Beowulf
Overview
Beowulf (ˈbeɪ.ɵwʊlf; in Old English ˈbeːo̯wʊlf or ˈbeːəwʊlf is the conventional title"Like most Old English poems, Beowulf has no title in the unique manuscript in which it survives (British Library, Cotton Vitellius A.xv, which was copied round the year 1000 AD), but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." (Robinson) of an Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 heroic epic poem
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

, set in Scandinavia
Scandza
Scandza was the name given to Scandinavia by the Roman historian Jordanes in his work Getica, written while in Constantinople around AD 551. He described the area to set the stage for his treatment of the Goths' migration from southern Sweden to Gothiscandza...

, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature
Anglo-Saxon literature
Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period from the 7th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others...

.

It survives in a single manuscript known as the Nowell Codex
Nowell Codex
Cotton Vitellius A. xv is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices. It is most famous as the manuscript containing the unique copy of the epic poem Beowulf; in addition to this it contains a fragment of The Life of Saint Christopher, and the more complete texts Letters of Alexander to...

.
Encyclopedia
Beowulf (ˈbeɪ.ɵwʊlf; in Old English ˈbeːo̯wʊlf or ˈbeːəwʊlf is the conventional title"Like most Old English poems, Beowulf has no title in the unique manuscript in which it survives (British Library, Cotton Vitellius A.xv, which was copied round the year 1000 AD), but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." (Robinson) of an Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 heroic epic poem
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

, set in Scandinavia
Scandza
Scandza was the name given to Scandinavia by the Roman historian Jordanes in his work Getica, written while in Constantinople around AD 551. He described the area to set the stage for his treatment of the Goths' migration from southern Sweden to Gothiscandza...

, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature
Anglo-Saxon literature
Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period from the 7th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others...

.

It survives in a single manuscript known as the Nowell Codex
Nowell Codex
Cotton Vitellius A. xv is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices. It is most famous as the manuscript containing the unique copy of the epic poem Beowulf; in addition to this it contains a fragment of The Life of Saint Christopher, and the more complete texts Letters of Alexander to...

. Its composition by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 poet"The name of the poet who assembled from tradition the materials of his story and put them in their final form is not known to us" (Robinson). In scholarship, the poet is commonly referred to as the "Beowulf poet". is dated between the 8th and the early 11th century. In 1731, the manuscript was badly damaged by a fire that swept through a building housing a collection of Medieval manuscripts assembled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton. The poem fell into obscurity for decades, and its existence did not become widely known again until it was printed in 1815 in an edition prepared by the Icelandic scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín was an Icelandic -Danish scholar, who became the National Archivist of Denmark and Professor of Antiquities at Copenhagen University....

.

In the poem, Beowulf
Beowulf (hero)
Beowulf is a legendary Geatish hero and later turned king in the epic poem named after him, one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the English language.-Etymology and origins of the character:...

, a hero of the Geats, comes to the help of Hroðgar
Hroðgar
Hroðgar, King Hroþgar, "Hrothgar", Hróarr, Hroar, Roar, Roas or Ro was a legendary Danish king, living in the early 6th century....

 (the king of the Danes), whose mead hall
Mead hall
In ancient Scandinavia and Germanic Europe a mead hall or feasting hall was initially simply a large building with a single room. From the fifth century to early medieval times such a building was the residence of a lord and his retainers. The mead hall was generally the great hall of the king...

 (Heorot) has been under attack by Grendel
Grendel
Grendel is one of three antagonists, along with Grendel's mother and the dragon, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf . Grendel is usually depicted as a monster, though this is the subject of scholarly debate. In the poem, Grendel is feared by all but Beowulf.-Story:The poem Beowulf is contained in...

. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother is one of three antagonists in the work of Old English literature of anonymous authorship, Beowulf . She is never given a name in the text....

 attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon
Dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his retinue buries him in a tumulus
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 in Geatland.

Story

The main protagonist, Beowulf
Beowulf (hero)
Beowulf is a legendary Geatish hero and later turned king in the epic poem named after him, one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the English language.-Etymology and origins of the character:...

, a hero of the Geat
Geat
Geats , and sometimes Goths) were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting what is now Götaland in modern Sweden...

s, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose great hall, Heorot
Heorot
Heorot is a mead hall described in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as "the foremost of halls under heaven." It served as a palace for King Hroðgar, a legendary Danish king of the sixth century. Heorot means "Hall of the Hart"...

, is plagued by the monster Grendel
Grendel
Grendel is one of three antagonists, along with Grendel's mother and the dragon, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf . Grendel is usually depicted as a monster, though this is the subject of scholarly debate. In the poem, Grendel is feared by all but Beowulf.-Story:The poem Beowulf is contained in...

. Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a sword, which giants once used, that Beowulf found in Grendel's mother's lair.

Later in his life, Beowulf is himself king of the Geats, and finds his realm terrorised by a dragon
The Dragon (Beowulf)
The final act of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, depicts the hero Beowulf's fight with a dragon, the third monster he encounters in the epic. Returning from Heorot, where he killed Grendel and Grendel's mother, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and rules peacefully for 50 years until a slave...

 whose treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound. He attacks the dragon
Dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

 with the help of his thegn
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

s
or servants, but they do not succeed. Beowulf decides to follow the dragon into its lair, at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf
Wiglaf
Wiglaf is a character in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf. He is the son of Weohstan, a Swede of the Wægmunding clan who had entered the service of Beowulf, king of the Geats. Wiglaf is called Scylfing as a metonym for Swede, as the Scylfings were the ruling Swedish clan...

 dares join him. Beowulf finally slays the dragon, but is mortally wounded. He is buried in a tumulus
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 or burial mound, by the sea.

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
In medias res
In medias res or medias in res is a Latin phrase denoting the literary and artistic narrative technique wherein the relation of a story begins either at the mid-point or at the conclusion, rather than at the beginning In medias res or medias in res (into the middle of things) is a Latin phrase...

 ("into the middle of affairs") or simply, "in the middle", 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 are spoken of, as well as their interactions with each other, debts owed and repaid, and deeds of valour.

Structured by battles

Jane Chance (Professor of English, Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

) in her 1980 article "The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother" argued that there are two standard interpretations of the poem: one view which suggests a two-part structure (i.e., the poem is divided between Beowulf's battles with Grendel
Grendel
Grendel is one of three antagonists, along with Grendel's mother and the dragon, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf . Grendel is usually depicted as a monster, though this is the subject of scholarly debate. In the poem, Grendel is feared by all but Beowulf.-Story:The poem Beowulf is contained in...

 and with the dragon) and the other, a three-part structure (this interpretation argues that Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother is one of three antagonists in the work of Old English literature of anonymous authorship, Beowulf . She is never given a name in the text....

 is structurally separate from his battle with Grendel). Chance stated that, "this view of the structure as two-part has generally prevailed since its inception in J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
Beowulf: the monsters and the critics
"Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf...

in Proceedings of the British Academy 22 (1936)." In contrast, she argued that the three-part structure has become "increasingly popular."

First battle: Grendel

Beowulf begins with the story of King Hroðgar, who built the great hall Heorot
Heorot
Heorot is a mead hall described in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as "the foremost of halls under heaven." It served as a palace for King Hroðgar, a legendary Danish king of the sixth century. Heorot means "Hall of the Hart"...

 for his people. In it he, his wife Wealhþeow
Wealhþeow
Wealhþēow is a legendary queen of the Danes in the Old English poem, Beowulf, first introduced in line 612.-Character overview:She is the Wulfing queen of the Danes. She is married to Hroðgar, the Danish king and is the mother of sons Hreðric and Hroðmund and also of daughter Freawaru. The meaning...

, and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating, until Grendel, a troll-like monster who is pained by the singing, attacks the hall and kills and devours many of Hroðgar's warriors while they sleep. But Grendel does not touch the throne of Hroðgar, for it is described as protected by a powerful god. Hroðgar and his people, helpless against Grendel's attacks, abandon Heorot.

Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hroðgar's troubles and with his king's permission leaves his homeland to help Hroðgar.

Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf bears no weapon as Grendel is immune to human weapons, and because this would be an "unfair advantage" over the unarmed beast. After they fall asleep, Grendel enters the hall and attacks, devouring one of Beowulf's men. Beowulf has been feigning sleep and leaps up to clench Grendel's hand. The two battle until it seems as though the hall might collapse. Beowulf's retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades can not pierce Grendel's skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel's arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes to die.

Second battle: Grendel's mother

The next night, after celebrating Grendel's death, Hroðgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel's mother, angered by the death of her son, appears and attacks the hall. She kills Hroðgar's most trusted warrior, Æschere
Æschere
In the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, Æschere is Hrothgar's most trusted advisor who is killed by Grendel's mother in her attack on Heorot after Grendel's death. His name is composed of the Germanic elements Æsc, meaning 'ash', and here, meaning 'army'...

, in revenge for Grendel's death.

Hroðgar, Beowulf, and their men track Grendel's mother to her lair under a lake. Beowulf prepares himself for battle; he is presented with a sword, Hrunting
Hrunting
Hrunting was a sword given to Beowulf by Unferth in the ancient Old English epic poem Beowulf. Beowulf used it in battle against Grendel's Mother.Beowulf is described receiving the sword in lines 1455-1458:-Hrunting's failure:...

, by Unferth
Unferð
Old English epic poem Beowulf, Unferth or Hunferth is a thegn of the Danish lord Hroðgar. The name Unferth does not appear in any Old English manuscript outside of the Nowell Codex, which contains Beowulf, and the meaning of the name is disputed. Several scholarly theories about Unferth have been...

