Beowulf Anglo Saxon and Beowulf Background

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Background and facts on Beowulf.

Text of Beowulf Anglo Saxon and Beowulf Background

  • Anglo-Saxon




  • Background Information

    30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry survive


    3, 182 (10%) of the lines are from Beowulf

    Setting - Denmark and Sweden

    Author - Unknown, probably a monk

    Composed in the 7th or 8th century

    Oldest surviving English poem

  • Anglo-Saxon Culture

    Belief in fate (Wyrd)

    Accumulated treasures amount to success

    Fame and fortune zealously sought after

    Loyalty to ones leader crucial

    Importance of pagan, Germanic, and

    Christian ideals to people whose lives were

    often hard and uncertain

  • Anglo-Saxon Culture

    Fierce, hardy life of warrior

    and seamen

    Strength, courage, leadership

    abilities appreciated

    Boisterous yet elaborately

    ritualized customs of the


    Expected the hero to boast

  • Anglo-Saxon Ideals

    Codes of Conduct

    Good defeats evil

    Wergild--restitution for murder or expect

    revenge from victims relatives

    Boasts must be backed with actions.

    Fate is in control

    Fair fights are the only honorable fights

  • Epic Poem

    Long narrative poem that recounts the

    adventures of a hero.

    Elevated language

    Does not sermonize

    Invokes a muse

    Begins in media res

    Mysterious origin, super powers,

    vulnerability, rite of passage

  • The Epic Hero

    Actions consist of responses to catastrophic

    situations in which the supernatural often


    Code of conduct forces him to challenge any threat

    to society

    Destiny discovered through a series of episodes

    punctuated by violent incidents interspersed with

    idyllic descriptions.

  • Elements of Anglo-Saxon Poetry Chant-like effect of the four-beat line

    Alliteration (Then the grim man in green gathers

    his strength)

    Caesura-pause or break in a line of poetry

    (Oft to the wanderer weary of exile)

    Kenning-metaphorical phrase used instead of a

    name (battle-blade and ring-giver)

    Epithet-description name to characterize

    something (keen-edge sword)


  • Title of Epic Poem

    Anglo-Saxon word

    Beo means bright or


    Anglo-Saxon word

    wulf means wolf

    Beowulf means bright

    or noble wolf

    Other sources say Beo

    means bear

  • How we date BeowulfSome Important Dates:

    521 A.D. death of Hygelac, who is

    mentioned in the poem

    680 A.D. appearance of alliterative verse

    835 A.D. the Danish started raiding other

    areas; after this, few poets would

    consider them heroes

    SO: This version was likely composed between

    680 and 835, though it may be set earlier

  • The Poetry in Beowulf

    1. Alliterative verse

    a. Repetition of initial sounds of words

    (occurs in every line)

    b. Generally, four feet/beats per line

    c. A caesura, or pause, between

    beats two and four

    d. No rhyme

  • The Poetry in Beowulf

    2. Kennings

    a. Compound metaphor (usually two words)

    b. Most were probably used over and over

    For instance: hronade

    literally means whale-

    road, but can be

    translated as sea

  • More Kennings

    Other kennings from Beowulf:

    bone-house = body

    gold-friend of men = generous prince

    ring-giver = lord

    flashing light = sword

  • Setting: Beowulfs time and place

    Europe today Insert: Time of Beowulf

  • Some terms youll want to know


    A bard or story-teller.

    The scop was responsible

    for praising deeds of past

    heroes, for recording

    history, and for providing


  • thane

    A warrior


    The large hall where the

    lord and his warriors slept,

    ate, held ceremonies, etc.

    Terms: Thane and Mead-Hall

  • wyrd

    Fate. This idea crops up a

    lot in the poem, while at

    the same time there are

    Christian references to

    Gods will.

    Term: Wyrd

  • Main Characters

  • Beowulf Epic hero

    Geat (from southern


    Nephew of Higlac

    (King at storys start)

    Sails to Denmark to

    help Hrothgar

  • Hrothgar

    Danish king

    Builds Herot (banquet

    hall) for men

    Tormented by Grendel

    for 12 years

    Loses many men to


    Joyless before

    Beowulfs arrival

  • Grendel Referred to as demon

    and fiend

    Haunts the moors

    (swampy land)

    Descendant of Cain

    Feasts on 30 men the

    night of 1st attack

  • Grendels Mother Referred to as she-


    Lives under a lake

    Challenges Hrothgar

    when she kills one of

    his best men

  • Fire Dragon

    Lives in Beowulfs


    Wakes up when thief

    steals cup

    Guards countless


  • Works Cited

    Intro to Beowulf