Beowulf (Myths and Legends of the World)
Beowulf is the title of the earliest existing Anglo-Saxon epic.long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style It tells the story of Beowulf, a Norsereferring to the people and culture of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland hero and warrior who fought and conquered several monsters that terrorized Denmark and Sweden. The poem combines elements of Anglo-Saxon culture with Christian moral values in an extraordinary adventure story.
The manuscript containing the story of Beowulf was discovered in England in the l600s. It is written in Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxon invaders who settled in England between A.D. 450 and 600. There is some debate about when Beowulf was written and who wrote it. Although the manuscript dates from around 1000, the poem was composed much earlier, sometime between 700 and 950. Certain references in the text suggest that the author was a Christian who modeled the story after paganterm used by early Christians to describe non-Christians and non-Christian beliefs tales of Norse and German heroes of the past. The writer was probably either a monk or a poet connected to a nobleman's court in central or northern England.
Beowulf is set in a much earlier time than the period in which it was composed, and the action takes place in Denmark and Sweden. The story reflects the warrior culture of ancient Germanic peoples, among whom wars were common and fighting was a traditional occupation. The king supplied his warriors with food, shelter, land, and weapons. In return, they were bound by oaths of loyalty and obedience to the king. The epic emphasizes values that were important to Norse warriors, such as courage, loyalty to one's king and comrades, and honor for those who fight and die bravely.
The Story of Beowulf
Beowulf is divided into two parts. The action in the first part takes place in Denmark, where Hrothgar is king. Beowulf, a mighty warrior from Sweden, comes to help the king destroy a monster. The second part, set in Sweden, provides an account of Beowulf as an old man who must rid his country of a fearsome dragon.
Hrothgar and Grendel. The story opens in Denmark. Hrothgar has built a great assembly hall called Heorot, where his warriors gather to eat, drink, and receive treasure after their victories in combat.
Lurking in the dark swamps of Hrothgar's kingdom is a cruel and brutal monster named Grendel. Grendel lives in a cave with his mother, also a monster, and is invulnerableincapable of being hurt to the weapons of humans. As Grendel roams the marshes and swamps, he hears the joyful sounds of song and laughter from Heorot. They fill him with envy and hatred for Hrothgar and his warriors. One night Grendel goes to Heorot and finds the warriors asleep after a great deal of drinking and celebration. He snatches up 30 sleeping men, kills them, and carries the bodies home to eat.
In the morning, Hrothgar sees the blood and the remains of Grendel's attack. Loud wails and cries replace the joyful singing of the previous night. The Danes see Grendel's footprints but do not think he will return. However, the next night Grendel comes again and kills even more warriors. The Danes gather in their temples and pray for protection from Grendel, but their prayers do not help. For 12 years Grendel terrorizes the warriors. Afraid to sleep at Heorot, they abandon the great hall.
Stories of Grendel's raids spread to the surrounding kingdoms, eventually reaching the land of the Geats in southern Sweden. Among the Geats is a mighty warrior named Beowulf, a man who has slain giants and sea monsters and is known for his strength, courage, and skill in battle. When...
(The entire section is 1711 words.)
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