, a warrior who had doubted him and wishes to make amends. After stipulating a number of conditions to Hroðgar in case of his death (including the taking in of his kinsmen and the inheritance by Unferth of Beowulf's estate), Beowulf dives into the lake. He is swiftly detected and attacked by Grendel's mother. However, she is unable to harm Beowulf through his armour and drags him to the bottom of the lake. In a cavern containing Grendel's body and the remains of men that the two have killed, Grendel's mother and Beowulf engage in fierce combat.

At first, Grendel's mother appears to prevail. Beowulf, finding that Hrunting cannot harm his foe, discards it in fury. Beowulf is again saved from his opponent's attack by his armour and Beowulf beheads her with a sword of the giants from Grendel's mother's armoury. (This sword is a very special sword. Once Beowulf returns to the surface the sword melts like ice and only the hilt is left. Beowulf then presents the hilt of the blade to Hroðgar.) Travelling further into the lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's corpse and severs its head. Beowulf then returns to the surface and to his men at the "ninth hour" (l. 1600, "nōn", about 3pm). He returns to Heorot, where Hroðgar gives Beowulf many gifts, including the sword Nægling, his family's heirloom.

Third battle: The dragon

Beowulf returns home and eventually becomes king of his own people. One day, fifty years after Beowulf's battle with Grendel's mother, a slave steals a golden cup from the lair of an unnamed dragon
The Dragon (Beowulf)
The final act of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, depicts the hero Beowulf's fight with a dragon, the third monster he encounters in the epic. Returning from Heorot, where he killed Grendel and Grendel's mother, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and rules peacefully for 50 years until a slave...

 at Earnaness
Earnaness
Earnanæs , Aranæs and Årnäs is the name of at least two locations, in what is today southern Sweden, which are known from history and legend...

. 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 display and fearing for their lives, creep back into the woods. One of his men, however, Wiglaf, who finds great distress in seeing Beowulf's plight, comes to Beowulf's aid. The two slay the dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded.

Beowulf is buried in Geatland on a cliff overlooking the sea, where sailors are able to see his tumulus
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

. The dragon's treasure is buried with him, in accordance with Beowulf's wishes, rather than distributed to his people, and there is a curse associated with the hoard to insure that Beowulf's wish is kept.

Structured by funerals

It is widely accepted that there are three funerals in Beowulf. The funerals are also paired with the three battles described above. The three funerals share similarities regarding the offerings for the dead and the change in theme through the description of each funeral. Gale Owen-Crocker (Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Manchester
University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research university located in Manchester, United Kingdom. It is a "red brick" university and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities and the N8 Group...

) in The Four Funerals in Beowulf (2000) argues that a passage in the poem, commonly known as “The Lay of the Last Survivor” (lines 2247–66), is an additional funeral. The funerals are themselves involved in the ritual of hoarding: the deposition of sacrificial objects with both religious and socio-economic functions.

First Funeral: Scyld Scefing (lines 1–52)

The first funeral in the poem is of Scyld Scefing
Scyld
Scyld Scefing is the legendary ancestor of the Danish royal lineage known as the Scyldings. He is the counterpart of the Skioldus or Skjöldr of Danish and Icelandic sources....

 (translated in some versions as "Shield Shiefson") the king of the Danes. The first section of the poem, (the first fitt), helps the poet illustrate the settings of the poem by introducing Hrothgar’s lineage. The funeral leads to the introduction of the hero, Beowulf and his confrontation with the first monster, Grendel. This passage begins by describing Scyld’s glory as a “scourge of many tribes, a wrecker of mead-benches.” Scyld’s glory and importance is shown by the prestigious death he obtains through his service as the king of the Danes. His importance is proven once more by the grand funeral given to him by his people: his funeral at sea with many weapons and treasures shows he was a great soldier and an even greater leader to his people. The poet introduces the concepts of a heroic society through Scyld. The possessions buried with the king are elaborately described to emphasise the importance of such items. The importance of these earthly possessions are then used to establish this dead king’s greatness in respect to the treasure. Scyld’s funeral helps the poet to elaborate on the glory of battle in a heroic society and how earthly possessions help define a person‘s importance. This funeral also helps the poet to develop the plot to lead into the confrontation between the protagonist, Beowulf, and the main antagonist, Grendel.

Second Funeral: Hildeburg’s kin (lines 1107–24)

The second funeral in the poem is that of Hildeburg’s
Hildeburh
Hildeburh, introduced in line 1071 of the poem, Beowulf, is the daughter of the Danish King Hoc and the wife of the Finn, King of the Frisians. Her story is sung by a scop during festivities in lines 1071-1158....

 kin and is the second fitt of this poem. The funeral is sung about in Heorot as part of a lay during the feasting to mark Beowulf's victory over Grendel. The death of Hildeburg’s brother Hnæf
Hnæf
Hnæf son of Hoc is a prince mentioned in the Old English poems Beowulf and the Finnsburg Fragment.According to the listing of tribes in the poem Widsith , Hnæf ruled the Hocings...

, son(s) and, later, her husband Finn
Finn (Frisian)
Finn, son of Folcwald, was a legendary Frisian lord. He is mentioned in Widsith, in Beowulf, and in the Finnsburg Fragment. There is also a Finn mentioned in Historia Brittonum....

 the Frisian king are sung about as the result of fighting in Frisia
Frisia
Frisia is a coastal region along the southeastern corner of the North Sea, i.e. the German Bight. Frisia is the traditional homeland of the Frisians, a Germanic people who speak Frisian, a language group closely related to the English language...

 between the visiting Danish chieftain Hnæf and his retainers (including one Hengest
Hengest
Hengist and Horsa are figures of Anglo-Saxon, and subsequently British, legend, which records the two as the Germanic brothers who led the Angle, Saxon, and Jutish armies that conquered the first territories of Great Britain in the 5th century AD...

) and Finn's followers. The funeral mirrors the use of funeral offerings for the dead with extravagant possessions in Scyld's funeral. Hildeburg’s relatives are buried with their armour and gold to signify their importance. However, the relatives’ funeral differs from the first as it was a cremation ceremony. Furthermore, the poet focuses on the strong emotions of those who died while in battle. The gory details of “heads melt[ing], gashes [springing] open...and the blood [springing] out from the body’s wounds” describes war as a horrifying event instead of one of glory. Although the poet maintains the theme of possessions as important even in death, the glory of battle is challenged by the vicious nature of war. The second funeral displays different concepts from the first and a change of direction in the plot that leads to Beowulf's fight against Grendel's Mother.

Controversial Funeral: Lay of the Last Survivor (lines 2247–66)

"The Lay of the Last Survivor" is arguably an addition to the other three funerals in Beowulf because of the striking similarities that define the importance of the other burials. The parallels that identify this passage with the other three funerals are the similar burial customs, changes in setting and plot, and changes of theme. The lament appears to be a funeral because of the Last Survivor’s description of burial offerings that are also found in the funerals of Scyld Scefing, Hildeburg’s kin, and Beowulf. The Last Survivor describes the many treasures left for the dead such as the weapons, armour and golden cups that have strong parallels to Scyld’s “well furbished ship...,bladed weapons and coats of mail,” Hildeburg’s Kin’s “blood-plastered coats of mail [and] boar-shaped helmets” and Beowulf's treasure from the dragon.

An additional argument towards viewing this passage as a funeral lies in the statement, “tumbling hawk [and] swift horse” mentioned in the poem. This is an animal offering which was a burial custom during the era in which the poem takes place. Moreover this passage, like the other funerals, signifies changes in setting and plot. One can also argue that it is the 3rd part to the poem since it describes the settings during the time lapse for the final battle between Beowulf and the Dragon. The poet also describes death in battle as horrifying, a concept continued from the second part of the poem, through the Last Survivor’s eyes.

Third Funeral: Beowulf (lines 3137–82)

The fourth and final funeral of the poem is Beowulf's funeral. During the final battle against the dragon, Beowulf receives fatal wounds and dies. The greatness of Beowulf's life is demonstrated through this funeral, particularly through the many offerings of his people. "Weohstan's son (pause) commanded it be announced to many men (pause) that they should fetch from afar wood for the pyre." for their leader's funeral. The dragon's remains are thrown into the sea, a parallel to Scyld's burial in his ship. Beowulf's funeral is the fourth fitt of the poem and acts as an epilogue
Epilogue
An epilogue, epilog or afterword is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work...

 for the hero who is the "most gracious and fair-minded, kindest to his people and keenest to win fame."

Historical background

The events described in the poem take place in the late 5th century, after the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 had begun migration and settlement in England, and before the beginning of the 7th century, a time when the Saxons were either newly arrived or in close contact with their fellow Germanic kinsmen
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 in Scandinavia and Northern Germany
Northern Germany
- Geography :The key terrain features of North Germany are the marshes along the coastline of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and the geest and heaths inland. Also prominent are the low hills of the Baltic Uplands, the ground moraines, end moraines, sandur, glacial valleys, bogs, and Luch...

