What is the relationship between Beowulf and "The Battle of Maldon"?

As with all of the works that Tolkien wrote, "Beowulf" is deeply imbued with Christian themes and references. The poem itself is heavily influenced by Christianity. In fact, it is possible that "Beowulf" was intended as a didactic religious work (a work with a moral message).

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Both of these poems are Anglo-Saxon in origin, dating back to the early medieval period. Both relate to Anglo-Saxon warrior culture and heroic values of courage in the face of battle.

Death is a major theme in both. In "The Battle of Maldon," warriors fall in battle and their deaths are commemorated as heroic and noble. Beowulf ends with the death of its titular hero in a battle against an evil dragon, and this death signals the end of an era for his people.

Both also blend Christian and pagan elements. This is one of the most discussed features of Beowulf, which has a Christian narrator projecting Christian ideas and values onto its pagan warrior characters. In "Battle," the warriors invoke the name of the Christian God as they fall in battle, though their values are more in line with the pagan warrior culture that prizes physical daring and glory through courageous battlefield deeds.

One major difference between the two poems is that "The Battle of Maldon" has more of a historical basis. It was based on a true event. Beowulf is a fictional tale featuring supernatural elements, such as monsters and enchanted swords.

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Beowulf and the Battle of Maldon are both epic poems written in the Old English language, and the (as far as we know) original manuscripts were both in the possession of a collector of manuscripts named Sir Robert Cotton by the late 17th century.  In a fire in his library in 1731 the Beowulf manuscript was slightly damaged, but the manuscript of Maldon was destroyed.  Luckily David Casley, the deputy librarian, had made a copy.  The Maldon manuscript was already fragmentary, both the opening and closing lines having been lost.

Both stories are written in an epic style, and both commemorate the ideals and virtues of the warlike Germanic tribes which dominated the region.  Beowulf was written about 1000, just after the actual Battle of Maldon took place, in August of the year 991.  Maldon was a battle between Byrhtnoth and Anlaf, a Viking leader who later united Norway.  He was after the gold from the King's Mint near the Blackwater River in Essex.

Interestingly, in addition to the Battle of Maldon being an historical event, there is some evidence that Beowulf may have been related to history also.  The burial rites described are similar to the famous Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo, and two characters mentioned in the poem were historic persons.  Offa was a name of a 4th century king of the Angles in Europe, and Hengest went to England in 449.  In 455 he co-founded the kingdom of Kent.  So to summarise, both poems were written in Old English; both manuscripts were collected by Cotton; and both had historic references.

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