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					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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posted:2/1/2013
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