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Beowulf: The Beginnings of English Literature. Origins  Unknown author; possibly one Christian author in Anglo- Saxon England  Unknown date of composition.

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Presentation on theme: "Beowulf: The Beginnings of English Literature. Origins  Unknown author; possibly one Christian author in Anglo- Saxon England  Unknown date of composition."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beowulf: The Beginnings of English Literature

2 Origins  Unknown author; possibly one Christian author in Anglo- Saxon England  Unknown date of composition (roughly 8 th -9 th Century CE)  700’s-800’s

3 Literary Devices  Allusion: Biblical (Cain), Norse myth  Alliteration (eg. Scyld’s strong son)  Epic poetry: a long narrative poem written in elevated style which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero.

4 Literary Devices  Kenning: two-word metaphorical name for something Whale-road=sea Sky-candle=sun Battle-dew=blood  Scop: Anglo-Saxon composers and storytellers (like minstrels or bards)

5 Modern Day Scops

6 Warrior Code  Comitatus: Germanic code of loyalty (chivalry)  Thane: warrior – swears loyalty to the king for whom they fought and whom they protected (knight)  Wergild: “man-payment”; a fee paid to the family of a slain man to atone for his murder and to prevent the family from seeking revenge.

7 Geats (Swedish) and Danes (Denmark)  Beowulf was a war leader of the Geats, a group of people in what is now southern Sweden  Hrothgar was king of the Danes (Vikings)

8 Old English  Beowulf was written in Old English, an early form of English  In 1066, William the Conqueror successfully invaded England, bringing his Norman French language with him; the nobility began to speak French, and gradually Old English evolved into Middle English (1100-1500): “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote”shoures sootedroghte  Modern English has been spoken since the Renaissance – Shakespeare is NOT Old English; he is Early Modern English

9 Elements of an Epic 1.Epic hero– an character with a trait or characteristic that is valued by his society. (E.g.– Superman’s bravery or valor) 2.Quest– A journey through which the character or the reader learns something 3.Valorous Deeds– Doing something bravely. 4.Divine Intervention– The hand of God (or gods) help/hinder the hero, proving his value. 5.Great events– The hero has a hand in something important in the history or mythology of a culture.

10 2 Types of Epics 1.Folk –Told out loud first (usually by scops) –Unknown author –Unknown dates –(E.g.—Beowulf is a folk epic because we don’t know who wrote it) 2.Literary –Known author –(E.g.– Paradise Lost, by John Milton is a literary epic because we know who wrote it.)

11 3 Epic Conventions 1.Invoke a muse –Muse– inspiration provided by the gods 2.Plot begins in medias res –In medias re– “In the middle of” the action 3.Serious tone Not necessary to have all of these, but need most at least

12 Beowulf’s Name Beowulf’s father– Edgetho –In most cases, the son is named after the father Don Donald (son of Don) McDonald (son of son of Don) McDonaldson (son of son of son of Don) Proves Beowulf is own individual with own powers and abilities (and more important than his father) Be=Bee Wulf=Hunter =Bear –Bears are known as Great Protectors in Norse mythology


14 Grendel A powerful monster, demon, fiend Born of Cain (cursed for the murder of his brother Abel) Exiled by God Angry at the loud music coming from Herot


16 Plot Hrothgar (King of the Danes) has built a magnificent mead hall called Herot

17 Plot The loud music and scops singing were annoying and painful to Grendel

18 Plot Grendel crept into Herot after the party and found the Danes sleeping He snatched up 30 men, smashed them, and dragged them back to his lair.


20 Plot Hrothgar lamented the loss and feared the beginning might not be the end Foreshadowing He was right. Grendel returned every night until all the soldiers deserted Herot It stood empty for 12 winters

21 Plot Grendel never dared harm King Hrothgar He was protected by God-God, Whose love Grendel could not know.

22 Plot Across the sea, Beowulf heard of Hrothgar’s plight He chose 14 fellow Geats (Swedes) and sailed to help the Danes (Vikings)

23 Plot Wulfgar takes Beowulf to Hrothgar but has him keep his weapons outside Hrothgar is aware of Beowulf’s noble birth and his reputation as a great warrior

24 Plot Noble Birth—Beowulf’s cousin is also his King (King Higlac) Beowulf boasts about his great accomplishments Fought bravely in war Chained 5 Giants Hunted and killed sea monsters at night

25 Plot Beowulf announces that he has now come to purge Grendel from the land Beowulf refuses to use a weapon b/c Grendel uses none If Beowulf is defeated he asks that his inherited armor be returned to King Higlac

