In Denmark, recent archaeological excavations at Lejre , where Scandinavian tradition located the seat of the Scyldings, i. When the western mound to the left in the photo was excavated in , the finds showed that a powerful man was buried in a large barrow, c. The eastern mound was excavated in , and contained the remains of a woman, or a woman and a young man. The middle barrow has not been excavated. The protagonist Beowulf , a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Danes , whose great hall, Heorot , is plagued by the monster Grendel.
Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a giant's sword that he found in her lair. Later in his life, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and finds his realm terrorized by a dragon , some of whose treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound. He attacks the dragon with the help of his thegns or servants, but they do not succeed. Beowulf finally slays the dragon, but is mortally wounded in the struggle. He is cremated and a burial mound by the sea is erected in his honour. Beowulf is considered an epic poem in that the main character is a hero who travels great distances to prove his strength at impossible odds against supernatural demons and beasts.
The poem also begins in medias res or simply, "in the middle of things," which is a characteristic of the epics of antiquity. Although the poem begins with Beowulf's arrival, Grendel's attacks have been an ongoing event. An elaborate history of characters and their lineages is spoken of, as well as their interactions with each other, debts owed and repaid, and deeds of valour. The warriors form a kind of brotherhood linked by loyalty to their lord. The poem begins and ends with funerals: at the beginning of the poem for Scyld Scefing 26—45 and at the end for Beowulf — Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and his warriors.
In it, he, his wife Wealhtheow , and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating. Grendel, a troll-like monster said to be descended from the biblical Cain , is pained by the sounds of joy. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel, abandon Heorot. Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar. Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel.
This display would fuel Grendel's mother's anger in revenge. The next night, after celebrating Grendel's defeat, Hrothgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's mother, angry that her son has been killed, sets out to get revenge. Earlier, after the award of treasure, The Geat had been given another lodging"; his assistance would be absent in this battle. Hrothgar, Beowulf, and their men track Grendel's mother to her lair under a lake. After stipulating a number of conditions to Hrothgar in case of his death including the taking in of his kinsmen and the inheritance by Unferth of Beowulf's estate , Beowulf jumps into the lake, and while harassed by water monsters gets to the bottom, where he finds a cavern.
Grendel's mother pulls him in, and she and Beowulf engage in fierce combat. At first, Grendel's mother appears to prevail, and Hrunting proves incapable of hurting the woman; she throws Beowulf to the ground and, sitting astride him, tries to kill him with a short sword, but Beowulf is saved by his armour. Beowulf spots another sword, hanging on the wall and apparently made for giants, and cuts her head off with it. Travelling further into Grendel's mother's lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's corpse and severs his head with the sword, whose blade melts because of the "hot blood".
Only the hilt remains. Beowulf swims back up to the rim of the pond where his men wait. Carrying the hilt of the sword and Grendel's head, he presents them to Hrothgar upon his return to Heorot. The events prompt a long reflection by the king, sometimes referred to as "Hrothgar's sermon", in which he urges Beowulf to be wary of pride and to reward his thegns. Beowulf returns home and eventually becomes king of his own people. When the dragon sees that the cup has been stolen, it leaves its cave in a rage, burning everything in sight. Beowulf and his warriors come to fight the dragon, but Beowulf tells his men that he will fight the dragon alone and that they should wait on the barrow.
Beowulf descends to do battle with the dragon, but finds himself outmatched. His men, upon seeing this and fearing for their lives, retreat into the woods. One of his men, Wiglaf, however, in great distress at Beowulf's plight, comes to his aid. The two slay the dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded. After Beowulf dies, Wiglaf remains by his side, grief-stricken. When the rest of the men finally return, Wiglaf bitterly admonishes them, blaming their cowardice for Beowulf's death.
