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Beowulf Background Notes. Beowulf and the Epic Tradition The Greeks The Iliad & The Odyssey 15,000 lines 720-680 BC Athens Greek The Anglo- Saxons Beowulf.

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Presentation on theme: "Beowulf Background Notes. Beowulf and the Epic Tradition The Greeks The Iliad & The Odyssey 15,000 lines 720-680 BC Athens Greek The Anglo- Saxons Beowulf."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beowulf Background Notes

2 Beowulf and the Epic Tradition The Greeks The Iliad & The Odyssey 15,000 lines BC Athens Greek The Anglo- Saxons Beowulf 3200 lines Northumbria (NE) Old English

3 The Epic Tradition Beowulf is part of the oral tradition, passed down by mouth, with changes and embellishments, from one minstrel (bard/scop) to another. The story was familiar to the audiences who crowded around the harpist-bards in the communal halls at night.

4 Mead Hall

5 The Epic Tradition An epic is ◦a long narrative poem that relates the great deeds of a larger-than-life hero who embodies the values of a particular society. ◦a quest story on a grand scale. ◦mixture of myth, legend, folklore, and history. ◦serious in tone and grand in it’s language.

6 Beowulf Storyline Beowulf, whose name may mean “bear,” is a Geat from Sweden who crosses the sea to Denmark in a quest to rescue King Hrothgar from the demonic monster Grendel. Story Elements ◦dream/legend (Celtic and Scandinavian) ◦monsters ◦god-fashioned weapons ◦descents to the underworld ◦fights with dragons ◦the hero’s quest ◦a community threatened by evil

7 Christian vs Pagan Christian elements in Beowulf exist side-by- side with pagan elements. In all likelihood, the story, passed down many generations from bard to bard, was ultimately written down in manuscript form by a monk who knew the story’s tradition. The only manuscript we have of Beowulf dates back to the year 1000 and is in the British Museum in London. Burned and stained, it was discovered in the 18 th century, surviving Henry VIII’s destruction of the monasteries 200 years earlier.

8 The Epic Hero ◦has superior physical strength. ◦is supremely ethical. ◦during his quest, must defeat monsters that embody dark destructive powers. ◦at the end of his quest, is glorified by the people he has saved.

9 Characters Beowulf: Geat, son of Edgetho and nephew of Higlac, king of the Geats. Higlac is both Beowulf’s feudal lord and his uncle. Brecca: chief of the Brondings, a tribe, and Beowulf’s friend Grendel: man-eating monster who lives at the bottom of a foul mere, or mountain lake. His name might be related to the Old Norse grindill, meaning “storm,” or grenja, “to bellow.”

10 Characters Herot: golden mead-hall built by King Hrothgar, the Danish ruler. It was decorated with the antlers of stags; the name means “hart [stag] hall.” Hrothgar: king of the Danes, builder of Herot. He had once befriended Beowulf’s father. His father was called Healfdane (“half Dane”). Hrothgar’s name might mean “glory spear” or “spear of triumph.”

11 Characters Unferth: one of Hrothgar’s courtiers, reputed to be a skilled warrior. His sword, Hrunting, is used by Beowulf in a later battle. Welthow: Hrothgar’s wife, queen of the Danes. Wiglaf: a Geat warrior, one of Beowulf’s select band, and the only one to help him in his final fight with the dragon. Wiglaf might be related to Beowulf.

12 Beowulf Read in Old English https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y13c ES7MMd8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y13c ES7MMd8

13 Beowulf The Movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ_N 3XH3ntI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ_N 3XH3ntI


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