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The Anglo-Saxons and Beowulf Created by Katelyn Wood firstname.lastname@example.org Edited and adapted by Mrs. Cullar The Anglo-Saxon Era: Timeline • 43CE Romans invade Britain. – Encountered the Celts. – Romans build roads, villas, huge buildings, and forts. – Introduced Christianity. • 420CE Romans leave. Timeline Continued • 450CE Jutes from Denmark, and the Angles and Saxons from Northern Germany invade England. – Germanic tribes. – Anglo-Saxons push out Celts • 597CE Anglo-Saxons become Christian Timeline Continued • 787CE Viking raids begin • 871-899CE King Alfred the Great becomes King of England. – Established education systems, rebuilt monasteries. – Fought Danes and forced them from Wessex. – Unified Anglo-Saxons under one king to resist the Viking invasions. – Danes ruled in the North, Anglo-Saxons in the South. • 1066CE Norman Conquest by William the Conqueror. – From Norman French. – Defeated Danes and Anglo-Saxons. – Officially ended Anglo-Saxon era and brought about the beginning of the Medieval Period. Pagan vs. Christianity in Beowulf The Anglo-Saxons mixed both pagan and Christian traditions. Beowulf contains traces of both beliefs. Pagan Christianity • Strong nature presence • God is mentioned by two of • Strength of the warrior the main characters in the poem: Beowulf and Hrothgar. • Grendel as Lucifer – Both are outcasts – Perform a task for God – Grendel is described as a son or descendant of Cain, a clear Biblical reference. Anglo-Saxon Literature • Anglo-Saxon literature began as an oral tradition. Stories, poems, and songs were all told aloud and passed from generation to generation orally through minstrels (also called scops). • Poems traditionally had a strong beat, alliteration, and no rhyme. • Caesura: “a cutting.” A break in a line of poetry, used in Old English to depict a half line. We use a comma for a modern effect. – i.e. Da com of more under mistheleopum “Out from the marsh, from the foot of the hills.” • Kenning: derived from the Norse word “kenna” which means “to know, to recognize.” It is a compact metaphor that functions as a name. • i.e. helmberend: “Helm bearer” or “warrior” The Epic! • Beowulf is the most well-known Anglo-Saxon poem, and is a form of poetry called the epic. Such other examples are Homer’s The Iliad and The Odessey. • Long narrative that celebrates a hero’s long journeys and heroic deeds. • J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring series and George Lucas’ Stars Wars could be called modern epics. • Characteristics include a noble hero whose character traits reflect their society’s ideals. The hero performs brave acts and appears superhuman. Heroic Code • The epic poem Beowulf strengthens the Heroic Code. This code was derived from the Anglo- Saxons’ Germanic roots, and called for strength, courage, and loyalty in warriors. It also required kings to be hospitable, generous, and have great political skills. This code was a basis for Anglo-Saxon honor. Common Themes Of an Epic Poem • Universal themes of epic poetry – Good vs. evil • Beowulf vs. Grendel – Isolation – Courage and honor • Beowulf is fearless and brave while fighting the monsters. – Gods or semi-divine creatures • Grendel, Grendel’s mother, the dragon – Tale involves the fate of an entire race • Beowulf saves Hrothgar’s village from Grendel. Beowulf • Most famous of early Germanic poems • Written anywhere between 400- 1000, but most likely after the 500s. • The author is unknown, but likely to be Christian. It is likely that a few different authors elaborated on the tale. • Takes place in Sweden, Denmark, and Frisia. – The Norse were at this time attacking Britain, thus allowing knowledge of places, people, and ancestors to be available. Characters • Beowulf: main character, a hero featuring all the qualities of an epic hero. He has superhuman strength and is fearless and brave in battler. • Hrothgar: the king of the village that Beowulf saves from Grendel. • Grendel: a monster terrorizing Hrothgar’s village. • Grendel’s mother: a monster set out to avenge her son’s death. The Plot …in six sentences. • Beowulf travels to Hrothgar’s village to save them from Grendel, a terrifying monster eating their warriors. An epic battle ensues with Beowulf as the winner. Of course, Grendel’s mother comes seeking vengeance for her son’s death. Again, Beowulf is called upon to save them all, and he fights heroically and defeats the evil monster. After being vastly rewarded and refusing an offer from Hrothgar to be his heir, Beowulf makes the long trek back to his homeland where he becomes a mighty and generous king for many years. He fights a massive dragon who is threatening his people. He and the dragon both die in the struggle, but he is heroic until the end. Resources • “The Anglo-Saxon Invasions of Britain” and “The Spread of Christianity” • http://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=1A5DF869- F81A-463A-8E03-495F774C68EF&blnFromSearch=1&productcode=US • “Life After the Romans” • http://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=BD1245FC- 89CF-4423-A217-E0EBC8FF62A6&blnFromSearch=1&productcode=US • Old English sample • http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/english/fajardo/teaching/eng520/lang- samples-small.jpg • Information of the Anglo-Saxon period and of Beowulf – Anderson, Rachel. “Medieval Context: Beowulf.” ENG 220 British Literature I. Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI. 10 Jan. 2008. – Schneider, Daniel. “English Literature: Anglo-Saxon Era and Beowulf.” Honors English Literature. Linden High School, Linden, MI. 30 Aug. 2005. Old English Example Old English circa 500CE-1100CE “Cyning” means “king,” so “Cyningas” must mean “kings.” What other words look familiar to today’s language?
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