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Beowulf Walkthrough

modified and supplemented by S. Wood

Sandy Wood Bairfield

on 29 August 2014

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Transcript of Beowulf Walkthrough

by Sandy Wood
No known author*
Scholars believe it was written somewhere ranging from the early 8th century to the late 10th century
Considered to be the oldest surviving example of a heroic epic written in Old English
Like other epic poems, it first existed in the oral tradition, passed down orally for generations. Furthermore, Beowulf employs digressions, long speeches, journeys and quests, various trials or tests of the hero, and even divine intervention, as do classic epics
Prologue: The Rise of the Danish Nation
King Shield Sheafson dies
His body is sent on a raft filled with treasures out to sea, burned as part of funeral
First Beow becomes king, then his son Halfdane, and finally Hrothgar
Everything is good until Grendel
Grendel Attacks
One night there is a celebration at Herot, the mead-hall
Grendel is infuriated about the noise
When everyone is passed out and drunk, Grendel attacks Herot killing 30 men
Night after night for 12 winters he remains a threat to Herot and the Danes
The stories of Grendel are now known around the world
The Coming of Beowulf
Beowulf is a one of a kind (mightiest man on Earth)
Very ambitious, wants to go and kill Grendel
Begins enlisting men (14 in all)
No one is willing to stop him, not even the elders (they tell him to chase his ambition)
The Coming of Beowulf
Arrive at the Danish shore & are questioned by the watchmen
They explain that they are there to kill Grendel
They are sent in the direction of King Hrothgar
When they ask to speak to the king, this is when we are finally introduced to Beowulf!
The Hero Comes to Herot
The watchman guides Beowulf to King Hrothgar
Beowulf brags of his accomplishments - listing examples of monsters he has defeated
Beowulf asks the king for permission for him and his men ONLY to fight Grendel
Feast at Herot
In full text, details of Beowulf's accomplishments are described....
Beowulf and Breca engage in a 5 day swimming competition
Had to fight off all the sea's creatures
Beowulf wins
The Fight with Grendel
Beowulf removes all of his armor
If Grendel does not fight with armor then he will not either.
"And may the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side He sees fit" (905.685). (the idea of fate)
Everyone lays down to go to sleep
The Fight with Grendel
Grendel enters Herot and sees the men sleeping
He kills the closest man to him and then turns for Beowulf
When he is about to grab Beowulf, Beowulf reaches out and grabs Grendel's arm
The two struggle and fight all over Herot until Beowulf rips off Grendel's arm, claw and all
Grendel retreats home to die.

Celebration at Herot
Grendel leaves Herot fatally wounded
Everyone is celebrating and spreading the word that Grendel was defeated by Beowulf

Discussion Question
"Oh, cursed is he who in time of trouble has to thrust his soul in the fire's embrace, forfeiting help; he has nowhere to turn. But blessed is he who after death can approach the Lord and find friendship in the Father's embrace" (895.183)
What do you think this quote is saying?
"Beowulf." The Norton Anthology World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. 1
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.
Chordiya, Deepa. The Dating of Beowulf, 2000. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
Movie Clips. "Beowulf (3/10) Movie CLIP - Sea Monsters (2007) HD."
Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 Nov. 2011. Web.
30 Apr. 2013.
Movie Clips. "Beowulf (2/10) Movie CLIP - They Say You Have A
Monster Here (2007) HD." Online Video Clip. YouTube.
YouTube, 23 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
Works Cited
Discussion Question
Though this version of
was originally told orally by the Anglo-Saxons, who were heathens, there is evidence of Christianity. This can be credited to the fact that monks were the first to write the epic poem down. What examples can be found in the reading that support this idea?
Movie Clips. "Beowulf (5/10) Movie CLIP - I Am Beowulf (2007) HD."
Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 Nov. 2011. Web.
30 Apr. 2013.
Establishing an Identity/Reputation
Connection to Anglo-Saxons
500 - 600 A.D. in Denmark and Sweden
Although the story took place in time of a pagan people, the reader will find many references to Christianity because it is believed to have been written down by a Christian monk in England*
1st page of the original Beowulf manuscript
Beowulf exists in only one manuscript, which survived the wholesale destruction of artifacts by Henry VIII.
It also survived a disastrous fire in the 1500’s and is now housed in the British Library in London.
Deals with the time period that follows the invasion of England by Germanic tribes in 449.
It depicts the Germanic ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons, especially the Danes and the Geats
Literary Devices in Beowulf
Kenning – two or more words which serve as a metaphor for another word