Afterward, Beowulf is ritually burned on a great pyre in Geatland while his people wail and mourn him, fearing that without him, the Geats are defenceless against attacks from surrounding tribes. Afterwards, a barrow, visible from the sea, is built in his memory Beowulf lines — The dating of Beowulf has attracted considerable scholarly attention and opinion differs as to whether it was first written in the 8th century or whether the composition of the poem was nearly contemporary with its eleventh century manuscript and whether a proto-version of the poem possibly a version of the Bear's Son Tale was orally transmitted before being transcribed in its present form.
Albert Lord felt strongly that the manuscript represents the transcription of a performance, though likely taken at more than one sitting.
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Tolkien believed that the poem retains too genuine a memory of Anglo-Saxon paganism to have been composed more than a few generations after the completion of the Christianisation of England around AD ,  and Tolkien's conviction that the poem dates to the 8th century has been defended by Tom Shippey , Leonard Neidorf, Rafael J. Pascual, and R. Fulk, among others. The claim to an early 11th-century date depends in part on scholars who argue that, rather than the transcription of a tale from the oral tradition by an earlier literate monk, Beowulf reflects an original interpretation of an earlier version of the story by the manuscript's two scribes.
On the other hand, some scholars argue that linguistic, palaeographical, metrical, and onomastic considerations align to support a date of composition in the first half of the eighth century;     in particular, the poem's regular observation of etymological length distinctions Max Kaluza's law has been thought to demonstrate a date of composition in the first half of the eighth century.
Hutcheson, for instance, does not believe Kaluza's Law can be used to date the poem, while claiming that "the weight of all the evidence Fulk presents in his book [b] tells strongly in favour of an eighth-century date. Beowulf survives in a single manuscript dated on palaeographical grounds to the late 10th or early 11th century. The poem is known only from a single manuscript, which is estimated to date from close to AD , in which it appears with other works.
The Beowulf manuscript is known as the Nowell Codex, gaining its name from 16th-century scholar Laurence Nowell. XV" because it was one of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton 's holdings in the Cotton library in the middle of the 17th century. Many private antiquarians and book collectors, such as Sir Robert Cotton, used their own library classification systems. XV" translates as: the 15th book from the left on shelf A the top shelf of the bookcase with the bust of Roman Emperor Vitellius standing on top of it, in Cotton's collection.
The earliest extant reference to the first foliation of the Nowell Codex was made sometime between and by Franciscus Junius the younger. Smith's catalogue appeared in , and Wanley's in In the letter to Wanley, Hickes responds to an apparent charge against Smith, made by Wanley, that Smith had failed to mention the Beowulf script when cataloguing Cotton MS. Vitellius A. Hickes replies to Wanley "I can find nothing yet of Beowulph. It suffered damage in the Cotton Library fire at Ashburnham House in Since then, parts of the manuscript have crumbled along with many of the letters.
Rebinding efforts, though saving the manuscript from much degeneration, have nonetheless covered up other letters of the poem, causing further loss. Kevin Kiernan, in preparing his electronic edition of the manuscript, used fibre-optic backlighting and ultraviolet lighting to reveal letters in the manuscript lost from binding, erasure, or ink blotting. The Beowulf manuscript was transcribed from an original by two scribes, one of whom wrote the prose at the beginning of the manuscript and the first lines before breaking off in mid sentence.
The first scribe made a point of carefully regularizing the spelling of the original document by using the common West Saxon language and by avoiding any archaic or dialectical features. The second scribe, who wrote the remainder, with a difference in handwriting noticeable after line , seems to have written more vigorously and with less interest.
As a result, the second scribe's script retains more archaic dialectic features which allow modern scholars to ascribe the poem a cultural context. In the way that it is currently bound, the Beowulf manuscript is followed by the Old English poem Judith. Judith was written by the same scribe that completed Beowulf as evidenced through similar writing style. Worm-holes found in the last leaves of the Beowulf manuscript that aren't present in the Judith manuscript suggest that at one point Beowulf ended the volume.
