Beowulf Glossary of Proper Names

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Glossary of Proper Names

Ælfhere—A kinsman of Wiglaf.

Æschere—Confidential friend of King Hrothgar. Elder brother of Yrmenlaf. Killed by Grendel.

Beanstan—Father of Breca.

Beowulf—Son of Scyld, the founder of the dynasty of Scyldings. Father of Healfdene, and grandfather of Hrothgar.

Beowulf—The hero of the poem. Sprung from the stock of Geats, son of Ecgtheow. Brought up by his maternal grandfather Hrethel, and figuring in manhood as a devoted liegeman of his uncle Higelac. A hero from his youth. Has the strength of thirty men. Engages in a swimming-match with Breca. Goes to the help of Hrothgar against the monster Grendel. Vanquishes Grendel and his mother. Afterwards becomes king of the Geats. Late in life attempts to kill a fire-spewing dragon, and is slain. Is buried with great honors. His memorial mound.

Breca—Beowulf’s opponent in the famous swimming-match.

Brondings—A people ruled by Breca.

Brosinga mene—A famous collar once owned by the Brosings.

Cain—Progenitor of Grendel and other monsters.

Dæghrefn—A warrior of the Hugs, killed by Beowulf.

Danes—Subjects of Scyld and his descendants, and hence often called Scyldings. Other names for them are Victory-Scyldings, Honor-Scyldings, Armor-Danes, Bright-Danes, East-Danes, West-Danes, North-Danes, South-Danes, Ingwins, Hrethmen.

Ecglaf—Father of Unferth, who taunts Beowulf.

Ecgtheow—Father of Beowulf, the hero of the poem. A widely-known Wægmunding warrior. Marries Hrethel’s daughter. After slaying Heatholaf, a Wylfing, he flees his country.

Ecgwela—A king of the Danes before Scyld.

Elan—Sister of Hrothgar, and probably wife of Ongentheow, king of the Swedes.

Eagle Cape—A promontory in Geat-land, under which took place Beowulf’s last encounter.

Eadgils—Son of Ohthere and brother of Eanmund.

Eanmund—Son of Ohthere and brother of Eadgils. The reference to these brothers is vague, and variously understood. Heyne supposes as follows: Raising a revolt against their father, they are obliged to leave Sweden. They go to the land of the Geats; with what intention, is not known, but probably to conquer and plunder. The Geatish king, Heardred, is slain by one of the brothers, probably Eanmund.

Eofor—A Geatish hero who slays Ongentheow in war, and is rewarded by Hygelac with the hand of his only daughter.

Eormenric—A Gothic king, from whom Hama took away the famous Brosinga mene.

Eomær—Son of Offa and Thrytho, king and queen of the Angles.

Finn—King of the North-Frisians and the Jutes. Marries Hildeburg. At his court takes place the horrible slaughter in which the Danish general, Hnæf, fell. Later on, Finn himself is slain by Danish warriors.

Fin-land—The country to which Beowulf was driven by the currents in his swimming-match.

Fitela—Son and nephew of King Sigemund, whose praises are sung in XIV.

Folcwalda—Father of Finn.

Franks—Introduced occasionally in referring to the death of Higelac.

Frisians—A part of them are ruled by Finn. Some of them were engaged in the struggle in which Higelac was slain.

Freaware—Daughter of King Hrothgar. Married to Ingeld, a Heathobard prince.

Froda—King of the Heathobards, and father of Ingeld.

Garmund—Father of Offa.

Geats, Geatmen—The race to which the hero of the poem belongs. Also called Weder-Geats, or Weders, War-Geats, Sea-Geats. They are ruled by Hrethel, Hæthcyn, Higelac, and Beowulf.

Gepids—Named in connection with the Danes and Swedes.

Grendel—A monster of the race of Cain. Dwells in the fens and moors. Is furiously envious when he hears sounds of joy in Hrothgar’s palace. Causes the king untold agony for years. Is finally conquered by Beowulf, and dies of his wound. His hand and arm are hung up in Hrothgar’s hall Heorot. His head is cut off by Beowulf when he goes down to fight with Grendel’s mother.

Guthlaf—A Dane of Hnæf’s party.

Half-Danes—Branch of the Danes to which Hnæf belonged.

Halga—Surnamed the Good. Younger brother of Hrothgar.

Hama—Takes the Brosinga mene from Eormenric.

Hæreth—Father of Higelac’s queen, Hygd.

Hæthcyn—Son of Hrethel and brother of Higelac. Kills his brother Herebeald accidentally. Is slain at Ravenswood, fighting against Ongentheow.

Helmings—The race to which Queen Wealhtheow belonged.

Heming—A kinsman of Garmund, perhaps nephew.

Hengest—A Danish leader. Takes command on the fall of Hnæf.

Herebeald—Eldest son of Hrethel, the Geatish king, and brother of Higelac. Killed by his younger brother Hæthcyn.

Heremod—A Danish king of a dynasty before the Scylding line. Was a source of great sorrow to his people.

Hereric—Referred to as uncle of Heardred, but otherwise unknown.

Hetwars—Another name for the Franks.

Healfdene—Grandson of Scyld and father of Hrothgar. Ruled the Danes long and well.

Heardred—Son of Higelac and Hygd, king and queen of the Geats. Succeeds his father, with Beowulf as regent. Is slain by the sons of Ohthere.

Heathobards—Race of Lombards, of which Froda is king. After Froda falls in battle with the Danes, Ingeld, his son, marries Hrothgar’s daughter, Freaware, in order to heal the feud.

Heatholaf—A Wylfing warrior slain by Beowulf’s father.

Heathoremes—The people on whose shores Breca is cast by the waves during his contest with Beowulf.

Heorogar—Elder brother of Hrothgar, and surnamed ‘Weoroda Ræswa,’ Prince of the Troopers.

