Beowulf What is Beowulf? • It is a poem over 3000 lines long • It is the oldest piece of literature in the English Language • It was written in Old English What is Beowulf? • Beowulf is written by an Anglo-Saxon but takes place in Scandinavia • It tells the story of a warrior from Geatland, Beowulf, and his battles with 3 monsters. • Beowulf travels from Geatland (modern day Sweden) to assist the Danish King Hrothgar in ridding his kingdom of the man-eating monster, Grendel. What is Beowulf? • After Beowulf kills Grendel, he is then faced with Grendel’s mother. • Upon slaying her, Beowulf returns home to Geatland to rule for 50 years. • He meets his death while trying to defend his kingdom against a fire- breathing dragon. Old English • More than 80% of our words • These are just a few are derived from Old English examples found in • The poem was originally told Beowulf orally and was not written – moder = mother down until much later – Hond = hand • It also contains many – Lif = life kennings, or an epithet that is – Man = man made up of two word – Hus = house metaphors, usually connected – Eald = old by a hyphen – Swearde = sword (a dragon is a cave-guard or a – Londe = land hoard-guard, armor is war-gear – Worulde = world or battle-dress) – Wundor = wonder Old English This is Old English: http://faculty.virginia.edu/OldEngli sh/Beowulf.Readings/Prologue .html Does this sound like anything that you have heard before? History • The poet is writing in the English period following the collapse of the Roman Empire (about 400 AD) referred to as the Anglo-Saxon period • After the Romans left England Northern Germanic tribes began to invade, the strongest being the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. They conquers the Celtic inhabitant of the island (about 500 AD) History Continued… • These groups set up small kingdoms or realms also know as city-states • The kingdoms lived in constant fear of invasion. • This culture was marked with a persistent fear of their group being swallowed up and assimilated into another culture. This fear is echoed in Beowulf. Themes • Tribal Warfare – Remember, most people were afraid of the neighboring kingdoms invading and taking everything they had. – The believed in a revenge ethic (an eye for an eye) entire families were killed off because of this More Themes • Wyrd – Meaning fate. For most Anglo-Saxon warriors the ultimate wyrd is death. One of the ways for a warrior to escape death and gain immortality was to create a name for himself through heroic acts. – These acts would allow the warrior’s name to live on in the stories of others. Things to think about while reading • Is Beowulf a hero? • What makes this poem an epic? • How is Beowulf a rightful king?
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