Beowulf – Anglo Saxon Poem

Below is a detailed article about Beowulf – an epic poem directing a story that was written in Old English and the only major piece of literature available to refer in Old English. Scholars are still researching to determine around what year the poem may have been written.

About Beowulf

beowulf
The Illustrative cover of Beowulf – old English literature poem

It is roughly determined that the poem may have been written between the years 700 AD – 1000 AD. The author of the poem is anonymous but it is recognized as someone who was literate enough in order to put down literature. He is referred to as the Beowulf poet.

The story is set in Scandinavia. The story has no title but consists of 3182 alliterative lines which help determine that it is a poem. The manuscripts have been retrieved from the Novell Codex which is in the British Library.

After the migration of the Anglo Saxons, at the end of the 6th century – the culture followed by them were influenced by Germanic and Southern Scandinavian tribes. The story may have been brought to England from those tribes, that is, from Geats.

manuscript
The Old English manuscript of the poem – Beowulf

The story is a fictional legendary epic that also highlights many historic elements. Its elaborated nature gives many facts and details about the culture, nature, and characteristics of the Anglos Saxons. Let us discuss them below.

Summary of the Beowulf

The story is based on its main character Beowulf, a young man who was the hero of his town – Geats. He is known for his heroic activities and bravery which is why the King of the Danes – a northern Germanic tribe reached out to him for help. His great hall – Heorot was captured by a massive dragon named Grendel.

The story revolves around the restoration of Heorot from the clutches of Grendel the dragon and the victory of Beowulf over Grendel. Beowulf is then made the King of Geats where again another dragon terrorizes his kingdom.

In the first battle against the dragon, Beowulf and his many soldiers go to fight against them but do not succeed. The second time brave Beowulf along with his cousin who was the only one who dared to join him go to together to the dragons ‘lair’ or his place of breeding. There, Beowulf kills the dragon in a heroic way but loses his life in the battle.

A tower in the sea is erected in his honor and respect.

How is Anglo Saxon culture reflected in the Beowulf?

Through the poem, Beowulf, many Anglo Saxon cultures have been seen. Many traits such as courage, loyalty, and friendship have been understood from the poem. Loyalty has been given utmost priority in the poem which reflects that the Anglo Saxons possessed the quality.

Examples of Anglo Saxon culture in Beowulf

The system of the government too was based on fundamental loyalty and bravery. These are the ideologies revealed about Anglo Saxon culture in Beowulf.  When Beowulf defeated the dragon Grendel for the first time, he was applauded by his people and made King.

This was the basis of the tribal culture. The loyalty is also reflected in the villain’s characteristics, that is, Grendel the dragon. He was loyal to his mother and so was the mother to the son. She brought the wrath on the whole city after the death of the child.

The Anglo Saxons culture reflects the element of generosity too on a high scale. The people, as well as the Kings, have generosity on a high level. Hrothgar the King of Danes rewarded Beowulf with quite a generous heart after his victory over the dragon.

Beowulf also denotes a good element of friendship as well. The Kings in the poem, be it Hrothgar or Beowulf;  both are seen to have given their friends gifts such as rings, golden helmets, and their own shirts.

Hence, friendship, generosity, and loyalty are the Beowulf ideals in Anglo Saxon culture.

What are the typical questions and answers about Beowulf?

What is Beowulf’s last boast?

He describes the wars between the Geats and the Swedes after Hrethel’s death, recalling his proud days as a warrior in the service of Hygelac. He then makes his final boast: he vows to fight the dragon, if only it will abandon its barrow and face him on open ground.

What is the story Beowulf?

Location is Scandinavia in the 6th century. Beowulf is a hero of the Geats, who comes to the aid of the king of the Danes Hrothgar, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After the victory, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and becomes king of the Geats.

Was Beowulf a real person?

Like in legendary stories, Beowulf is a mixing of fact and fiction, and there is historical evidence for many of the events depicted in the poem. However, there is no evidence of a real Beowulf.

Is Beowulf a Viking or Anglo-Saxon?

Beowulf was identified as a Geat which was a Viking culture that originated in Sweden. A Viking culture known as the Danes found in Denmark.

Why is Beowulf important?

Although it was written in Old English, Beowulf is often referred to as the first important work of literature in English, hence considered important.

What can we learn from Beowulf?

Not to underestimate the power of Heritage and Reputation.
Choose your Battles Wisely.
Honour your King and Queen
Make Ready the Battle Gear
Gather Thirteen Warriors
Being a Good Leader
Knowing when to Quit
Find your Wiglaf (Wiglaf is a young warrior in the service of his king, Beowulf.)

What is the moral lesson of the story of Beowulf?

The moral of Beowulf is that it is better to die young as a hero and virtue than to grow old being a coward and avoiding your responsibilities. Beowulf shows great courage in pain and adversity as he protects the community by fighting Grendel, his mother, and the dragon Wiglaf.

What was Beowulf’s dying wish?

A barrow built on top of his funeral pyre that will serve as his memorial. He asks Wiglaf to build a great burial for him and to take good care of his people. He says that although he is dying, he is glad to give his people the gold that was found in the dragon’s place. `I thank God that I can give my people these gifts of gold. But you must see to the people’s needs now, Wiglaf.

How does Beowulf show his loyalty?

Beowulf shows his loyalty to Hrothgar by agreeing to help him rid the castle of the monster, Grendel, who has been terrorizing the mead hall for twelve years.

What is the main theme in Beowulf?

The major themes in Beowulf reflect the values and the motivations of the characters. One of the central themes of Beowulf is loyalty. At every step of his career, loyalty is Beowulf’s guiding virtue.

How is Good vs Evil a theme in Beowulf?

Good and evil are clearly defined. The monsters: Grendel, his mother, and the dragon, all are portrayed evil, and by fighting and defeating them, Beowulf represents good.

How does Beowulf kill Grendel’s mother?

When his sword, Hrunting, loaned by Unferth, fails to penetrate the mother’s hide, Beowulf discovers a giant magic sword in the cave and is able to kill the mother with it.

What kind of person is Beowulf?

Loyal, hero, fighter, brave, strong

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