Hereward—Son of the above.

Heort, Heorot—The great mead-hall which King Hrothgar builds. It is invaded by Grendel for twelve years. Finally cleansed by Beowulf, the Geat. It is called Heort on account of the hart-antlers which decorate it.

Hildeburg—Wife of Finn, daughter of Hoce, and related to Hnæf,—probably his sister.

Hnæf—Leader of a branch of the Danes called Half-Danes. Killed in the struggle at Finn’s castle.

Hondscio—One of Beowulf’s companions. Killed by Grendel just before Beowulf grappled with that monster.

Hoce—Father of Hildeburg and probably of Hnæf.

Hrethel—King of the Geats, father of Higelac, and grandfather of Beowulf.

Hrethla—Once used for Hrethel.

Hrethmen—Another name for the Danes.

Hrethric—Son of Hrothgar.

Hreosna-beorh—A promontory in Geat-land, near which Ohthere’s sons made plundering raids.

Hrothgar—The Danish king who built the hall Heort, but was long unable to enjoy it on account of Grendel’s persecutions. Marries Wealhtheow, a Helming lady. Has two sons and a daughter. Is a typical Teutonic king, lavish of gifts. A devoted liegelord, as his lamentations over slain liegemen prove. Also very appreciative of kindness, as is shown by his loving gratitude to Beowulf.

Hrothmund—Son of Hrothgar.

Hrothulf—Probably a son of Halga, younger brother of Hrothgar. Certainly on terms of close intimacy in Hrothgar’s palace.

Hrunting—Unferth’s sword, lent to Beowulf.

Hugs—A race in alliance with the Franks and Frisians at the time of Higelac’s fall.

Hun—A Frisian warrior, probably general of the Hetwars. Gives Hengest a beautiful sword.

Hunferth—Sometimes used for Unferth.

Hygelac, Higelac—King of the Geats, uncle and liegelord of Beowulf, the hero of the poem.—His second wife is the lovely Hygd, daughter of Hæreth. The son of their union is Heardred. Is slain in a war with the Hugs, Franks, and Frisians combined. Beowulf is regent, and afterwards king of the Geats.

Hygd—Wife of Higelac, and daughter of Hæreth. There are some indications that she married Beowulf after she became a widow.

Ingeld—Son of the Heathobard king, Froda. Marries Hrothgar’s daughter, Freaware, in order to reconcile the two peoples.

Ingwins—Another name for the Danes.

Jutes—Name sometimes applied to Finn’s people.

Lafing—Name of a famous sword presented to Hengest by Hun.

Merewing—A Frankish king, probably engaged in the war in which Higelac was slain.

Nægling—Beowulf’s sword.

Offa—King of the Angles, and son of Garmund. Marries the terrible Thrytho who is so strongly contrasted with Hygd.

Ohthere—Son of Ongentheow, king of the Swedes. He is father of Eanmund and Eadgils.

Onela—Brother of Ohthere.

Ongentheow—King of Sweden, of the Scylfing dynasty. Married, perhaps, Elan, daughter of Healfdene.

Oslaf—A Dane of Hnæf’s party.

Ravenswood—The forest near which Hæthcyn was slain.

Scefing—Applied to Scyld, and meaning ‘son of Scef.’

Scyld—Founder of the dynasty to which Hrothgar, his father, and grandfather belonged. He dies, and his body is put on a vessel, and set adrift. He goes from Daneland just as he had come to it—in a bark.

Scyldings—The descendants of Scyld. They are also called Honor-Scyldings, Victory-Scyldings, War-Scyldings, etc. (See ‘Danes,’ above.)

Scylfings—A Swedish royal line to which Wiglaf belonged.

Sigemund—Son of Wæls, and uncle and father of Fitela. His struggle with a dragon is related in connection with Beowulf’s deeds of prowess.

Swerting—Grandfather of Higelac, and father of Hrethel.

Swedes—People of Sweden, ruled by the Scylfings.

Thrytho—Wife of Offa, king of the Angles. Known for her fierce and unwomanly disposition. She is introduced as a contrast to the gentle Hygd, queen of Higelac.

Unferth—Son of Ecglaf, and seemingly a confidential courtier of Hrothgar. Taunts Beowulf for having taken part in the swimming-match. Lends Beowulf his sword when he goes to look for Grendel’s mother. In the MS. sometimes written Hunferth

Wæls—Father of Sigemund.

Wægmunding—A name occasionally applied to Wiglaf and Beowulf, and perhaps derived from a common ancestor, Wægmund.

Weders—Another name for Geats or Wedergeats.

Wayland—A fabulous smith mentioned in this poem and in other old Teutonic literature.

Wendels—The people of Wulfgar, Hrothgar’s messenger and retainer. (Perhaps = Vandals.)

Wealhtheow—Wife of Hrothgar. Her queenly courtesy is well shown in the poem.

Weohstan, or Wihstan—A Wægmunding, and father of Wiglaf.

Whale’s Ness—A prominent promontory, on which Beowulf’s mound was built.

Wiglaf—Son of Wihstan, and related to Beowulf. He remains faithful to Beowulf in the fatal struggle with the fire-drake. Would rather die than leave his lord in his dire emergency.

Wonred—Father of Wulf and Eofor.

Wulf—Son of Wonred. Engaged in the battle between Higelac’s and Ongentheow’s forces, and had a hand-to-hand fight with Ongentheow himself. Ongentheow disables him, and is thereupon slain by Eofor.

Wulfgar—Lord of the Wendels, and retainer of Hrothgar.

Wylfings—A people to whom belonged Heatholaf, who was slain by Ecgtheow.

Yrmenlaf—Younger brother of Æschere, the hero whose death grieved Hrothgar so deeply.