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"The Battle of Finnsburg"

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Fen Wi

on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of "The Battle of Finnsburg"

"The Battle at Finnsburg"
The Battle of Finnsburg - story
conflict occured around 450 AD
The battle of Finnsburg was a conflict between the Frisians (with a Jutish contingent) and the Danish
Friesland, residence of Finn
battle broke out between the two parties (Danes and Frisians) at the residence of Finn - 5 days!
probably started by the Frisian side
Hnæf was killed in that fight
Hengest took over - Hnæf's retainer
both sides engaged in a peace treaty - Finnsburg Fragment ends
the Danish took revenge - slaughtered the Frisians
Hengest attacks Finn
Danes carried away Frisian queen + Finn's royal treasure
Background information
The Frisian lands and neighbouring kingdoms
in the 5th century

Table of content:

1.Background information
3.Finnsburg Fragment
4.Finnsburg Episode in Beowulf
6.unresolved Problems

Finnsburg Episode in Beowulf:
Character constellation

Hnæf Hild
60 Danes

- the Finnsburg Episode is twice as long as
the Fragment (88 1/2 lines)
- lines 1068 - 1158
- it was presented in the Beowulf poem with
connection to one of Beowulf's victories
- presented in a very allusive way
- focussed on Hildeburh and her emotions
- the battle is told out of her perspective
- internal and external function of the text
- connection to Nibelungenlied
The Finnsburg Fragment
Anglo-Saxon epic; discovered in 1705 by George Hickes
transcribed manuscript is lost
action starts in medias res
short; about 48 lines long
lacking in internal context
events of Fragment precede Episode
covers much more narrative ground than Episode
Hickes was a careless copyist
Episode focuses Hildeburh's fate and not on the battle
Danis nationality of Hnæf and Hengest could be Beowulfian innovation; not mentioned
language in fragment is transmitted in bad conditions; confusion of -ea and -eo
Fragment: story told on an too textual level
Episode is much longer than Fragment
Absence Hildeburh in the Fragment; outstanding in Episode
In Episode she is a central character, tragic figure
Hengest's role is much more important in the Episode
Fragment: links to poetic structure (heroic lay)
Episode: different metre and regarded as more 'literary'
only specimen in West Germanic (independent poem)
"[...] That they for them the other dwelling
would completely clear, hall and high seat that they would half of it control [...]"
"[...] They fought five days, so that none fell lordly companions, but they the door held. [...]"
Any questions? :D

--> Discussion:
Unresolved Issues
Guplaf refers to two different persons; Dane vs. G.'s son fighting on Frisian side (tragic situation: father vs. son)
Frisians and Jutes is used interchangeably in Episode
"eotenas, eotena, eotenum" referring to Jutes and giants
possibly Jutes in both troops; Hengest identified with the invader of Britain and founder of Jutish kingdom of Kent
The Finnsburg materials are gathered from
3 sources:

1. A Fragment of 48 lines; known as "Fight at

2. An Episode in the poem of Beowulf
3. Several references in Widsith
Full transcript