. The poem could have been transmitted in England by people of Geat
Geat
Geats , and sometimes Goths) were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting what is now Götaland in modern Sweden...

ish origins. It has been suggested that Beowulf was first composed in the 7th century at Rendlesham
Rendlesham, Suffolk
Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, Suffolk was a royal centre of authority for the king of the East Anglians, of the Wuffinga line; the proximity of the Sutton Hoo ship burial may indicate a connection between Sutton Hoo and the East Anglian royal house...

 in East Anglia, as Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo, near to Woodbridge, in the English county of Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British...

 also shows close connections with Scandinavia, and also that the East Anglian royal dynasty, the Wuffing
Wuffing
The Wuffingas were the ruling dynasty of the kingdom of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Wuffingas took their name from Wuffa, an early East Anglian king. It has been argued that the Wuffingas may have originated...

s, were descendants of the Geat
Geat
Geats , and sometimes Goths) were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting what is now Götaland in modern Sweden...

ish Wulfings. Others have associated this poem with the court of King Alfred
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

, or with the court of King Canute
Canute the Great
Cnut the Great , also known as Canute, was a king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. Though after the death of his heirs within a decade of his own and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, his legacy was largely lost to history, historian Norman F...

.
The poem deals with legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

s, and was composed for entertainment and does not separate between fictional elements and real historic events, such as the raid by King Hygelac
Hygelac
Hygelac was a king of the Geats according to the poem Beowulf. He was the son of Hrethel and had brothers Herebeald and Hæthcyn. His sister was married to Ecgtheow and had the son Beowulf. Hygelac was married to Hygd and they had the son Heardred, and an unnamed daughter who married Eofor...

 into Frisia
Frisia
Frisia is a coastal region along the southeastern corner of the North Sea, i.e. the German Bight. Frisia is the traditional homeland of the Frisians, a Germanic people who speak Frisian, a language group closely related to the English language...

. Scholars generally agree that many of the personalities of Beowulf also appear in Scandinavian sources (specific works designated in the following section). This does not only concern people (e.g., Healfdene, Hroðgar
Hroðgar
Hroðgar, King Hroþgar, "Hrothgar", Hróarr, Hroar, Roar, Roas or Ro was a legendary Danish king, living in the early 6th century....

, Halga
Halga
Halga, Helgi, Helghe or Helgo was a legendary Danish king living in the early 6th century. His name would in his own language have been *Hailaga ....

, Hroðulf, Eadgils
Eadgils
Eadgils, Adils, Aðils, Adillus, Aðísl at Uppsölum, Athisl, Athislus or Adhel was a semi-legendary king of Sweden, who is estimated to have lived during the 6th century....

 and Ohthere
Ohthere
Ohthere, Ohtere , Óttarr, Óttarr vendilkráka or Ottar Vendelkråka was a semi-legendary king of Sweden who would have lived during the 6th century and belonged to the house of Scylfings...

), but also clans
Norse clans
The Scandinavian clan or ætt was a social group based on common descent or on the formal acceptance into the group at a þing.-History:...

 (e.g., Scylding
Scylding
Old English Scylding and Old Norse Skjöldung , meaning in both languages "People of Scyld/Skjöld" refers to members of a legendary royal family of Danes and sometimes to their people. The name is explained in many text by the descent of this family from an eponymous king Scyld/Skjöld...

s, Scylfings
Yngling
The Ynglings were the oldest known Scandinavian dynasty. It can refer to the clans of the Scylfings , the semi-legendary royal Swedish clan during the Age of Migrations, with kings such as Eadgils, Onela and Ohthere...

 and Wulfings) and some of the events (e.g., the Battle on the Ice of Lake Vänern). The dating of the events in the poem has been confirmed by archaeological excavations of the barrows indicated by Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

 and by Swedish tradition as the graves of Ohthere
Ohthere
Ohthere, Ohtere , Óttarr, Óttarr vendilkráka or Ottar Vendelkråka was a semi-legendary king of Sweden who would have lived during the 6th century and belonged to the house of Scylfings...

 (dated to c. 530) and his son Eadgils
Eadgils
Eadgils, Adils, Aðils, Adillus, Aðísl at Uppsölum, Athisl, Athislus or Adhel was a semi-legendary king of Sweden, who is estimated to have lived during the 6th century....

 (dated to c. 575) in Uppland
Uppland
Uppland is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden, just north of Stockholm, the capital. It borders Södermanland, Västmanland and Gästrikland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea...

, Sweden.

In Denmark, recent archaeological excavations at Lejre
Lejre
Lejre is a town with a population of 2,343 and a municipality on the island of Zealand in east Denmark. It belongs to Region Sjælland. The town's Old Norse name was Hleiðra. The municipality has an area of 240 km² and a total population of ca. 26,603 . Its mayor is Mette Touborg, representing the...

, where Scandinavian tradition located the seat of the Scyldings, i.e., Heorot
Heorot
Heorot is a mead hall described in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as "the foremost of halls under heaven." It served as a palace for King Hroðgar, a legendary Danish king of the sixth century. Heorot means "Hall of the Hart"...

, have revealed that a hall was built in the mid-6th century, exactly the time period of Beowulf. Three halls, each about 50 metres long, were found during the excavation.
The majority view appears to be that people such as King Hroðgar and the Scyldings in Beowulf are based on real people in 6th-century Scandinavia. Like the Finnsburg Fragment and several shorter surviving poems, Beowulf has consequently been used as a source of information about Scandinavian personalities such as Eadgils and Hygelac, and about continental Germanic personalities such as Offa
Offa of Angel
Offa was the 4th-great-grandfather of Creoda of Mercia, and was reputed to be a great-grandson of Woden, English god of war and poetry and creator of Middle-Earth, the realm of man. Offa was the son of Wermund, and the father of Angeltheow...

, king of the continental Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

.

19th-century archeological evidence may confirm elements of the Beowulf story. Eadgils
Eadgils
Eadgils, Adils, Aðils, Adillus, Aðísl at Uppsölum, Athisl, Athislus or Adhel was a semi-legendary king of Sweden, who is estimated to have lived during the 6th century....

 was buried at Uppsala
Gamla Uppsala
Gamla Uppsala is a parish and a village outside Uppsala in Sweden. It had 16,231 inhabitants in 1991.As early as the 3rd century AD and the 4th century AD and onwards, it was an important religious, economic and political centre...

, according to Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

. When Eadgils' mound (to the left in the photo) was excavated in 1874, the finds supported Beowulf and the sagas. They showed that a powerful man was buried in a large barrow, c 575, on a bear skin with two dogs and rich grave offerings. These remains include a Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 sword adorned with gold and garnets and a tafl game with Roman pawns of ivory. He was dressed in a costly suit made of Frankish cloth with golden threads, and he wore a belt with a costly buckle. There were four cameos from the Middle East which were probably part of a casket. This would have been a burial fitting a king who was famous for his wealth in Old Norse sources. Ongenþeow
Ongenþeow
Ongentheow was the name of a semi-legendary Swedish king of the house of Scylfings, who appears in Old English sources...

's barrow (to the right in the photo) has not been excavated.

Sources and analogues

Neither Provenance
Provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

, identified sources, nor analogues
Analogue (literature)
The term analogue is used in literary history in two related senses:* a work which resembles another in terms of one or more motifs, characters, scenes, phrases or events....

 for Beowulf cannot be proven. Both of these are important in regards to the uncertainty surrounding the Beowulf manuscript, as the works from which it draws from or influences suggest time-frames of composition, geographic boundaries from which it could be composed, or range (both spatial and temporal) of influence (i.e. when it was "popular" and where its "popularity" took it). There are five main categories in which potential sources and/or analogues are included: Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n parallels, classical
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 sources, Irish
Early Irish literature
-The earliest Irish authors:It is unclear when literacy first came to Ireland. The earliest Irish writings are inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the fourth century...

 sources and analogues, ecclesiastical
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

 sources, and echoes in other Old English texts.

Early studies into Scandinavian sources/analogues proposed that Beowulf was a translation of an original Scandinavian work, but this idea has been discarded. In 1878, Guðbrandur Vigfússon
Guðbrandur Vigfússon
Guðbrandur Vigfússon, known in English as Gudbrand Vigfusson, was one of the foremost Scandinavian scholars of the 19th century.-Life:He was born of an Icelandic family in Breiðafjörður...

 made the connection between Beowulf and the Grettis saga
Grettis saga
Grettis saga is one of the Icelanders' sagas. It details the life of Grettir Ásmundarson, a bellicose Icelandic outlaw.- Overview :...

. This is currently one of the only Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n analogues
Analogue (literature)
The term analogue is used in literary history in two related senses:* a work which resembles another in terms of one or more motifs, characters, scenes, phrases or events....

 to receive a general consensus of potential connection. Tales concerning the Skjöldungs
Scylding
Old English Scylding and Old Norse Skjöldung , meaning in both languages "People of Scyld/Skjöld" refers to members of a legendary royal family of Danes and sometimes to their people. The name is explained in many text by the descent of this family from an eponymous king Scyld/Skjöld...

, possibly originating as early as the 6th century, were later used as a narrative basis in such texts as Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum is a patriotic work of Danish history, by the 12th century author Saxo Grammaticus . It is the most ambitious literary undertaking of medieval Denmark and is an essential source for the nation's early history...

by Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus also known as Saxo cognomine Longus was a Danish historian, thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark. He is the author of the first full history of Denmark.- Life :The Jutland Chronicle gives...

 and Hrólfs saga kraka
Hrólfs saga kraka
Hrólfs saga kraka, the Saga of King Hrolf kraki, is a late legendary saga on the adventures of Hrólfr Kraki and his clan, the Skjöldungs. The events can be dated to the late 5th century and the 6th century. It is believed to have been written in the period c. 1230 - c. 1450...

