38 Facts About Beowulf


Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland and becomes king of the Geats.

FactSnippet No. 918,378

Scholars have debated whether Beowulf was transmitted orally, affecting its interpretation: if it was composed early, in pagan times, then the paganism is central and the Christian elements were added later, whereas if it was composed later, in writing, by a Christian, then the pagan elements could be decorative archaising; some scholars hold an intermediate position.

FactSnippet No. 918,379

The majority view appears to be that figures such as King Hroðgar and the Scyldings in Beowulf are based on historical people from 6th-century Scandinavia.

FactSnippet No. 918,380

Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands, then kills Grendel's mother with a giant's sword that he found in her lair.

FactSnippet No. 918,381

Later in his life, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats, and finds his realm terrorized by a dragon, some of whose treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound.

FactSnippet No. 918,382

Beowulf decides to follow the dragon to its lair at Earnanæs, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf, whose name means "remnant of valour", dares to join him.

FactSnippet No. 918,383

Beowulf is cremated and a burial mound by the sea is erected in his honour.

FactSnippet No. 918,384

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.

FactSnippet No. 918,385

Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall, Heorot, for himself and his warriors.

FactSnippet No. 918,386

Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be Grendel's equal.

FactSnippet No. 918,387

When Grendel enters the hall, Beowulf, who has been feigning sleep, leaps up to clench Grendel's hand.

FactSnippet No. 918,388

Beowulf's retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce Grendel's skin.

FactSnippet No. 918,389

Beowulf descends to do battle with the dragon, but finds himself outmatched.

FactSnippet No. 918,390

Beowulf is ritually burned on a great pyre in Geatland while his people wail and mourn him, fearing that without him, the Geats are defenceless against attacks from surrounding tribes.

FactSnippet No. 918,391

An analysis of several Old English poems by a team including Neidorf suggests that Beowulf is the work of a single author, though other scholars disagree.

FactSnippet No. 918,392

Claim to an early 11th-century date depends in part on scholars who argue that, rather than the transcription of a tale from the oral tradition by an earlier literate monk, Beowulf reflects an original interpretation of an earlier version of the story by the manuscript's two scribes.

FactSnippet No. 918,393

The composition of Beowulf was the fruit of the later adaptation of this trend in Alfred's policy of asserting authority over the Angelcynn, in which Scyldic descent was attributed to the West-Saxon royal pedigree.

FactSnippet No. 918,394

Moorman, the first professor of English Language at University of Leeds, claimed that Beowulf was composed in Yorkshire, but E Talbot Donaldson claims that it was probably composed during the first half of the eighth century, and that the writer was a native of what was then called West Mercia, located in the Western Midlands of England.

FactSnippet No. 918,395

Beowulf survived to modern times in a single manuscript, written in ink on parchment, later damaged by fire.

FactSnippet No. 918,396

The Beowulf manuscript is known as the Nowell Codex, gaining its name from 16th-century scholar Laurence Nowell.

FactSnippet No. 918,397

Beowulf manuscript was transcribed from an original by two scribes, one of whom wrote the prose at the beginning of the manuscript and the first 1939 lines, before breaking off in mid-sentence.

FactSnippet No. 918,398

Question of whether Beowulf was passed down through oral tradition prior to its present manuscript form has been the subject of much debate, and involves more than simply the issue of its composition.

FactSnippet No. 918,399

Thomas Gardner agreed with Watts, arguing that the Beowulf text is too varied to be completely constructed from set formulae and themes.

FactSnippet No. 918,400

Many editions of the Old English text of Beowulf have been published; this section lists the most influential.

FactSnippet No. 918,401

Beowulf made one himself, and had another done by a professional copyist who knew no Old English .

FactSnippet No. 918,402

Beowulf has been translated many times in verse and in prose, and adapted for stage and screen.

FactSnippet No. 918,403

Beowulf has been translated into at least 38 other languages.

FactSnippet No. 918,404

Translating Beowulf is one of the subjects of the 2012 publication Beowulf at Kalamazoo, containing a section with 10 essays on translation, and a section with 22 reviews of Heaney's translation, some of which compare Heaney's work with Liuzza's.

FactSnippet No. 918,405

In 1886 Gregor Sarrazin suggested that an Old Norse original version of Beowulf must have existed, but in 1914 Carl Wilhelm von Sydow pointed out that Beowulf is fundamentally Christian and was written at a time when any Norse tale would have most likely been pagan.

FactSnippet No. 918,406

New Scandinavian analogues to Beowulf continue to be proposed regularly, with Hrolfs saga Gautrekssonar being the most recently adduced text.

FactSnippet No. 918,407

Attempts to find classical or Late Latin influence or analogue in Beowulf are almost exclusively linked with Homer's Odyssey or Virgil's Aeneid.

FactSnippet No. 918,408

Similarly, in 1971, Alistair Campbell stated that the apologue technique used in Beowulf is so rare in epic poetry aside from Virgil that the poet who composed Beowulf could not have written the poem in such a manner without first coming across Virgil's writings.

FactSnippet No. 918,409

Beowulf predominantly uses the West Saxon dialect of Old English, like other Old English poems copied at the time.

FactSnippet No. 918,410

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.

FactSnippet No. 918,411

Literary critics such as Fred C Robinson argue that the Beowulf poet tries to send a message to readers during the Anglo-Saxon time period regarding the state of Christianity in their own time.

FactSnippet No. 918,412

Scribes of Cotton Vitellius A XV were Christian [is] beyond doubt, and it is equally sure that Beowulf was composed in a Christianised England since conversion took place in the sixth and seventh centuries.

FactSnippet No. 918,413

The only Biblical references in Beowulf are to the Old Testament, and Christ is never mentioned.

FactSnippet No. 918,414

Beowulf argues that the term "shoulder-companion" could refer to both a physical arm as well as a thane who was very valuable to his lord .

FactSnippet No. 918,415