How does the bard/scop tell the story of the warrior Beowulf and achieve his overall message in this narration of Beowulf?  

2 Answers

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The job of the scop during the Anglo-Saxon period was to tell the stories of the period, like the epic poem Beowulf. During this period, written texts were almost obsolete. Therefore, the scop would tell stories from memory to the best of his ability.

This being said, the stories would never have been exactly the same each time. Instead, the elevated language of the Anglo-Saxon poetry allowed the scop to take some liberties with the story itself.

The use of kennings (typically hyphenated metaphoric words) were used to make the language more beautiful. One example of this in Beowulf is that instead of saying the ship, the scop would use the kenning "wave-traveller." Another poetic device typically used in the Anglo-Saxon poems was alliteration. Again, the purpose of this was to allow the scop's song to be more fluid and rhythmical. Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. An example of alliteration is Beowulf is "seashore's sand."

Therefore, the scop's job to sing the tales of the epic Anglo-Saxon heroes (like Beowulf) and elegiac poetry of the period ("The Wanderer" "The Seafarer", and "The Wife's Lament") was made much easier through the sing-song fluidity.

The message of the scop was to simply tell hardships of the men at sea and the heroic adventures of the men the Anglo-Saxon culture raised up.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Interestingly, the word scop translates to "shaper," and, indeed, the scop did shape the reputations of those about whom the poetry was written.

The heroic poem Beowulf, the story of a great pagan warrior renowned for his courage, strength, and dignity, is replete with adventure, bravery, and the hero's achievements. Clearly evident in this poem are tales that evince Beowulf's valor and wisdom; the poem immortalizes Beowulf as it entertains its listeners.

This epic poem features alliteration (perhaps in part because these techniques aid in retention of the verses). A pattern of word stresses lends the lyrics a terse sing-song effect; also, in many lines there is a mid-line pause.

The overall message of these verses is that Beowulf demonstrates great prowess as a warrior. He also displays the values of a warrior society such as courage, dignity, and honor.

And Beowulf was ready, firm with our Lord's
High favor and his own bold courage and strength.

In addition, Beowulf is respectful of his father and his ancestors. He believes strongly that his good deeds and his resolve in fighting against evil will lend him immortality, while at the same time Beowulf acknowledges the role of fate. An epic poem such as Beowulf passes along values to a population that cannot read or write. Its recitation and recording in print provides future generations immortalized verse.