Beowulf stands as a foundational epic in Old English and includes, within its more than 3,000 lines, many elements traditionally associated with epic poetry: the hero's struggle with supernatural beings; a hero who has supernatural strength; discussions of the nature of kingship and leadership; digressions that relate to the history of the people central to the poem; and elevated diction throughout.
"The Battle of Maldon," which is missing both its beginning and ending, centers on a single historical battle between the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in 991. Although the scope of the two poems is vastly different and there are several points of contrast, the two poems share the fundamental cultural imperatives of the Anglo-Saxon warrior society: intense loyalty to one's leader and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the survival of the tribe.
A crucial difference, however, between Beowulf's and Byrhtnoth's situation at the beginning of each poem leads to very different outcomes. When Beowulf...
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