. Some scholars see Beowulf as a product of these early tales along with Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum is a patriotic work of Danish history, by the 12th century author Saxo Grammaticus . It is the most ambitious literary undertaking of medieval Denmark and is an essential source for the nation's early history...

and Hrólfs saga kraka
Hrólfs saga kraka
Hrólfs saga kraka, the Saga of King Hrolf kraki, is a late legendary saga on the adventures of Hrólfr Kraki and his clan, the Skjöldungs. The events can be dated to the late 5th century and the 6th century. It is believed to have been written in the period c. 1230 - c. 1450...

. Paul Beekman Taylor used the Ynglingasaga
Ynglinga saga
Ynglinga saga is a legendary saga, originally written in Old Norse by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson about 1225. It was first translated into English and published in 1844....

 as proof that the Beowulf poet was likewise working from Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 tradition.

Friedrich Panzer attempted to contextualise Beowulf and other Scandinavian works, including Grettis saga, under the international folktale
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 type 301B, or "The Bear's Son" tale. However, although this approach—the "shift ... from the quasi-historical or legendary materials ... to the folktale line of inquiry," was seen as a step in the right direction, "The Bear's Son" tale was seen as too universal. In a term coined by Peter Jørgensen
Peter Jørgensen (entomologist)
right|thumb|200px|Peter Jørgensen in Villarrica 1933, Photo by Poul SchouboePeter Jørgensen was a Danish early 20th century entomologist, active particularly in Argentina and Paraguay.- Life :Peter Jørgensen was educated teacher of English and German from Copenhagen 1889...

, the "two-troll tradition," a more concise frame of reference was found. The "two-troll tradition" refers to "a Norse
Norse art
Norse art is a blanket term for the artistic styles in Scandinavia during the Germanic Iron Age, the Viking Age , and sometimes even used when describing objects from the Nordic Bronze Age...

 'ecotype'
Ecotype
In evolutionary ecology, an ecotype,Greek: οίκος = home and τύπος = type, coined by Göte Turesson in 1922 sometimes called ecospecies, describes a genetically distinct geographic variety, population or race within species , which is adapted to specific environmental conditions.Typically, ecotypes...

 in which a hero enters a cave and kills two giants, usually of different sexes." Both Grettis saga and Beowulf fit this folktale
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 type.

Scholars who favored Irish
Early Irish literature
-The earliest Irish authors:It is unclear when literacy first came to Ireland. The earliest Irish writings are inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the fourth century...

 parallels directly spoke out against pro-Scandinavian
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 theories, citing them as unjustified. Wilhelm Grimm
Wilhelm Grimm
Wilhelm Carl Grimm was a German author, the younger of the Brothers Grimm.-Life and work:...

 is noted to be the first person to ever link Beowulf with Irish folklore. Max Deutschbein is noted as the first person to present the argument in academic form. He suggested the Irish Feast of Bricriu as a source for Beowulf—a theory that was soon denied by Oscar Olson. Swedish folklorist Carl Wilhelm Von Sydow argued against both Scandinavian translation and source material due to his theory that Beowulf is fundamentally Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and written at a time when any Norse tale would have most likely been pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 in nature.

In the late 1920s, Heinzer Dehmer suggested Beowulf as contextually based in the folktale
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 type “The Hand and the Child,” due to the motif
Motif (narrative)
In narrative, a motif is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood....

 of the “monstrous arm”—a motif that distances Grettis saga and Beowulf and further aligns Beowulf with Irish parallelism. James Carney and Martin Puhvel also agree with this “Hand and the Child” contextualisation. Carney also ties Beowulf to Irish literature through the Táin Bó
Táin Bó
The Táin Bó, or cattle raid , is one of the genres of early Irish literature. The medieval Irish literati organised their work into genres such as the Cattle Raid , the Voyage , the Feast , the Wooing , the Conception and the Death , rather than the familiar but...

Fráech
Fráech
Fráech is a Connacht hero in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. He was the nephew of Boann, goddess of the river Boyne, and was renowned for his handsomeness. He belongs to the Fir Domnann....

story. Puhvel supported the “Hand and the Child” theory through such motifs as “the more powerful giant mother, the mysterious light in the cave, the melting of the sword in blood, the phenomenon of battle rage, swimming prowess, combat with water monsters, underwater adventures, and the bear-hug style of wrestling.”

Attempts to find classical
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 or Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 influence or analogue in Beowulf are almost exclusively linked with Homer's
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

or Virgil's
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

. In 1926, Albert S. Cook
Albert Stanburrough Cook
Albert Stanburrough Cook was an American scholar and philologist....

 suggested a Homeric connection due to equivalent formulas, metonymies
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

, and analogous voyages. James A. Work's essay, “Odyssean Influence on the Beowulf,” also supported the Homeric influence. He stated that encounter between Beowulf and Unferth
Unferð
Old English epic poem Beowulf, Unferth or Hunferth is a thegn of the Danish lord Hroðgar. The name Unferth does not appear in any Old English manuscript outside of the Nowell Codex, which contains Beowulf, and the meaning of the name is disputed. Several scholarly theories about Unferth have been...

 was parallel to the encounter between Odysseus and Euryalus
Nisus and Euryalus
Nisus and Euryalus are a pair of friends serving under Aeneas in the Aeneid, the Augustan epic by Vergil. Their foray among the enemy, narrated in Book 9, demonstrates their stealth and prowess as warriors, but ends as a tragedy: the loot Euryalus acquires attracts attention, and the two die...

 in Books 7–8 of the Odyssey. This theory of Homer's influence on Beowulf remained very prevalent in the 1920s, but started to die out in the following decade when a handful of critics stated that the two works were merely “comparative literature” and that Greek was not much known in contemporary England, making acquaintance with Homer's epic as doubtful.

Friedrich Klaeber
Frederick Klaeber
Frederick J. Klaeber was a German philologist who was Professor of Old and Middle English at the University of Minnesota...

 somewhat led the attempt to connect Beowulf and Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 near the start of the 20th century, claiming that the very act of writing a secular epic in a Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 world is contingent on Virgil. 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. Similarly, in 1971, Alistair Campbell
Alistair Campbell (academic)
Alistair Campbell was a British academic who was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, from October 1963 until his death...

 stated that the apologue
Apologue
An apologue or apolog is a brief fable or allegorical story with pointed or exaggerated details, meant to serve as a pleasant vehicle for a moral doctrine or to convey a useful lesson without stating it explicitly. Unlike a fable, the moral is more important than the narrative details...

 technique used in Beowulf is so infrequent in the epic tradition aside from when Virgil uses it that the poet who composed Beowulf could not have written the poem in such a manner without first coming across Virgil's
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 writings. A large number of similarities in episodes, themes, and description in the two epics have been identified. Some specific examples of these are things such as:
  • The court bard in both epics sings of the creation of the world.
  • A human like giant, a Cyclops in the Aeneid book III, Grendel in Beowulf, coming into a hall every day to eat members of the hero's crew.
  • Hercules (Aeneid book VIII) following a trail to the giant Cacus' cave where he wrestles with him and kills him parallels Beowulf following a trail to Grendel's mother's cave where he wrestles with and kills her.
  • The scene in the forest of the hero shooting a "huge" beast with his bow and arrow while his men watch, and the men retrieve the body - a deer in the Aeneid, and a sea snake in Beowulf.
  • The commissioning of a special metallic shield to fight Turnus in the Aeneid and the dragon in Beowulf.
  • The following of a deer leading to a critical encounter with the enemy.
  • Youths riding around on horses at the funeral of a great man - Anchises in the Aeneid and Beowulf in Beowulf.
  • A woman predicting the fall and destruction of the nation by invaders - Cassandra in book II of the Aeneid and "A Geatish Woman" in Beowulf.

Some more fundamental structural similarities are things such as:
  • The division of both poems into two distinct phases - a first half Odyssean phase of wandering and adventuring in a different land and a second half Iliadic phase upon taking leadership in a new kingdom and fighting a terrible enemy there.
  • Beowulf's landing, an awkward reception at first, and stay at Heorot, being begged to stay there to fight king Hrothgar's enemies paralleling Aeneas' landing and stay at Carthage, again, awkward at first, including being begged to stay there to fight the queen's enemies, but the hero decides to leave in spite of being promised great wealth and privilege.
  • The hero works for and under another king for half the epic. In Beowulf, Hrothgar. In the Aeneid, king Latinus.


Whether seen as a pagan work with “Christian coloring” added by scribes or as a “Christian historical novel, with selected bits of paganism deliberately laid on as 'local color'
Regionalism (literature)
In literature, regionalism or local color refers to fiction or poetry that focuses on specific features – including characters, dialects, customs, history, and topography – of a particular region...

, as Margaret E. Goldsmith did in “The Christian Theme of Beowulf,” it cannot be denied that Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 pervades the text, and with that, the use of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 as a source. Beowulf channels Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

 in its inclusion of references to God's creation of the universe, the story of Cain
Cain and Abel
In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam only....

, Noah
Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

 and the flood
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

, devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

s or the Devil, Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

, and the Last Judgement.

The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 can fall into both the category of ecclesiastical
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

 sources and also this category, as the Beowulf poet would have relied on Old English translations.

The Beowulf manuscript

Beowulf survives in a single manuscript dated on paleographical grounds to the late tenth or early eleventh century. The manuscript measures 195 x 130 mm.

Provenance

The earliest known owner of the Beowulf manuscript is the 16th-century scholar Laurence Nowell
Laurence Nowell
Two sixteenth-century English cousins, one an antiquarian and the other a churchman, were named Laurence Nowell. Their biographies have been confused since the seventeenth century.-Antiquarian:Laurence Nowell Two sixteenth-century English cousins, one an antiquarian and the other a churchman, were...

