"Beowulf" Background Information

Anglo Saxons:  members of Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes that settled in what is now England in

A.D. 400-500.  These tribes quickly occupied most of southern and eastern Britain, and wars often erupted

between the tribes.  Seven kingdoms evolved by the 700s, and by the late 800s, Danish Vikings had

attacked all the kingdoms.  Only the kingdom of Wessex survived, led by Alfred the Great.  Alfred's

descendants eventually defeated the Vikings and assimilated Wessex and Viking territory into a kingdom

they called England, meaning "Angle folk" or "land of the Angles."  In 597, St. Augustine of Canterbury began

converting Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.






















Old English:  heavily Germanic language used by the Anglo-Saxons from about A.D. 500 to 1100; foundation
of today's English language

Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum,

5
monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra

10
ofer hronrade         hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan.         þæt wæs god cyning!

Geats:  members of an ancient Germanic people of Scandinavia who were conquered by the Swedes in

A.D. 500s; Beowulf is a prince of the Geats

Danes:  people from Denmark; those of Danish descent; King Hrothgar is the danish king

Swedes;  people born or living in Sweden

Jutes:  members of Germanic tribes from Denmark and northern Germany; conquered most of England in
A.D. 450-500; originally from an area of Denmark now known as Jutland

Scandinavians:  people who live in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

Herot/Mead-hall:  gathering place for warriors; where they told stories, drank,
ate, and received rewards from their king or other leaders