At night, Beowulf and his men lie in wait for Grendel in Hrothgar's Mead Hall. When Grendel invades the hall, he kills and eats two of Beowulf's men, which gives him a false sense of security. As he reaches for his third vicitm, Beowulf, he is shocked to discover that his claw is being bent backward causing him immense pain. Their battle concludes with Beowulf's ripping Grendel's arm off, fulfilling his promise to Hrothgar to kill the monster with his bare hands. Beowulf nails Grendel's severed arm to the mead hall rafters and, although Grendel runs away, he is later found to have bled to death in his underwater lair.
The Beowulf story has its roots in a pagan Saxon past, but by the time the epic was written down, almost all Anglo-Saxons had converted to Christianity. As a result, the Beowulf poet is at pains to resolve his Christian beliefs with the often quite un-Christian behavior of his characters. This tension leads to frequent asides about God, hell, and heaven—and to many allusions to the Old Testament throughout the work. In the end, however, the conflict proves simply irresolvable. Beowulf doesn’t lead a particularly good life by Christian standards, but the poet cannot help but revere him. Though some of Beowulf’s values—such as his dedication to his people and his willingness to dole out treasure—conceivably overlap with Christian values, he ultimately lives for the preservation of earthly glory after death, not for entrance into heaven. Though his death in the encounter with the dragon clearly proves his mortality (and perhaps moral fallibility), the poem itself stands as a testament to the raw greatness of his life, ensuring his ascension into the secular heaven of warrior legend.