The rubbed appearance of some leaves also suggest that the manuscript stood on a shelf unbound, as is known to have been the case with other Old English manuscripts. The question of whether Beowulf was passed down through oral tradition prior to its present manuscript form has been the subject of much debate, and involves more than simply the issue of its composition.
Rather, given the implications of the theory of oral-formulaic composition and oral tradition, the question concerns how the poem is to be understood, and what sorts of interpretations are legitimate. Scholarly discussion about Beowulf in the context of the oral tradition was extremely active throughout the s and s. The debate might be framed starkly as follows: on the one hand, we can hypothesise a poem put together from various tales concerning the hero the Grendel episode, the Grendel's mother story, and the fire drake narrative.
These fragments would have been told for many years in tradition, and learned by apprenticeship from one generation of illiterate poets to the next. The poem is composed orally and extemporaneously, and the archive of tradition on which it draws is oral, pagan, Germanic, heroic, and tribal. On the other hand, one might posit a poem which is composed by a literate scribe, who acquired literacy by way of learning Latin and absorbing Latinate culture and ways of thinking , probably a monk and therefore profoundly Christian in outlook.
The Old English Verse 'Beowulf' Was Likely Written by a Single Author
On this view, the pagan references would be a sort of decorative archaising. However, scholars such as D. Crowne have proposed the idea that the poem was passed down from reciter to reciter under the theory of oral-formulaic composition , which hypothesises that epic poems were at least to some extent improvised by whoever was reciting them, and only much later written down. In his landmark work, The Singer of Tales , Albert Lord refers to the work of Francis Peabody Magoun and others, saying "the documentation is complete, thorough, and accurate.
This exhaustive analysis is in itself sufficient to prove that Beowulf was composed orally. Examination of Beowulf and other Old English literature for evidence of oral-formulaic composition has met with mixed response. While "themes" inherited narrative subunits for representing familiar classes of event, such as the "arming the hero",  or the particularly well-studied "hero on the beach" theme  do exist across Anglo-Saxon and other Germanic works, some scholars conclude that Anglo-Saxon poetry is a mix of oral-formulaic and literate patterns, arguing that the poems both were composed on a word-by-word basis and followed larger formulae and patterns.
Larry Benson argued that the interpretation of Beowulf as an entirely formulaic work diminishes the ability of the reader to analyse the poem in a unified manner, and with due attention to the poet's creativity. Instead, he proposed that other pieces of Germanic literature contain "kernels of tradition" from which Beowulf borrows and expands upon. John Miles Foley wrote, referring to the Beowulf debate,  that while comparative work was both necessary and valid, it must be conducted with a view to the particularities of a given tradition; Foley argued with a view to developments of oral traditional theory that do not assume, or depend upon, ultimately unverifiable assumptions about composition, and instead delineate a more fluid continuum of traditionality and textuality.
Finally, in the view of Ursula Schaefer, the question of whether the poem was "oral" or "literate" becomes something of a red herring. Schaefer's concept of "vocality" offers neither a compromise nor a synthesis of the views which see the poem as on the one hand Germanic, pagan, and oral and on the other Latin-derived, Christian, and literate, but, as stated by Monika Otter: " He made one himself, and had another done by a professional copyist who knew no Anglo-Saxon. Since that time, however, the manuscript has crumbled further, making these transcripts a prized witness to the text.
While the recovery of at least letters can be attributed to them, their accuracy has been called into question, [c] and the extent to which the manuscript was actually more readable in Thorkelin's time is uncertain. A great number of translations and adaptations are available, in poetry and prose. Andy Orchard, in A Critical Companion to Beowulf , lists 33 "representative" translations in his bibliography,  while the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies published Marijane Osborn's annotated list of over translations and adaptations in In , the historian Sharon Turner translated selected verses into modern English.