, after whom the manuscript is named, though its official designation is Cotton Vitellius A.XV because it was one of Robert Bruce Cotton
Robert Bruce Cotton
Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, 1st Baronet was an English antiquarian and Member of Parliament, founder of the important Cotton library....

's holdings in the middle of the 17th century. Kevin Kiernan argues that Nowell most likely acquired it through William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley , KG was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572...

, in 1563, when Nowell entered Cecil’s household as a tutor
Tutor
A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor is to perform the functions of a tutor.-Teaching assistance:...

 to his ward, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Earl of Oxford
Earl of Oxford is a dormant title in the Peerage of England, held for several centuries by the de Vere family from 1141 until the death of the 20th earl in 1703. The Veres were also hereditary holders of the office of master or Lord Great Chamberlain from 1133 until the death of the 18th Earl in 1625...

.

It suffered damage in the Cotton Library
Cotton library
The Cotton or Cottonian library was collected privately by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton M.P. , an antiquarian and bibliophile, and was the basis of the British Library...

 fire at Ashburnham House
Ashburnham House
Ashburnham House is an extended seventeenth-century house on Little Dean's Yard in Westminster, London, United Kingdom, and since 1882 has been part of Westminster School...

 in 1731. 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, professor of English at the University of Kentucky
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky, also known as UK, is a public co-educational university and is one of the state's two land-grant universities, located in Lexington, Kentucky...

, is foremost in the computer digitisation and preservation of the manuscript (the Electronic Beowulf Project), using fibre-optic backlighting to further reveal lost letters of the poem.

The poem is known only from this single manuscript, which is estimated to date from close to AD 1000. Kiernan has argued from an examination of the manuscript that it was the author's own working copy. He dated the work to the reign of Canute the Great
Canute the Great
Cnut the Great , also known as Canute, was a king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. Though after the death of his heirs within a decade of his own and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, his legacy was largely lost to history, historian Norman F...

. The poem appears in what is today called the Beowulf manuscript or Nowell Codex
Nowell Codex
Cotton Vitellius A. xv is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices. It is most famous as the manuscript containing the unique copy of the epic poem Beowulf; in addition to this it contains a fragment of The Life of Saint Christopher, and the more complete texts Letters of Alexander to...

 (British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A.xv), along with other works. The earliest extant reference to the first foliation of the Nowell Codex was made sometime between 1628 and 1650 by Franciscus Junius (the younger)
Franciscus Junius (the younger)
Franciscus Junius , also known as François du Jon, was a pioneer of Germanic philology. As a collector of ancient manuscripts, he published the first modern editions of a number of important texts.-Life:...

. The owner of the codex before Nowell remains a mystery.

Reverend Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith (scholar)
Thomas Smith was an English scholar, expelled Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and non-juring divine.-Early life and academic career:...

 and Humfrey Wanley
Humfrey Wanley
Humfrey Wanley was a librarian, palaeographer and scholar of Old English, employed by manuscript collectors such as Robert and Edward Harley. He was the first keeper of the Harlein Library, now the Harleian Collection.-Life:...

 undertook the task of cataloguing the Cotton library, in which the Nowell Codex was held. Smith’s catalogue appeared in 1696, and Humfrey’s in 1705. The Beowulf manuscript itself is mentioned in name for the first time in a letter in 1700 between George Hickes, Wanley’s assistant, and Wanley. 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. XV. Hickes replies to Wanley "I can find nothing yet of Beowulph." It has been theorised that Smith failed to mention the Beowulf manuscript because of his reliance on previous catalogues or because either he had no idea how to describe it or because it was temporarily out of the codex.

Writing

The Beowulf manuscript was transcribed from an original by two scribes, one of whom wrote the first 1939 lines and a second who wrote the remainder, so the poem up to line 1939 is in one handwriting, whilst the rest of the poem is in another. The script of the second scribe is archaic. Both scribes proofread their work down to even the most minute error. The second scribe slaved over the poem for many years "with great reverence and care to restoration". The first scribe's revisions can be broken down into three categories "the removal of dittographic material; the restoration of material that was inadvertently omitted or was about to be omitted; and the conversion of legitimate, but contextually incorrect words to the contextually proper words. These three categories provide the most compelling evidence that the scribe was generally attentive to his work while he was copying, and that he later subjected his work to careful proofreading." The work of the second scribe bears a striking resemblance to the work of the first scribe of the Blickling homilies
Blickling homilies
The Blickling Homilies are the second largest collection of anonymous homilies written in Old English. The Blickling Homilies are written in prose and said to have been written down by possibly two different scribes before the end of the 10th century. This might be one of the oldest collection of...

, and so much so that it is believed they derive from the same scriptorium
Scriptorium
Scriptorium, literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes...

. From knowledge of books held in the library at Malmesbury Abbey
Malmesbury Abbey
Malmesbury Abbey, at Malmesbury in Wiltshire, England, was founded as a Benedictine monastery around 676 by the scholar-poet Aldhelm, a nephew of King Ine of Wessex. In 941 AD, King Athelstan was buried in the Abbey. By the 11th century it contained the second largest library in Europe and was...

 and available as source works, and from the identification of certain words particular to the local dialect found in the text, the transcription may have been made there. However, for at least a century, some scholars have maintained that the description of Grendel’s lake in Beowulf was borrowed from St. Paul’s vision of Hell in Homily 16 of the Blickling homilies. Most intriguing in the many versions of the Beowulf FS is the transcription of alliterative verse. From the first scribe's edits, emenders such as Klaeber were forced to alter words for the sake of the poem. "The lack of alliteration in line 1981 forced Klaeber in his edition, for example, to change side (the scribe's correction) to heal. The latter scribe revealed not only astute mechanical editing, but also unbridled nourishment of the physical manuscript itself.". Over the years Beowulf scholars have put the work of the scribes under intense scrutiny, many debate whether the scribes even held a copy as some believe they worked solely from oral dictation. Men such as Benjamin Thorpe
Benjamin Thorpe
Benjamin Thorpe was an English scholar of Anglo-Saxon.-Biography:After studying for four years at Copenhagen University, under the Danish philologist Rasmus Christian Rask, he returned to England in 1830, and in 1832 published an English version of Caedmon's metrical paraphrase of portions of the...

 saw many errors in rhetoric and diction, implying that the transcribing made little to no sense. Most intriguing however becomes the abhorrence of the first scribe's mechanical editing. This reveals the strength of Beowulf's oral history as poetic flow were prioritised over dialect/ grammatical coherency.

Transcription

Icelandic scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín was an Icelandic -Danish scholar, who became the National Archivist of Denmark and Professor of Antiquities at Copenhagen University....

 made the first transcriptions of the manuscript in 1786 and published the results in 1815, working under a historical research commission of the Danish government. He made one himself, and had another done by a professional copyist who knew no Anglo-Saxon. Since that time, the manuscript has crumbled further, and the Thorkelin transcripts remain a prized secondary source for Beowulf scholars. The recovery of at least 2000 letters can be attributed to these transcripts. Their accuracy has been called into question, however (e.g., by Chauncey Brewster Tinker in The Translations of Beowulf, a comprehensive survey of 19th-century translations and editions of Beowulf), and the extent to which the manuscript was actually more readable in Thorkelin's time is unclear.

Authorship and date

Beowulf was written in England, but is set in Scandinavia. It has variously been dated to between the 8th and the early 11th centuries. It is an epic poem told in historical perspective; a story of epic events and of great people of a heroic past. Although its author is unknown, its themes and subject matter are rooted in Germanic heroic poetry, in Anglo-Saxon tradition recited and cultivated by Old English poets called scop
Scop
A ' was an Old English poet, the Anglo-Saxon counterpart of the Old Norse .As far as we can tell from what has been preserved, the art of the scop was directed mostly towards epic poetry; the surviving verse in Old English consists of the epic Beowulf, religious verse in epic formats such as the...

s.

Opinion differs as to whether the composition of the poem is contemporary with its transcription, or whether the poem was composed at an earlier time (possibly as one of the Bear's Son Tales
Bear's Son Tales
Bear's Son Tales are a group of tales found from Europe, Asia and North America, with over 200 known versions. Similar characteristics include a monster to be defeated by a hero who is descended from a bear, or has attributes of a bear, usually after others fail in the attempt. In some stories the...

) and orally transmitted for many years, and then transcribed at a later date. Lord (1960:) felt strongly the manuscript represents the transcription of a performance, though likely taken at more than one sitting.
Kiernan (1996) argues on the basis of paleographical and codicological
Codicology
Codicology is the study of books as physical objects, especially manuscripts written on parchment in codex form...

 evidence, that the poem is contemporary with the manuscript. Kiernan's reasoning has in part to do with the much-discussed political context of the poem: it has been held by most scholars, until recently, that the poem was composed in the 8th century on the assumption that a poem eliciting sympathy for the Danes could not have been composed by Anglo-Saxons during the Viking Ages of the 9th and 10th centuries.

Kiernan argues against an 8th-century provenance because this would still require that the poem be transmitted by Anglo-Saxons through the Viking Age, holds that the paleographic and codicological evidence encourages the belief that Beowulf is an 11th-century composite poem, and states that Scribe A and Scribe B are the authors and that Scribe B is the more poignant of the two. This matches with the royal house of England in the early 11th Century being Danish, making the poem politically compatible with this time period.

