Friday, June 16, 2006

Robert Yeager on Beowulf

Robert Yeager writes a nice piece on the history of Beowulf. Check it here.

According to Yeager, Beowulf is "a Scandinavian hero, of the tribe of Geats. Most of his story is said to take place in Denmark and Scandinavia."

Here are a few select quotes:

"Why the poem with a Scandinavian hero exists in Old English at all is a mystery. As a member of the tribe of Geats whose significant adventures took place in Denmark and Scandinavia, Beowulf seems an unpromising hero for an English folk epic, particularly in tenth century Saxon England.

"At the time the manuscript was being copied, Scandinavian raiders had been ravaging English shores for two centuries. This inauspicious timing has been used by some scholars to bolster their arguments that Beowulf was composed before the coming of the Northmen about A.D. 790. However, a poem featuring a Scandinavian hero may have been able to flourish at the court of King Cnut, who added England to his Danish empire in 1016."

Any thoughts, Ralph?


1 comment:

Ralph said...

Fascinating article. Based on my studies earlier this year of the Viking invastions of England, I would have to say that the poem gained popularity during the time that the Vikings held sway on the Great Isle. During that time, there were a lot of unholy alliances, as are typically formed during a time of foreign occupation. In other words, a lot of the English seemed to align themselves politically with the Vikings and may have adopted some of their customs, the Beowulf tale being one of them. Because it was a such a great tale that contains so many universal truths - it managed to survive the Viking expulsion from England - as you just can't kill the truth - and live on to this day. At least those are my thoughts on this.