Some well-known Anglo-Saxon kennings (seen in Beowulf) include:
banhus (bone-house) - the human body
beadoleoma (battle-light) - sword
wægflota (wave-floater) - ship

Descriptions of the sea included:
hronrad- whale road
fiscesethel - fish home
seolbæp - seal bath
Alliteration – repetition of initial consonant sounds

Examples in Beowulf:
Many a mead-hall Scyld, son of Sceaf
Snatched from the forces of savage foes
From a friendless foundling, feeble and wretched,
He grew to a terror as time brought change

Used for entertainment, variety, and to keep the beat and rhythm
Caesura – each line had a pause in the middle to create a type of beat
This was a building block of Anglo-Saxon poetry.
He represents the values of the heroic age, specifically the Germanic code of comitatus — the honor system that existed in Scandinavian countries in the fifth and sixth centuries between a king, or feudal lord, and his warriors. Warriors swore devotion to their leader and vowed to fight boldly, to the death if necessary, for him.
For his part, the leader rewarded his warriors with treasure, protection, and land. His generosity often was considered a virtue and a mark of character.
The poem would have been performed for audiences at court or on the road as the scop (preferred pronunciation, "shop") found audiences to support him. The scop would sing or chant the poem, rather than recite it, usually to the accompaniment of a harp. The scop's audience was probably familiar with the story and the various allusions in the poem. The poet's skill was judged by how well he could weave the stories into an effective, entertaining presentation.
One point to remember is that the poem is not history.
In a way, Beowulf's world runs parallel to history. Although it rarely refers to historical facts, the setting is similar to reality in Denmark and Sweden in the fifth and sixth centuries, the time of the action in the poem. The social structure of the comitatus did exist; and the most dominating rituals in the poem, the funerals near the beginning and at the end of the epic, have been confirmed by archaeological discovery.
Another custom was the concept of
, literally, "man-payment," the price set on a person's life according to his social or political station. If a lord or one of his top warriors (sometimes called a retainer) were killed in a feud, the fighting might go on indefinitely, one side killing for vengeance and then the other. However, the fighting could be stopped by a payment of
. If a leader were killed, the offending party could pay a certain amount to have the matter settled.

Beowulf - (from “bee-wolf”, or bear) - the epic hero, a Geat (from Sweden), Son of Edgethow, nephew of Higlac
Hrothgar - king of the Danes (Denmark), builder of Herot
Herot – (from hart-hall) - Mead-hall of King Hrothgar; attacked by Grendel; decorated with antlers of stags
Wiglaf – a Geat warrior, one of Beowulf’s select band ; the only one to help Beowulf in his last battle
Grendel – from Norse “grindill” or storm; decendant of Cain; man-eating monster who lives at the bottom of a foul mere, or mountain lake; archetypal villain

Wealtheow - Hrothgar's queen
Unferth - Hrothgar's toady (retainer)
Beow - second king of the Danes
Halfdane - Father of Hrothgar, Heorogar, & Helga
Hygelac - Beowulf's uncle and king of the Geats
Ecotheow - Beowulf's father
Breca - Beowulf's childhood friend who he beats at a swimming contest
Sigemund - Famous for slaying a dragon, his story is told to Beowulf and foreshadows what comes next
The Epic Hero
Good versus Evil
Generosity and Hospitality
The Cave
Grendel's Claw and Head
Cliff Notes digital copy, 2013.
Three tenets of Anglo-Saxon philosophy
that are found in Beowulf are:
a vision of evil in the world
a belief in the power of fate
a resignation to the certainty of death
As an epic Anglo-Saxon legend, Beowulf illustrates the customs, tradition, and values of the Anglo-Saxon society.

