similar alternative possibilities with regard to the explanation of the striking resemblances which certain incidents of the adventures with Grendel and the dragon bear to incidents in the narratives of Saxo and the Icelandic sagas.
On the other hand, it would be absurd to imagine that the combats with Grendel and his mother and with the fiery dragon can be exaggerated representations of actual occurrences.
The water-demon Grendel and the dragon (probably), by whom Beowulf is mortally wounded, have been supposed to represent the powers of autumn and darkness, the floods which at certain seasons overflow the low-lying countries on the coast of the North Sea and sweep away all human habitations; Beowulf is the hero of spring and light who, after overcoming the spirit of the raging waters, finally succumbs to the dragon of approaching winter.
There is, as we shall see afterwards, some ground for believing that there were circulated in England two rival poetic versions of the story of the encounters with supernatural beings: the one referring them to Beowulf the Dane, while the other (represented by the existing poem) attached them to the legend of the son of Ecgtheow, but ingeniously contrived to do some justice to the alternative tradition by laying the scene of the Grendel incident at the court of a Scylding king.
It is a reasonable conjecture that the tales of victories over Grendel and the fiery dragon belong properly to the myth of Beaw.