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By: Mr. Afram, with assistance from Ms. Loftis

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1 By: Mr. Afram, with assistance from Ms. Loftis
Background of Beowulf By: Mr. Afram, with assistance from Ms. Loftis

2 Table of Contents Why Study Beowulf? Anglo-Saxons Origins of Beowulf
Qualities of an Epic Poem Setting Religion in Beowulf Essential Questions I am Beowulf!

3 Why Study Beowulf? In “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” Oxford scholar J.R.R. Tolkien asserts that Beowulf is not a childhood story about monsters; instead, it identifies the essential qualities of humanity. Tolkien is well-known for his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

4 Anglo-Saxons Beowulf was told by the Anglo-Saxons, a group of Germanic tribes from northern Germany and southern Sweden that invaded southern England in the mid-fifth century. The Anglo-Saxon language – now referred to as “Old English” – was derived from Ingvaeonic, a west Germanic dialect. Modern-day Germany and Sweden are near England.

5 Anglo-Saxons, Con’d The Anglo-Saxons were a tribal people that formed a series of feudal kingdoms in modern-day Great Britain. These minor kingdoms were eventually conquered by the Vikings (from modern-day Denmark and Scandinavia). The Vikings ruled from 800 – 1066 AD. Location of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms

6 Anglo-Saxons, Con’d After the Viking conquest, the Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons in the Battle of Hastings (1066). The Normans were mainly from northwestern and central France. The famous Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Norman conquest at the Battle of Hastings.

7 Anglo-Saxons, Con’d Primary results of the Battle of Hastings (1066):
The native ruling class (Anglo- Saxon) was ousted; A French-speaking monarchy rose to power; and The Norman victory lessened Scandinavian influence and aligned England with culture of Western Europe. An Anglo-Saxon helmet, circa It’s similar to Swedish helmets of that era.

8 Origins of Beowulf Beowulf is known as an epic poem.
The exact author of the poem is unknown, but most likely the story was originally sung by traveling minstrels around the seventh through tenth century. The poem, however, is set in the fifth century. Minstrels set the mood!

9 Qualities of an Epic Poem
An epic poem has the following characteristics: It’s a long narrative poem; It has a serious subject; It has elevated language; It is centered on a somewhat heroic/divine figure;

10 Qualities of an Epic, Con’d
With epic poems, the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race relies on the hero; Epic poems often adapt historical and legendary materials from oral traditions; Epics follow a hero’s nation during a period of expansion and warfare; Epic poems often contain warfare.

11 Qualities of an Epic, Con’d
8. Epics often open "in the middle of things,” or in media res; 9. Epics contain extended formal speeches. Listen to my speech!

12 Setting: Denmark Remember that the oldest surviving work of English literature was set in Denmark!

13 Setting: Heorot Hall Here’s an overhead view of Hrothgar’s famed mead hall:

14 Setting: Heorot Hall, Con’d
Artist’s rendering of a mead hall What’s hanging from the rafters?

15 Setting: The Moors and Fens
A fen The moors are known for being flat, desolate, and rocky.

16 Religion in Beowulf Originally, the Anglo-Saxons practiced a form of Germanic paganism. Note: paganism is defined as a polytheistic religion that deifies the natural elements. Later, in the seventh and eighth century, Catholic missionaries, including St. Augustine, popularized the Christian faith.

17 Religion in Beowulf Evidence of Christianity in the poem:
Biblical allusions to God, Cain, Abel, and Noah’s flood; Disapproval of heathen ideas; References to Christian doctrines to heaven, hell, and the Day of Judgment; and Poem expresses faith in God’s providence.

18 Religion in Beowulf The story of Cain and Abel recurs. Here’s a summary: Adam and Eve (the first humans) had two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Both brothers offered sacrifices to God; Cain submitted fruit, and Abel slaughtered a sheep. Unfortunately, God disapproved of Cain’s offering. Out of jealousy, Cain killed Abel. Fifteenth century rendering of Cain and Abel from Germany

19 Essential Questions Why do other people’s ideas matter?
What does philosophy have to do with literature? Does philosophy detract from the story and characters in a novel?

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