Grundtvig reviewed this edition in and created the first complete verse translation in Danish in Wyatt published the ninth English translation. In , Francis Barton Gummere 's full translation in "English imitative meter" was published,  and was used as the text of Gareth Hinds's graphic novel based on Beowulf in First published in , Frederick Klaeber 's Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg  which included the poem in Old English , an extensive glossary of Old English terms, and general background information became the "central source used by graduate students for the study of the poem and by scholars and teachers as the basis of their translations.
Seamus Heaney 's translation of the poem referred to by Howell Chickering and many others as "Heaneywulf"  was both praised and criticized. The US publication was commissioned by W. Fulk, of Indiana University , published the first facing-page edition and translation of the entire Nowell Codex manuscript in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series in Following research in the King's College London Archives, Carl Kears proposed that John Porter's translation, published in by Bill Griffiths ' Pirate Press , was the first complete verse translation of the poem entirely accompanied by facing-page Old English.
Translating Beowulf is one of the subjects of the publication Beowulf at Kalamazoo , containing a section with 10 essays on translation, and a section with 22 reviews of Heaney's translation some of which compare Heaney's work with that of Anglo-Saxon scholar Roy Liuzza. Tolkien 's long-awaited translation edited by his son, Christopher was published in as Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary.
Neither identified sources nor analogues for Beowulf can be definitively proven, but many conjectures have been made. These are important in helping historians understand the Beowulf manuscript, as possible source-texts or influences would suggest time-frames of composition, geographic boundaries within which it could be composed, or range both spatial and temporal of influence i. There are Scandinavian sources, international folkloric sources, and Celtic sources. But Scandinavian works have continued to be studied as a possible source.
Axel Olrik claimed that on the contrary, this saga was a reworking of Beowulf , and others followed suit. However, Friedrich Panzer wrote a thesis in which both Beowulf and Grettis saga drew from a common folkloric source, and this encouraged even a detractor such as W.
Beowulf ( film) - Wikipedia
Lawrence to reposition his view, and entertain the possibility that certain elements in the saga such as the waterfall in place of the mere retained an older form. The viability of this connection has enjoyed enduring support, and was characterized as one of the few Scandinavian analogues to receive a general consensus of potential connection by Theodore M.
Andersson Another candidate for an analogue or possible source is the story of Hrolf kraki and his servant, the legendary bear- shapeshifter Bodvar Bjarki.
Hence a story about him and his followers may have developed as early as the 6th century. This tale type was later catalogued as international folktale type , now formally entitled "The Three Stolen Princesses" type in Hans Uther's catalogue, although the "Bear's Son" is still used in Beowulf criticism, if not so much in folkloristic circles. However, although this folkloristic approach was seen as a step in the right direction, "The Bear's Son" tale has later been regarded by many as not a close enough parallel to be a viable choice.
Cook , and others even earlier, [e]   [f] Swedish folklorist Carl Wilhelm von Sydow then made a strong argument for the case of parallelism in "The Hand and the Child", because the folktale type demonstrated a "monstrous arm" motif that corresponded with Beowulf wrenching off Grendel's arm. For no such correspondence could be perceived in the Bear's Son Tale or Grettis saga. Attempts to find classical or Late Latin influence or analogue in Beowulf are almost exclusively linked with Homer 's Odyssey or Virgil 's Aeneid.
In , Albert S. Cook suggested a Homeric connection due to equivalent formulas, metonymies , and analogous voyages. Work also supported the Homeric influence, stating that encounter between Beowulf and Unferth was parallel to the encounter between Odysseus and Euryalus in Books 7—8 of the Odyssey, even to the point of both characters giving the hero the same gift of a sword upon being proven wrong in their initial assessment of the hero's prowess.
This theory of Homer's influence on Beowulf remained very prevalent in the s, but started to die out in the following decade when a handful of critics stated that the two works were merely "comparative literature",  although Greek was known in late 7th century England: Bede states that Theodore of Tarsus , a Greek, was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in , and he taught Greek. Several English scholars and churchmen are described by Bede as being fluent in Greek due to being taught by him; Bede claims to be fluent in Greek himself.