The view of J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

 is that the poem retains a much too genuine memory of Anglo-Saxon paganism to have been composed more than a few generations after the completion of the Christianisation of England
History of the Church of England
The history of the Church of England has its origins in the last five years of the 6th century in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent, and the Gregorian mission of Saint Augustine. The Church of England emphasises continuity through apostolic succession and traditionally looks to these early events for...

 around AD 700. Tolkien's conviction that the poem dates to the 8th century is defended by Tom Shippey
Tom Shippey
Thomas Alan Shippey is a scholar of medieval literature, including that of Anglo-Saxon England, and of modern fantasy and science fiction, in particular the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, about whom he has written several scholarly studies. He is widely considered one of the leading academic scholars...

 (2007).

The celebration of deeds of ancient Danish and Swedish heroes, the poem beginning with a tribute to the royal line of Danish kings, but written in the dominant literary dialect of Anglo-Saxon England, for a number of scholars points to the 11th century reign of Canute, the Danish king whose empire included all of these areas, and whose primary place of residence was in England, as the most likely time of the poem's creation, the poem being written as a celebration of the king's heroic royal ancestors, perhaps intended as a form of artistic flattery by one of his English courtiers.

A suggestion made by John Mitchell Kemble
John Mitchell Kemble
John Mitchell Kemble , English scholar and historian, was the eldest son of Charles Kemble the actor and Maria Theresa Kemble....

 (1849) and defended by Jäching (1976) puts a terminus post quem of the early 9th century on the Finnesburg
Battle of Finnburg
The Battle of Finnsburg was a conflict in the Germanic heroic age between Frisians with a possible Jutish contingent, and a primarily Danish party...

 episode at least. Kemble identifies the character of Hnæf
Hnæf
Hnæf son of Hoc is a prince mentioned in the Old English poems Beowulf and the Finnsburg Fragment.According to the listing of tribes in the poem Widsith , Hnæf ruled the Hocings...

 son of Hoc with the historical Alamanni
Alamanni
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river . One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be...

c nobleman Hnabi
Hnabi
Hnabi or Nebi was an Alemannic duke in the eighth century. He was a son of Huoching and perhaps a grandson of the duke Gotfrid, which would make him a scion of the Agilolfing dynasty of Bavaria. He was the founder of the "old" line of the Ahalolfings...

 son of Huoching
Huoching
Huoching of Alamannia was an Alamannic nobleman.According to the 9th century Vita Hiudowici by Thegan, he was the son of Gotfrid Agilolfing ....

 (d. ca. 788), worked into the earlier episode set in Frisia around AD 800 at the earliest.

The 11th century date is due to scholars who argue that, rather than transcription of the tale from the oral tradition by a literate monk, Beowulf reflects an original interpretation of the story by the poet.

Debate over oral tradition

The question of whether Beowulf was passed down through oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 prior to its present manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 form has been the subject of much debate, and involves more than the mere matter of how it was composed. Rather, given the implications of the theory of oral-formulaic composition
Oral-Formulaic Composition
The theory of oral-formulaic composition originated in the scholarly study of epic poetry, being developed in the second quarter of the twentieth century...

 and oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

, 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 1960s
1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

 and 1970s
1970s
File:1970s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: US President Richard Nixon doing the V for Victory sign after his resignation from office after the Watergate scandal in 1974; Refugees aboard a US naval boat after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975; The 1973 oil...

. 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 firedrake narrative). These fragments would be held 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. On this view, the pagan references would be a sort of decorative archaising. There is a third view that sees merit in both arguments above and attempts to bridge them, and so cannot be articulated as starkly as they can; it sees more than one Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and more than one attitude towards paganism at work in the poem, separated from each other by hundreds of years; it sees the poem as originally the product of a literate Christian author with one foot in the pagan world and one in the Christian, himself a convert perhaps or one whose forbears had been pagan, a poet who was conversant in both oral and literary milieus and was capable of a masterful "repurposing" of poetry from the oral tradition; this early Christian poet saw virtue manifest in a willingness to sacrifice oneself in a devotion to justice and in an attempt to aid and protect those in need of help and greater safety; good pagan men had trodden that noble path and so this poet presents pagan culture with equanimity and respect; yet overlaid upon this early Christian poet's composition are verses from a much later reformist "fire-and-brimstone" Christian poet who vilifies pagan practice as dark and sinful and who adds satanic aspects to its monsters.

M. H. Abrams
M. H. Abrams
Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S...

 and Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar.Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the founders of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics"; his works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term...

 assert in their introduction to Beowulf in the Norton Anthology of English Literature
Norton Anthology of English Literature
The Norton Anthology of English Literature is an anthology of English literature published by the W. W. Norton & Company. It has gone through eight editions since its inception in 1962; it is the publisher's best-selling anthology, with some eight million copies in print. The influential critic...

that, "The poet was reviving the heroic language, style, and pagan world of ancient Germanic oral poetry […] it is now widely believed that Beowulf is the work of a single poet who was a Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 and that his poem reflects well-established Christian tradition."

However, scholars such as D.K. Crowne have proposed the idea that the poem was passed down from reciter to reciter under the theory of oral-formulaic composition
Oral-Formulaic Composition
The theory of oral-formulaic composition originated in the scholarly study of epic poetry, being developed in the second quarter of the twentieth century...

, which hypothesises that epic poems were (at least to some extent) improvised by whoever was reciting them. In his landmark work, The Singer of Tales
The Singer of Tales
The Singer of Tales is a book by Albert Lord that discusses the oral tradition as a theory of literary composition and its applications to Homeric and medieval epic. It was published in 1960.-Summary:The book is divided into two parts...

, Albert Lord
Albert Lord
Albert Bates Lord was a professor of Slavic and comparative literature at Harvard University who, after the death of Milman Parry, carried on that scholar's research into epic literature.-Personal life:...

 refers to the work of Francis P. 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 Anglo-Saxon
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 poetry 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 analyze 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. A few years later, Ann Watts published a book in which she argued against the imperfect application of traditional, Homeric, oral-formulaic theory to Anglo-Saxon poetry. She also argued that the two traditions are not comparable and should not be regarded as such. Thomas Gardner agreed with Watts, in a paper published four years later which argued that the Beowulf text is of too varied a nature to be completely constructed from formulae and themes.

John Miles Foley
John Miles Foley
John Miles Foley Is a scholar of comparative oral tradition, medieval and Old English Literature , Ancient Greek and Serbian epic. He is the founder of the academic journal Oral Tradition and the at the University of Missouri, where he is Curators' Professor of Classical Studies and English and...

 held, specifically with reference 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, finally unverifiable assumptions about composition, and that discard the oral/literate dichotomy focused on composition in favor of 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
Red herring
A red herring is a deliberate attempt to divert attention.Red herring may refer to:* Red herring , the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question....

. In this model, the poem is created, and is interpretable, within both noetic horizons. 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: "...a 'tertium quid', a modality that participates in both oral and literate culture yet also has a logic and aesthetic of its own."

Dialect

The poem mixes the West Saxon and Anglian dialects of Old English, though it predominantly uses West Saxon, as do other Old English poems copied at the time.

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. The poem retains a complicated mix of the following dialectical forms: Mercian, Northumbrian, Early West Saxon, Kentish and Late West Saxon. Kiernan argues that it is virtually impossible that there could have been a process of transmission which could have sustained the complicated mix of forms from dialect to dialect, from generation to generation, and from scribe to scribe.

Kiernan’s argument against an early dating based on a mixture of forms is long and involved, but he concludes that the mixture of forms points to a comparatively straightforward history of the written text as:


... an 11th-century MS; an 11th-century Mercian poet using an archaic poetic dialect; and 11th-century standard literary dialect that contained early and late, cross-dialectical forms, and admitted spelling variations; and (perhaps) two 11th-century scribes following slightly different spelling practices.


According to this view, Beowulf can largely be seen to be the product of antiquarian interests and that it tells readers more about "an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon’s notions about Denmark, and its pre-history, than it does about the age of Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

 and a 7th- or 8th-century Anglo-Saxon’s notions about his ancestors’ homeland."
There are in Beowulf rather more than thirty-one hundred distinct words, and almost thirteen hundred occur exclusively, or almost exclusively, in this poem and in the other poetical texts. 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-fourth 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.

Form and metre

An Old English poem such as Beowulf is very different from modern poetry. Anglo-Saxon poets typically used alliterative verse
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

, a form of verse
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 that uses alliteration
Alliteration
In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to...

 as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme
Rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

, a tool which is used rather infrequently. This is a technique 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. In addition, the two halves are divided by a caesura
Caesura
thumb|100px|An example of a caesura in modern western music notation.In meter, a caesura is a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition. The plural form of caesura is caesuras or caesurae...

: "Oft Scyld Scefing \\ sceaþena þreatum" (l. 4). This is a form of accentual verse
Accentual verse
Accentual verse has a fixed number of stresses per line or stanza regardless of the number of syllables that are present. It is common in languages that are stress-timed, such as English—as opposed to syllabic verse, which is common in syllable-timed languages, such as French.- Children's poetry...

, as opposed to our accentual-syllabic verse
Accentual-syllabic verse
Accentual-syllabic verse is an extension of accentual verse which fixes both the number of stresses and syllables within a line or stanza. Accentual-syllabic verse is highly regular and therefore easily scannable...

. There are four beats in every line – and two in every half-line.

