An Introduction to Beowulf About Beowulf Beowulf is the self-portrait of a culture. The poem describes the values of the culture, not necessarily the facts. It describes the ideal man, a sword-wielding warrior who defends right, slays monsters, and displays honor and bravery.
2 The Stuff of Legend Beowulf takes place in sixth century Scandinavia but was written in Old English by the AngloSaxons that settled there from Scandinavia. This is why this story is considered English literature. Beowulf is a Geat a country that is now southern Sweden. The beginning of the story takes place in Denmark in the kingdom of Hrothgar. Grendel is a monster that has been terrorizing the Danish people in the mead hall called Herot.
Beowulf comes to kill Grendel to pay a debt to Hrothgar he owes because of his father, Edgetho. 3 Forging an Epic A scop is a storyteller or traveling minstrel. They memorized poems and stories and recited them in front of audiences. The poems and stories changed as they were passed from one scop to another, like a game of telephone.
The epic of Beowulf was finally written down in the eleventh century. Beowulf came from earlier folktales describing monsters and dragons and brave warriors that were loyal to their heroic chiefs. They also described descents into hell-like places. 4 A Guide to Life The earlier folktales and Beowulf were combined to include the Christian beliefs. This is why there is a blending of old Celtic
beliefs with the new Christian beliefs. The poem shows the struggle between the old gods and the new Christian God. The bravery, loyalty and evil in Beowulf taught the Anglo-Saxons the values that their culture wanted them to have. 5 From Oral Traditions to Cyberspace and Beyond The manuscript was damaged by fire The poem is still considered important to
English literature and has recently been produced as it would have been told by a scop. 6 Literary Analysis Epic: a long narrative poem, sometimes developed orally, that celebrates a heros deeds. Epics from different languages and time periods do not always have the
same characteristics. Kennings, for example, are not found in Homers epics. 7 All epics, however, concern the actions of a hero, who can be described as: being of noble birth or high position, and often of great historical or legendary importance exhibiting character traits, or qualities, that reflect important ideals of society performing courageous, sometimes
superhuman, deeds that reflect the values of the era performing actions that often determine the fate of a nation or group of people 8 Epic Conventions In addition, most epics share certain conventions, which reflect the larger thanlife events that a hero might experience. The setting is vast in scope, often involving more than one nation. The plot is complicated by supernatural
beings or events and may involve a long and dangerous journey through foreign lands. 9 Epic Conventions Continued Dialogue often includes long, formal speeches delivered by the major characters. The theme reflects timeless values, such as courage and honor, and encompasses universal ideas, such as good and evil or life and death.
The style includes formal diction (the writers choice of words and sentence structure) and a serious tone (the expression of the writers attitude toward the subject). 10 Literary Analysis Beowulf uses kennings and caesura. Legendary hero: a larger-than-life character whose accomplishments are celebrated in traditional tales. The hero should have characteristics that his culture values. For
example, Beowulf is boastful, strong and victorious but his loyalty, bravery and honor teach us how the Anglo-Saxons viewed the world. Paraphrase: identifying the key details of a passage and restating them in your own words. 11 The red area is Vstergtland (the core region of Geatland) The yellow area is the territory ruled by the Wulfings
The pink area is the Danish territory. The green area is the land of the Swedes. The blue area represents the land of Jutes The orange area belongs to Frisians. 12
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