26 Plot Hrothgar recalled how Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, had killed a Wulfing warrior He was exiled from his home Hrothgar, as a newly crowned king, allowed him asylum and paid reparations to the Wulfing tribe to avoid a war. Beowulf was in debt to Hrothgar

27 Plot Hrothgar tells Beowulf of the “…fiends savage assault—and my soldiers would be fewer still, death taking more and more” Example of a caesura (line 221)

28 Plot Hrothgar throws a big party in honor of Beowulf and his Geats. And they wait…

29 Stop Here

30 Battle with Grendel Beowulf repeats his intent to fight without a sword He lies awake and awaits the Beast

31 Battle with Grendel Grendel has once again heard the celebrations coming from Herot He comes up from the swampland, sliding silently… (alliteration) Grendel tears the door off its hinges

32 Battle with Grendel Grendel is thrilled to see rows of sleeping soldiers He is hungry for their flesh Grendel snatches up a Geat and ate him whole The next victim he reaches for is Beowulf

33 Battle with Grendel Beowulf seizes Grendel in his powerful grip. He twists his arm behind his back. Grendel panics and tries to escape The two fight up and down the halls of Herot nearly destroying it

34 Battle with Grendel Beowulf’s Geats join the fight. They attempt to strike Grendel with their weapons. But they could not scratch at his skin, for that sin-stained demon had bewitched all men’s weapons…

35 Battle with Grendel Beowulf rips Grendel’s arm from its socket

36 Battle with Grendel Grendel escapes and drags himself back to the swamps The arm was hung from the rafters of Herot as a trophy

37 Battle with Grendel The next morning, warriors followed Grendel’s bloody footprints back to his den They led to a swamp where the water was bloody, steaming and boiling. They rode back to Herot, making up poems of Beowulf’s heroic battle

38 Stop Here

39 The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice) Grendel's mother comes to Herot to avenge Grendel. She escapes, taking Esher, Hrothgar's trusted lieutenant and friend.

40 Hrothgar laments the loss of Esher, along with the other sorrows Grendel and his mother have inflicted on Herot. He asks again for Beowulf's help. Beowulf agrees to avenge Esher. The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice)

41 Hrothgar leads Beowulf and his own men to the bloody, frozen & burning lake, the abode of Grendel and his mother. Unferth gives Beowulf his sword, Hrunting, and Beowulf dives into the lake fully armored to attack Grendel's mother. The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice)

42 After swimming for hours, he finds her. And she finds him. Like Grendel, she is impervious to most weapons—Hrunting is useless. In the heat of battle, he finds a giant (magic) sword hanging on the wall and kills Grendel's mother with it. The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice)


44 He then finds Grendel's body and severs the monster's head. When the men on shore see blood rise to the surface of the lake, they assume Beowulf has been killed. The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice)

45 Beowulf's magic sword melts, but he returns to shore with the jeweled hilt and Grendel's head. Beowulf and the Geats take their "terrible trophy" to Herot. Beowulf offers the magic sword's hilt to Hrothgar. The Battle with Grendel’s Mother (Alice)


47 The Dragon and Beowulf's Death Beowulf gains the crown of Geatland after the deaths of Higlac and Herdred. He has been a good and generous king for 50 years when a thief rouses a sleeping dragon by taking a gem-studded cup..

48 The Dragon and Beowulf's Death Unable to find the thief, the dragon vows revenge and destroys Geatland. Beowulf blames himself for the tragedy, thinking he must have somehow broken God's law. wulf

49 The Dragon and Beowulf's Death He prepares to go to battle against the dragon, recalling his past successes for motivation. He sets out to fight the dragon alone and is followed by a group of his men.


51 The Dragon and Beowulf's Death During the battle, Beowulf's shield is melted and his sword is broken. The rest of his men flee, but Wiglaf comes to Beowulf's aid and slays the dragon.


53 The Dragon and Beowulf's Death Beowulf dies in battle, and Wiglaf admonishes the Geats for their desertion of Beowulf. In honor of their king, the Geats build a pyre for Beowulf.

54 Possible OER Evaluate a story you’ve read or seen as an epic story. –O! Brother, Where Art Thou? Epic hero– Ulysses Everett McGill Quest– To seek the treasure Valorous deeds– Singing the song, escaping the sheriff, saving Tommy from the KKK, et al. Divine intervention– the flood Great events– Helping elect Pappy O’Daniel as governor of Mississippi instead of the KKK head dragon Literary epic– Cohen brothers wrote it in 2001 Invokes a muse at the beginning Begins in the middle of the story as they escape jail Serious tone? Notsomuch.

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