The poet has a choice of epithets or formulae to use in order to fulfill 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 the same way as they are in modern English
Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

. The letter "h", for example, is always pronounced (Hroðgar: HROTH-gar), and the digraph "cg" is pronounced like "dj", as in the word "edge". Both f and s vary in pronunciation depending on their phonetic environment. Between vowels or voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

 consonants, they are voiced, sounding like modern v and z, respectively. Otherwise they are unvoiced, like modern f in "fat" and s in "sat". Some letters which are no longer found in modern English, such as thorn, þ, and eth, ð – representing both pronunciations of modern English "th", as in "cloth" and "clothe" – are used extensively both in the original manuscript and in modern English editions. The voicing of these characters echoes that of f and s. Both are voiced (as in "clothe") between other voiced sounds: oðer, laþleas, suþern. Otherwise they are unvoiced (as in "cloth"): þunor, suð, soþfæst.

Kenning
Kenning
A kenning is a type of literary trope, specifically circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry...

s 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." There are many kennings in Beowulf, and the device is typical of much of classic poetry in Old English, which is heavily formulaic. The poem also makes extensive use of elided
Elision
Elision is the omission of one or more sounds in a word or phrase, producing a result that is easier for the speaker to pronounce...

 metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

s.

J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

 argued that the poem is an elegy
Elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

.

Interpretation and criticism

In historical terms, the poem's characters would have been Norse pagans
Norse paganism
Norse paganism is the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries. Norse paganism is therefore a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe in the Viking Age...

 (the historical events of the poem took place before the Christianisation of Scandinavia), yet the poem was recorded by Christian Anglo-Saxons who had largely 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
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

. 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. M. H. Abrams
M. H. Abrams
Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S...

 and Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar.Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the founders of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics"; his works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term...

 note that:

Although Hrothgar and Beowulf are portrayed as morally upright and enlightened Pagans, they fully espouse and frequently affirm the values of Germanic heroic poetry. In the poetry depicting warrior society, the most important of human relationships was that which existed between the warrior – the thane
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

 – and his lord, a relationship based less on subordination of one man's will to another's than on mutual trust and respect. When a warrior vowed loyalty to his lord, he became not so much his servant as his voluntary companion, one who would take pride in defending him and fighting in his wars. In return, the lord was expected to take care of his thanes and to reward them richly for their valor.


This society was strongly defined in terms of kinship
Kinship
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....

; if someone was killed, it was the duty of surviving kin
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 to exact revenge either with their own lives or through weregild
Weregild
Weregild was a value placed on every human being and every piece of property in the Salic Code...

, a payment of reparation.

Stanley B. Greenfield (professor of English, University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

) has suggested that references to the human body throughout Beowulf emphasise the relative position of thanes to their lord. He argues that the term “shoulder-companion” could refer to both a physical arm as well as a thane (Aeschere) who was very valuable to his lord (Hrothgar). With Aeschere's death, Hrothgar turns to Beowulf as his new "arm." In addition, Greenfield argues the foot is used for the opposite effect, only appearing four times in the poem. It is used in conjunction with Unferth (a man described by Beowulf as weak, traitorous, and cowardly). Greenfield notes that Unferth is described as “at the king’s feet” (line 499). Unferth is also a member of the foot troops, who, throughout the story, do nothing and “generally serve as backdrops for more heroic action.”

At the same time, Richard North (professor of English, University College London) argues that the Beowulf poet interpreted "Danish myths
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

 in Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 form" (as the poem would have served as a form of entertainment for a Christian audience), and states: "As yet we are no closer to finding out why the first audience of Beowulf liked to hear stories about people routinely classified as damned. This question is pressing, given [...] that Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 saw the Danes as 'heathens' rather than as foreigners." Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother
Grendel's mother is one of three antagonists in the work of Old English literature of anonymous authorship, Beowulf . She is never given a name in the text....

 and Grendel
Grendel
Grendel is one of three antagonists, along with Grendel's mother and the dragon, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf . Grendel is usually depicted as a monster, though this is the subject of scholarly debate. In the poem, Grendel is feared by all but Beowulf.-Story:The poem Beowulf is contained in...

 are described as descendants of Cain, a fact which some scholars link to The Cain Tradition
The Cain Tradition
The Cain Tradition refers to the tale of Cain and Abel as seen in the Septuagint and the Vulgate.Traditions around the two brothers had started to develop already during the Old Testament time, arguing that descendants of Cain had had sexual intercourse with fallen angels, producing an offspring of...

.

Scholars disagree, however, as to the meaning and nature of the poem: is it a Christian work set in a Germanic pagan context? The question suggests that the conversion from the Germanic pagan beliefs to Christian ones was a very slow and gradual process over several centuries, and it remains unclear the ultimate nature of the poem's message in respect to religious belief at the time it was written. Robert F. Yeager (Professor of literature, University of North Carolina at Asheville
University of North Carolina at Asheville
The University of North Carolina at Asheville is a co-educational, four year, public liberal arts university. The university is also known as UNC Asheville. Located in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina, UNCA is the only designated liberal arts institution in the University of North...

) notes the facts that form the basis for these questions:


That the scribes of Cotton Vitellius A.XV were Christian is beyond doubt; and it is equally certain that Beowulf was composed in a Christianised England, since conversion took place in the sixth and seventh centuries. Yet the only Biblical references in Beowulf are to the Old Testament, and Christ is never mentioned. The poem is set in pagan times, and none of the characters is demonstrably Christian. In fact, when we are told what anyone in the poem believes, we learn that they are pagans. Beowulf’s own beliefs are not expressed explicitly. He offers eloquent prayers to a higher power, addressing himself to the “Father Almighty” or the “Wielder of All.” Were those the prayers of a pagan who used phrases the Christians subsequently appropriated? Or, did the poem’s author intend to see Beowulf as a Christian Ur-hero, symbolically refulgent with Christian virtues?


Writer E. Talbot Donaldson seemed extremely certain in his criticism of the poem, focusing on the exact age and locational elements that surrounded the poem itself. He claimed that it was probably composed more than twelve hundred years ago during the first half of the eighth century. Donaldson also believes the writer to be a native of what was then West Mercia, located in the Western Midlands of England. However, the late tenth century manuscript "which alone preserves the poem" originated in the kingdom of the West Saxons – as it is more commonly known. As a result of the 1731 fire that seriously damaged the manuscript, Donaldson claims that several lines and words have been lost from the poem. Concerning language, Donaldson argues that the reason as to why Beowulf is difficult to connect with is because there have been numerous transcriptions starting from the poem's composition up until it was copied into manuscript form. Even though there has been many debates about whether there are Christian entities present within the poem, Donaldson is certain that "the poet who put the materials into their present form was a Christian and...poem reflects a Christian tradition". He points out the use of God and his recognised will as well as describing Grendel as a descendant of Cain. He also mentions the inclusion of Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 and Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 in the poem as the dead await God's judgement while the damned such as Grendel and his mother are to be thrust into the flames of Hell.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author and Merton professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, criticised his contemporaries' own literary criticism of the poem as being confused by their interest in its historical implications. He noted that as a result the poem had mostly been overlooked as a literary benchmark until his 1936 criticism Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
Beowulf: the monsters and the critics
"Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf...

suggested that the poem’s nature “is in fact so interesting as poetry, in places poetry so powerful, that this quite overshadows the historical content…”

Translations and glossaries

In 1805, Sharon Turner
Sharon Turner
Sharon Turner was an English historian.-Life:Born in Pentonville, Turner was the eldest son of William and Ann Turner, Yorkshire natives who had settled in London upon marrying. He left school at fifteen to be articled to an attorney in the Temple...

 translated selected verses into modern English
Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

. This was followed in 1814 by John Josias Conybeare
John Josias Conybeare
John Josias Conybeare , elder brother of William Daniel Conybeare, was also educated at Christ Church, Oxford.He was an accomplished scholar, became vicar of Batheaston, and was Professor of Anglo-Saxon , and afterwards Professor of Poetry , at Oxford...

 who published an edition "in English paraphrase and Latin verse translation." In 1815, Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin
Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín was an Icelandic -Danish scholar, who became the National Archivist of Denmark and Professor of Antiquities at Copenhagen University....

 published the first complete edition in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig
Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig
Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig , most often referred to as simply N. F. S. Grundtvig, was a Danish pastor, author, poet, philosopher, historian, teacher, and politician. He was one of the most influential people in Danish history, as his philosophy gave rise to a new form of nationalism in...

 reviewed this edition in 1815 and created the first complete verse translation in Danish in 1820. In 1837, J. M. Kemble created an important literal translation in English. In 1895, William Morris
William Morris
William Morris 24 March 18343 October 1896 was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement...

 & A. J. Wyatt published the ninth English translation.

During the early 20th century, Frederick Klaeber
Frederick Klaeber
Frederick J. Klaeber was a German philologist who was Professor of Old and Middle English at the University of Minnesota...

'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." In 1999, Nobel Laureate
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

's edition of Beowulf was published by Faber & Faber and includes "Northern Irish diction and turns of phrase." In 2000, W.W. Norton added it to the Norton Anthology of English Literature
Norton Anthology of English Literature
The Norton Anthology of English Literature is an anthology of English literature published by the W. W. Norton & Company. It has gone through eight editions since its inception in 1962; it is the publisher's best-selling anthology, with some eight million copies in print. The influential critic...

.

Dictionaries

  • Cameron, Angus, et al. Dictionary of Old English
    Dictionary of Old English
    The Dictionary of Old English is a dictionary published by the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto under the direction of Angus Cameron , Ashley Crandell Amos , and Antonette diPaolo Healey. It "defines the vocabulary of the first six centuries of the English language, using...

