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Beowulf and the Funeral Ritual

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1 Beowulf and the Funeral Ritual
By Chris and Noah

2 Introduction 3 funerals: Shield Sheafson, Hildeburg’s relatives, and Beowulf A fourth? “The Lay of the Last Survivor” Each funeral represents a change in the story—in the setting, plot or mood Recurring themes: the importance/life cycle of gold, glory in battle, warrior mentality

3 Shield Sheafson

4 Shield Sheafson Mood: ‘Death is honorable,’ begins the poem with sense of glory and great respect when he is sent out to sea’ Main Theme: Glory in Battle/Warrior Mentality “scourge of many tribes, a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes…” (3)’ Explains the main theme in their society: glory in battle is rewarded; treasure is used to reward victory in battle

5 Shield Sheafson Gold: His body is cast away at sea with treasured possessions Gold and treasure is used to represent the King’s greatness, being given back to the sea to live on “the great ring giver…I have never heard of a ship so well furbished…” (5) Each item is described to show its importance “far-fetched treasures, battle tackle, bladed weapons, coats of mail…” (5) His death was mourned and he was ‘cast away’ to drift forever

6 Hildeburh’s Relatives

7 Hildeburh’s Relatives
‘Saga of the Finns’ sung at Heorot after Beowulf’s victory over Grendel Hildeburh, her brother Hnaef and King Finn fight in Finn’s hall and both die in battle, set on funeral pyre together to burn Change in mood: the sad story of Hildeburh offers a foreboding feeling immediately after a Danish ‘victory’  leads to conflict with Grendel’s mother

8 Hildeburh’s Relatives
Consequences of war: Hildeburh’s husband, brother, and son are killed  great sorrow and remorse instead of reverence, vicious/bloody side of war, being on pyre together signifies communal loss, mourning “how could she [Hildeburh] not lament her fate when morning came and the light broke on her murdered dears?” (72) Glory: death is no longer ‘majestic,’ being cast away, but instead is fiery, very reminiscent of Hell

9 Hildeburh’s Relatives
Warrior mentality? The story describes the ugly side of battle—a stark contrast from the ‘glory’ described in Shield Sheafson’s funeral Gory details to describe vicious side of battle and change course in the poem, criticism of warrior culture/mentality? “the flesh on his bones to sputter and blaze beside his uncle’s…heads melted, crusted gashes spattered and ran bloody matter…” (75) Gold: ‘Effulgent gold’ is described and some items forged in gold are put on pyre, in a way mocking glory of battle? Life cycle of gold ends…

10 Beowulf

11 Beowulf Combination of pyre and burial
Fitting end for the poem: mood is mournful but glory has been restored, but not glory of warrior? Instead of wrecker of mead-benches, Beowulf was the “man most gracious and fair-minded, kindest to his people and keenest to win fame…” (209) Glory: greatness of his life is displayed in funeral, dragon’s hoard is buried with Beowulf Biggest difference: comparison to Shield Sheafson “it was their hero’s memorial…mourning his loss as a man and a king…gave thanks for his greatness” (209)

12 Beowulf Gold in great abundance is buried with Beowulf, jewels, torques  author says gold is under gravel, “gone to earth, as useless to men now as it ever was,” criticism of warrior culture Change in the importance of gold? Great sorrow in their leader’s death and their society coming to an end makes gold seem useless Dragon’s remains are cast over the cliff to sea  connection to Sheafson’s funeral and poem comes full circle, related to ‘life cycle’ of gold Grand funeral with the most precious items, his best warriors rode around the tomb

13 4th Funeral?

14 “Lay of the Last Survivor”
Theory of 4th “funeral” in Beowulf Last man of an ancient race stows all of his people’s treasures in a cave and waits to die Comparable to Shield Sheafson’s burial with the things that are buried “I am left with nobody to bear a sword or burnish plated goblets, put a sheen on the cup… the hard helmet, hasped with gold… the coat of mail… no trembling, no tuned timber, no tumbling hawk, no swift horse” (151). Mentioning of “tumbling hawk” refers to end of life, hawk flying in and out of mead hall represents a life Change: gold has not reached its ‘final resting place’ and is ‘cursed’

15 Real Burials

16 Real Burials There have been many findings of different burials from medieval times. There were many burial mounds during the early stages of medieval times Ship burials were quickly adapted Ship burials involved the dead corpse being placed in a ship, and it would either be cast to see, or left on land, and depending on the location, set on fire Many great jewels, armor, gold, and other important artifacts were always left with the corpse Conclusion: While the Hildeburh’s Relatives being burned on the same pyre is a stretch, and there is no proof of any ancient race stowing away all of its treasures, the descriptions of funerals in Beowulf are very accurate descriptions compared to what they would have been

17 Ibn Fadlan

18 Ibn Fadlan Ahmed ibn Fadlan, a writer from the 10th century, wrote a description of a Scandinavian burial Dead chieftain placed in temporary grave for 10 days while being guarded by one of his female servants, who was encouraged to drink and sleep around with the men working The dead chieftain is then placed in proper attire and is prepared to be burned, while the servant woman was strangled and stabbed They are both burned together on the chieftains pyre  related to Hildeburh’s relatives’ burial

19 Sutton Hoo

20 Sutton Hoo Located in south-east Suffolk, England
A large field that is the site of many different ship burials and mound burials Is being funded to be both studied in more depth, as well as to be protected Describes burial sites in Beowulf would likely be similar to Sutton Hoo

21 Thank You

22 Works Cited Owen-Crocker, Gale (2000). The Four Funerals in Beowulf: And the Structure of the Poem. New York: Manchester University Press. Smyser, H.M. (1965). "Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus with Some Commentary and Some Allusions to Beowulf". Franciplegius: Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honor of Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. eds. Jess B. Bessinger Jr. and Robert P. Creed. New York: New York University Press

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