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The Germanic Warrior Code, weaponry, and warfare in Beowulf.
Transcript of The Germanic Warrior Code, weaponry, and warfare in Beowulf.
Anglo-Saxon Society was arranged in tribes, each led by their "king" (ex. Hrothgar, Later Beowulf). These kings gained their respect and authority through their warriors. The kings were to display their heroism and success in warfare through the boasting of their warriors. Such boasting can be seen in the Mead Hall among all warriors and in Beowulf's conversation with Unferth before fighting Grendel (p.10-11) Comitatus
Comitatus is the relationship between a king and his warriors. It is a very deep and complex relationship in which the king promises to treat the warrior as family and reward them with the treasures of war, while the warrior swears to die for their king. Comitatus also dictates how a king will be treated after he dies, i.e. Sutton Hoo. Comitatus is the source of much of the characters' motivation in the poem. Discussion Questions What character best exemplifies Comitatus?
Do Beowulf's warriors violate Comitatus when they retreat during the battle with the dragon?
How important is the ritual of boasting in the poem? Warfare
The Germanic Warriors were a very war-heavy society. War was how leaders gained wealth and honor. Peace unfavorable as there was no honor in peace.
If someone lost a close friend or family member, it was a disgrace not to avenge their death. The only alternatives to fighting were paying a "wergild" (man-price) or an arranged marriage. Wealthow asks Beowulf to raises her kids after the battle with Grendel (22) •Beowulf pledges his life to Hrothgar many times during the battles against Grendel and Grendel's mother: " Not at all dost thou need to protect my head, but if death takes me he will have me drenched in blood"(8)
Hrothgar thinks of Beowulf as family or a close loved-one: " That man (Beowulf) was so dear to him (Hrothgar), he could not stifle his heart..." (34)
•Hrothgar and Beowulf give their army many gifts for their deeds, one example is page 27 “‘Likewise, dear Hrothgar, do thou send the treasures thou hast given me to Hygelac.’” Extensives gifts are listed on page 19.
•Wiglef assists Beowulf in his battle with the dragon after all the other soliders leave. Just like many of the warriors in the Anglo Saxon times, Beowulf finds great honor in warfare and warfare is his primary motivation. Beowulf takes pride in and boasts about his victories. He values the treasure he obtains in battles. Beowulf's view on combat is best exemplified in this quote: "It is better for each to avenge his friend than greatly to mourn. Each of us must needs await the end of life in the world; let him who can achieve fame ere death. That is best for a noble warrior when life is over." (25) Discussion Questions What does it say about Grendel that he violated the code by not paying a wergild?
Where else does Beowulf exemplify the tradition of honor in fighting? Weapons
The Anglo Saxon warriors mainly fought with basic weapons such as battle axes, spears, and shields made out of wood. The most valuable weapon, but not as common, was the sword. Swords would be passed down from generation to generation or given as a gift from king to warrior. A swords value was increased if it had a long history, fought in a courageous battle, or belonged to a great warrior. Such was the case with Hrunting. The primary amour type of Anglo-Saxon warriors was "mail". Helmets were an important part of the armour, typically made of many metals and mail, with the primary goal of deflecting and stopping a sword attack to the head. Weapons and armor are looked at with honor in the poem. There is an entire paragraph praising Beowulf's armor: "The war-corslet, hand-woven, broad, must needs try the water; it knew how to guard his body so that the grip of war might not wound his heart." (26). The passing of swords and weapons is shown when Unferth gives Hrunting to Beowulf (27), and when Beowulf gives his collar to Wiglaf (48) Discussion Questions What is the significance of Beowulf fighting Grendel without armor?
Is the value of swords exaggerated in Beowulf?
If a sword's "power"comes from honor, what does that say about the monsters' honor who are invincible to swords?
•Delahoyde, Michael. "Anglo-Saxon Culture." Anglo-Saxon Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/anglo-saxon.html>.
•BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/anglo_saxons/anglo-saxons_at_war/>.
"Notes on Beowulf." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jgarret/200b/notes-beowulf.htm>.
"The Sutton Hoo Treasure." - Famous Treasure Finds. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <http://detecting.org.uk/html/Sutton_Hoo_Treasure.html>.
"Experience the Past." Regia Anglorum. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <http://www.regia.org/main.htm>.