Chapter: English Literature During The Middle Ages
From a storytelling standpoint, the failure of Hrunting makes no sense. You can't spend the entire story talking up how unbeatable this sword is, only to have it fail miserably. It's like if you opened up the Ark of the Covenant and nobody's face melted. The magic sword that kills everything should at least be able to do some damage to Grendel's mum.
Personally, I side with the theory that Unferth gave Beowulf a fake Hrunting, in order to set our hero up for the fall. Even though the old bastard had already earned Beowulf's forgiveness by this point, it had been established earlier that Unferth was a huge jerk that resented the hell out of Captain Awesome. It would've been completely in character for Unferth to stab Beowulf in the back.
On the other hand, it could also just be a side-effect of having no creative writing workshops back in the 10th century.
Lit Brick is a comic started by Jodie Troutman in an effort to read the entire Norton Anthology of English Literature. Having eventually succeeded in that goal, it now features comics about all manner of random literature. For more of Jodie's work, visit longtalljodie.com!