One of the most obvious ways an epic tells about the society that wrote it is through the epic hero.
However, the epic hero is not the only way that the tenets of a society are reflected in a story. Clues about the civilization’s values can also be found in the general plot and outcome of the tale.
The major text we will read from this period is the epic
It is the story of a Scandinavian (Geat) warrior who comes to help a neighboring tribe, the Danes, who are being attacked by a monster.

We study English history to understand the context of Beowulf, and we study Beowulf to understand the world which was Old England.
According to Venerable Bede (an early English historian who lived in the eighth century), the Britons called the Romans for help when the Picts and Scots were attacking them (B.C.). Hundreds of years later, the Britons called the Saxons to help them when the Romans couldn’t. The Saxons came “from parts beyond the sea” (qtd. in Pyles and Algeo 96).

This journey of Germanic peoples to England “from parts beyond the sea” is the prototypical story for the first millennium of England’s history. It formulates much of their cultural mindset and clearly influences their stories. Be sure to consider how it plays a role in Beowulf.
Learn How to Pronounce Names from
A Few Pronunciations for Beowulf

DANE: Dene


HROTHGAR (king): ROT-gar

HEOROT (hall): HE-or-ot

WEALTHEOW (Hrothgar's queen): WELK-thay-oh

ECGTHEOW (Beowulf's father): EDGE-thay-oh

ECGLAF (Unferth's father): EDGE-lahf

UNFERTH (Hrothgar's toady): OON-fairth

HYGELAC (Beowulf's uncle and king): HEE-ya-lahk

HYGD (Hygelac's queen): HIDGE

HILDEBURH (tragic heroine of the Finnsburg interlude): HIL-duh-boorg

HENGEST (new Danish leader after death of Hildeburh's brother): HEN-jest

HRETHEL (Father of Hygelac and of Beowulf's mother): HRAY-thul
Warning: This scene is violent.
Do not watch if violence and blood bother you.
Grendel's Mother
The night after Grendel dies, his mother travels to Herot to avenge her son's death.
She kills King Hrothgar's closest friend, retrieves Grendel's arm, and returns to her cave.
When Beowulf discovers what has happened, he pursues her.
The Battle with Grendel's Mother
Beowulf swims to the bottom of the murky lake (mire) to fight.
Grendel's mother captures Beowulf but could not hurt him due to his armor.
She takes him to her cave where Beowulf discovers his sword, Hrunting, is useless.
He sees a sword forged by the giants hanging on the wall.
He grabs it and stabs her in the neck, dropping her lifeless to the floor (or does he...?)
Beowulf Returns
Beowulf returns from the cave at the bottom of the lake with Grendel's head and the hilt of the magical sword
He has no proof of Grendel's Mother's death (which creates a "grey area"...)
Yet again the Danes celebrate and honor Beowulf
Beowulf's Last Battle
Beowulf has returned home and been crowned king.
After 50 years of peace and prosperity, a fire-breathing dragon attacks Beowulf's kingdom
Beowulf takes on the challenge of fighting it
After a vicious fight, Beowulf fatally injures the dragon but is also mortally wounded himself.
Wiglaf is the only warrior who remains to help Beowulf.
Warning: This scene is violent.
Do not watch if violence and blood bother you.
Also, note there are flashing lights in this scene.
The people held a strong belief in the idea of
, or fate, in which individuals conceive of themselves as directed by necessity and a heroic code that compels them to act in certain fixed ways.
Meaning, you must act like a hero, follow the heroic code, for Fate to determine you die a heroic death.
Both Christianity and Paganism are reflected in the poem.
references to God
protection through God
allusions to Christ
pride vs. humility
sacrifice vs. selfishness
concepts of fame, fate, and vengeance
The Death and Mourning of Beowulf
What is significant about the way Beowulf dies?
Hint: think about Christianity.
Discussion Question:
Mortally wounded from the dragon, Beowulf spoke his final wishes
He instructs Wiglaf to retrieve some of the dragon's treasure
Beowulf gives his golden necklace, helmet, and jewelry to Wiglaf as thanks
Beowulf dies and Wiglaf addresses the people, acknowledging their cowardliness
The Geats build a monument to Beowulf where his ashes are sealed
The treasures are also buried
see movie 38:00-42:45
Full transcript