    (Microfiche). Toronto: Published for the Dictionary of Old English Project Centre for Medieval Studies University of Toronto by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1986/1994.


Text

Hypertext editions:

Modern English translations:
  • Alexander, Michael. Beowulf : A Verse Translation. Penguin Classics;. Rev. ed. London: New York, 2003.
  • Anderson, Sarah M., Alan Sullivan, and Timothy Murphy. Beowulf. A Longman Cultural Edition;. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004.
  • Crossley-Holland, Kevin
    Kevin Crossley-Holland
    Kevin John William Crossley-Holland is an English translator, children's author and poet.-Life and career:Born in Mursley, north Buckinghamshire, Holland grew up in Whiteleaf, a small village in the Chilterns...

    ; Mitchell, Bruce. Beowulf: A New Translation. London: Macmillan, 1968
  • Donaldson, E. Talbot, and Nicholas Howe. Beowulf : A Prose Translation : Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. A Norton Critical Edition. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2002.
  • Garmonsway, George Norman, et al. Beowulf and Its Analogues. (Revised 1980). ed. London: Dent, 1980.
  • Gummere, Frances. 'Beowulf'. St Petersburg, Florida:Red and Black Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9791813-1-3.
  • Heaney, Seamus
    Seamus Heaney
    Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

    . Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-32097-9
  • Hudson, Marc. Beowulf. Introduction and notes by Martin Garrett. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 2007.
  • Lehmann, Ruth. Beowulf : An Imitative Translation. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.
  • Liuzza, R. M. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, 2000.
  • Osborn, Marijane. Annotated List of Beowulf Translations.
  • Ringler, Dick
    Dick Ringler
    Dick Ringler is an emeritus Professor of English and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and is one of the foremost world authorities on Icelandic literature....

    . Beowulf: A New Translation For Oral Delivery. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0-87220-893-3
  • Raffel, Burton
    Burton Raffel
    Burton Raffel is a translator, a poet and a teacher. He has translated many poems, including the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, poems by Horace, and Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais. In 1964, Raffel recorded an album along with Robert P...

    . Beowulf: A New Translation with an Introduction by Burton Raffel, afterword by Robert P. Creed New York: Mentor/New American Library
    New American Library
    New American Library is an American publisher based in New York, founded in 1948; it produced affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works, as well as popular, pulp, and "hard-boiled" fiction. Non-fiction, original, and hardcopy issues were also produced.Victor Weybright and Kurt...

    , 1963.
  • Rebsamen, Frederick R. Beowulf : A Verse Translation. 1st ed. New York, NY: Icon Editions, 1991.
  • Swanton, Michael (ed.). Beowulf (Manchester Medieval Studies). Manchester: University, 1997.
  • Szobody, Michelle L. & Justin Gerard (Illustrator) Beowulf, Book I: Grendel the Ghastly. Greenville, SC: Portland Studios, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9797183-0-4
  • Wright, David
    David Wright (poet)
    David John Murray Wright was an author and "an acclaimed South African-born poet".-Biography:Wright was born in Johannesburg, South Africa 23 February 1920 of normal hearing....

    . Beowulf. Panther Books, 1970. ISBN 0-586-03279-7

Old English and modern English:
  • I. Chickering, Howell D. Beowulf: a dual-language edition.New York: Anchor books ed., 1977,1989, 2006 ISBN 0-385-06213-3
  • Fulk, R.D. The Beowulf Manuscript: Complete Texts and The Fight at Finnsburgh. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-674-05295-6. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library
    Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library
    The Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library is a new series published by in collaboration with the which presents original medieval Latin, Greek, and Old English texts with facing-page translations designed to make written achievements of medieval and Byzantine culture available to English-speaking...

     3.
  • Heaney, Seamus
    Seamus Heaney
    Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

    . Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-32097-9

Old English with glossaries:
  • Alexander, Michael. Beowulf: A Glossed Text. Second ed. Penguin: London, 2000.
  • Jack, George. Beowulf : A Student Edition. Oxford University Press: New York, 1997.
  • Klaeber, Frederick
    Frederick Klaeber
    Frederick J. Klaeber was a German philologist who was Professor of Old and Middle English at the University of Minnesota...

    , ed. Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. Third ed. Boston: Heath, 1950.
  • Mitchell, Bruce, et al. Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts. Oxford, UK: Malden Ma., 1998.
  • Porter, John. Beowulf: text and translation. Anglo-Saxon Books, 1991.
  • Wrenn, C.L.
    Charles Leslie Wrenn
    Charles Leslie Wrenn was a British scholar. He became Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford in 1945, the successor in the chair of J.R.R. Tolkien, and held the position until 1963. Wrenn was a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. He was also a member of the...

    , ed. Beowulf with the Finnesburg Fragment. 3rd ed. London: Harrap, 1973.


Audio

  • Ringler, Dick
    Dick Ringler
    Dick Ringler is an emeritus Professor of English and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and is one of the foremost world authorities on Icelandic literature....

     & Norman Gilliland
    Norman Gilliland
    Norman Gilliland has been a producer on Wisconsin Public Radio since 1984, where he hosts classical music broadcasts, produces the interview program University of the Air, and reads for Chapter A Day. He holds degrees in English and Broadcasting from the University of Florida and attended graduate...

    . Beowulf: The Complete Story—A Drama. Madison, WI: NEMO Productions, 2006. ISBN ISBN 0-9715093-2-8
  • Baker, P. Readings from Beowulf. In Old English.


Scholarship

  • M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt
    Stephen Greenblatt
    Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar.Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the founders of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics"; his works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term...

    . Norton Anthology of English Literature
    Norton Anthology of English Literature
    The Norton Anthology of English Literature is an anthology of English literature published by the W. W. Norton & Company. It has gone through eight editions since its inception in 1962; it is the publisher's best-selling anthology, with some eight million copies in print. The influential critic...

    : The Middle Ages (Vol 1), Beowulf
    . New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. 29–32.
  • Alfano, Christine. "The Issue of Feminine Monstrosity: A Re-evaluation of Grendel's Mother." Comitatus 23 (1992): 1–16.
  • Anderson, Sarah. Ed. Introduction and historical/cultural contexts. Longman Cultural Edition, 2004. ISBN 0-321-10720-9
  • Battaglia, Frank. "The Germanic Earth Goddess in Beowulf." Mankind Quarterly 31.4 (Summer 1991): 415–46.
  • Chadwick, Nora K.
    Nora Kershaw Chadwick
    Nora Kershaw Chadwick , CBE, was a noted medievalist.-Background:Chadwick was born in Lancashire in 1891. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge and lectured at St Andrews during World War I. She returned to Cambridge in 1919 to study Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse under...

     "The Monsters and Beowulf." The Anglo-Saxons: Studies in Some Aspects of Their History. Ed. Peter ed Clemoes. London: Bowes & Bowes, 1959. 171–203.
  • Carruthers, Leo. "Rewriting Genres: Beowulf as Epic Romance", in Palimpsests and the Literary Imagination of Medieval England, eds. Leo Carruthers, Raeleen Chai-Elsholz, Tatjana Silec. New York: Palgrave, 2011. 139–55.
  • Chance, Jane. "The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother." New Readings on Women in Old English Literature. Eds. Helen Damico and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. 248–61.
  • Creed, Robert P. Reconstructing the Rhythm of Beowulf.
  • Damico, Helen. Beowulf's Wealhtheow and the Valkyrie Tradition. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.
  • Drout, Michael
    Michael D. C. Drout
    Michael D. C. Drout is the Prentice Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English at Wheaton College and an author and editor specializing in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, science fiction and fantasy, especially the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin.Drout holds a...

    . Beowulf and the Critics
    Beowulf and the Critics
    Beowulf and the Critics by J. R. R. Tolkien is a book edited by Michael D. C. Drout that presents scholary editions of the two manuscript versions of Tolkien's essays or lecture series "Beowulf and the Critics", which served as the basis for the much shorter 1936 lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and...

    .
  • Gillam, Doreen M. "The Use of the Term 'Aeglaeca' in Beowulf at Lines 893 and 2592." Studia Germanica Gandensia 3 (1961): 145–69.
  • The Heroic Age, Issue 5. "Anthropological and Cultural Approaches to Beowulf." Summer/Autumn 2001.
  • Horner, Shari. The Discourse of Enclosure: Representing Women in Old English Literature. New York: SUNY Press, 2001.
  • Magennis, Hugh. Translating Beowulf: Modern Versions in English Verse. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2011. ISBN 9781843842613.
  • Nicholson, Lewis E. (Ed.). An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. (1963), Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-00006-9
  • North, Richard. Origins of Beowulf: From Vergil to Wiglaf. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Orchard, Andy. A Critical Companion to Beowulf. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003.
  • ——. Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript. Toronto: University of Toronto
    University of Toronto
    The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

     Press, 2003.
  • Robinson, Fred C. The Cambridge Companion to Beowulf (2001). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 143.
  • Stanley, E.G. "Did Beowulf Commit 'Feaxfeng' against Grendel's Mother." Notes and Queries 23 (1976): 339–40.
  • Tolkien, J.R.R.
    J. R. R. Tolkien
    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

    . Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
    Beowulf: the monsters and the critics
    "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf...

    (1983). London: George Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-809019-0
  • Trask, Richard M. "Preface to the Poems: Beowulf and Judith: Epic Companions." Beowulf and Judith : Two Heroes. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1998. 11–14.
  • Waterhouse, Ruth. "Beowulf as Palimpsest", in Monster theory: reading culture, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 26-39.


External links

See hypertext editions above.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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