Grendel's mommy having a bad hair day
A picture of the original Beowulf
Here are some notes and study questions broken by chapters as laid out in the Burton Raffel verison:
Wyrd = fate
Note that the epic starts with a funeral.
Kenning is a metaphorical combining of words. The name "Beowulf"
can be broken down like this:
What is a "bee enemy?" No other than a bear! The Norse held the bears to be vicious fighters. Beserkers were warriors that wore bear skins and believed that they would become the bear as the fought.
Hrothgar's name means "red spear" - probably red with blood.
Herot means "hall of the hart" - probably decorated with antlers and such.
68-70 "his mighty band" having friends is the mark of a great warrior and good leader.
Note that Grendel's ancestor is Cain, the first murderer in the bible. Cain in Hebrew is "Qayin" which means "creature" giving rise to the legend of Cain's offspring being monsters.
I personally like the line, "Hate had triumphed."
The Geats were from Southern Sweden.
He chooses 14 men, a little triskaidekaphobia? Thirteen is an unlucky number in Christaindom ever since the Lord's Supper (there were 12 disciples and 1 Jesus).
Line 303 talks about their boar helmets. Freyr was a favorite god of the Germanic tribes around the North Sea and boars were sacred to him.
Line 309 has one of many references to glowing and light. There is much light/dark imagery symbolizing goodness/darkness. This is an archetype.
Tolkien translated a copy of Beowulf in prose. Check out how Hrothgar is described in line 351.
Beowulf asks for one favor in fighting Grendel. He also shows a sense of fair play in warfare by saying that he will not use any weapons since Grendel does not use weapons. This later turns out to be ironic since weapons don't work on Grendel.
455 - Wayland = the Norse blacksmith for the gods. This is a picture of Wayland at his forge.
455 - "Fate must unwind as it must!" Another example of "wyrd" and its ultimate control over everything.
Hrothgar helped Beowulf's father.
Unferth means "unpeaceful one." This challenge of his is called a "flyting," a way of solving disputes with words instead of battle. Does Unferth choose this because he is scared to fight Beowulf or because he is at least respecting Beowulf a little since he is a guest of Unferth's king?
538 - They swim with a sword???????
587 - a sinister past of Unferth's.
676 - Remember the irony referenced in chapter 6?
Beowulf's plan is to pretend to sleep. A deceitful plan?
1474 - Edgetho's Brave speaker = Beowulf
1492 - Beowulf leaps into the lake - this is baptism symbolism. This helps show his redemption from when he said God wasn't with him in line 967. Before, God wasn't with him and he could not fully kill Grendel. Now he is going into battle with God completely on his side.
1498 - Grendel's mom ruled for half a hundred years (50 for those of you who are math deficient) - This is a standard device used in older literature (Hrothgar rules for 50 years, Beowulf will rule for 50 years)
1537 - Beowulf grabs her by the shoulder - or is it hair? One scholar suggests that the translation should be hair, but is hair pulling really heroic behavior for a Geat warrior? If you pulled someone's hair in Anglo-Saxon time, it was considered to be an insult.
1545 - Grendel's mom draws a dagger - thus giving Beowulf an excuse to use a weapon.
1553 - God is on Beowulf's side!
1. What 2 things failed Beowulf?
1557 - The magical sword on the wall is an example of a
deus ex machina - In some ancient Greek drama, an apparently
insoluble crisis was solved by the intervention of a god, often brought
on stage by an elaborate piece of equipment. This "god from the machine"
was literally a deus ex machina.
We have more light vs. darkness imagery in this scene.
1584 - Grendel's pouch will be explained later in the epic
1590-1604 - These lines don't quite fit here. They interrupt the story but they do show the lack of faith Hrothgar's men have in themselves (since they know they could not have survived, they transfer that to Beowulf and assume that he coul not have survived either). Note that Beowulf's men stay.
1612-1615 Suppossedly Beowulf takes only these two things from the cave, but he must also go back and grab Hrunting since it is mentioned again later as being in his possession.
1640 - 14 Geats plus Beowulf??? Is Hondshew now the wlking dead? Was there a surprise stow away? Is the author bad at math?