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.

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