Frederick Klaeber , among others, argued for a connection between Beowulf and Virgil near the start of the 20th century, claiming that the very act of writing a secular epic in a Germanic world represents Virgilian influence. Virgil was seen as the pinnacle of Latin literature, and Latin was the dominant literary language of England at the time, therefore making Virgilian influence highly likely.
It cannot be denied that Biblical parallels occur in the text, whether seen as a pagan work with "Christian colouring" added by scribes or as a "Christian historical novel, with selected bits of paganism deliberately laid on as 'local colour'," as Margaret E. Goldsmith did in "The Christian Theme of Beowulf ". There is a wide array of linguistic forms in the Beowulf manuscript.
It is this fact that leads some scholars to believe that Beowulf has endured a long and complicated transmission through all the main dialect areas. Considerably more than one-third of the total vocabulary is alien from ordinary prose use. There are, in round numbers, three hundred and sixty uncompounded verbs in Beowulf , and forty of them are poetical words in the sense that they are unrecorded or rare in the existing prose writings. One hundred and fifty more occur with the prefix ge - reckoning a few found only in the past-participle , but of these one hundred occur also as simple verbs, and the prefix is employed to render a shade of meaning which was perfectly known and thoroughly familiar except in the latest Anglo-Saxon period.
The nouns number sixteen hundred.
Seven hundred of them, including those formed with prefixes, of which fifty or considerably more than half have ge -, are simple nouns, at the highest reckoning not more than one-quarter is absent in prose. That this is due in some degree to accident is clear from the character of the words, and from the fact that several reappear and are common after the Norman Conquest. An Old English poem such as Beowulf is very different from modern poetry. Anglo-Saxon poets typically used alliterative verse , a form of verse in which the first half of the line the a-verse is linked to the second half the b-verse through similarity in initial sound.
This verse form maps stressed and unstressed syllables onto abstract entities known as metrical positions. The poet has a choice of epithets or formulae to use in order to fulfil the alliteration. When speaking or reading Old English poetry, it is important to remember for alliterative purposes that many of the letters are not pronounced in the same way as in modern English. Kennings are also a significant technique in Beowulf.
They are evocative poetic descriptions of everyday things, often created to fill the alliterative requirements of the metre. For example, a poet might call the sea the "swan-road" or the "whale-road"; a king might be called a "ring-giver. The poem also makes extensive use of elided metaphors. Tolkien argued in Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics that the poem is not an epic, and while no conventional term exactly fits, the nearest would be elegy. The history of modern Beowulf criticism is often said to begin with J. Tolkien ,  author and Merton professor of Anglo-Saxon at University of Oxford , who in his lecture to the British Academy criticised his contemporaries' excessive interest in its historical implications.
In historical terms, the poem's characters would have been Norse pagans the historical events of the poem took place before the Christianisation of Scandinavia , yet the poem was recorded by Christian Anglo-Saxons who had mostly converted from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism around the 7th century — both Anglo-Saxon paganism and Norse paganism share a common origin as both are forms of Germanic paganism. Beowulf thus depicts a Germanic warrior society , in which the relationship between the lord of the region and those who served under him was of paramount importance.
In terms of the relationship between characters in Beowulf to God, one might recall the substantial amount of paganism that is present throughout the work. Literary critics such as Fred C. Robinson argue that the Beowulf poet arguably tries to send a message to readers during the Anglo-Saxon time period regarding the state of Christianity in their own time.
Robinson argues that the intensified religious aspects of the Anglo-Saxon period inherently shape the way in which the Poet alludes to paganism as presented in Beowulf. The Poet arguably calls on Anglo-Saxon readers to recognize the imperfect aspects of their supposed Christian lifestyles. In other words, the Poet is referencing their "Anglo-Saxon Heathenism. Having backed Beowulf Beastslayer , you may decide you want to receive more than one copy of the book.
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