"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



Beowulf - Author
unknown

Genre:  epic poem

Setting:  Scandinavia; land of
the Geats (now southern
Sweden) and Denmark

Point of View:  third-person
omniscient

Themes:  courage, loyalty,
perseverance, vengeance,
good vs. evil

Conflict:

Style:
 noble, majestic verse,
with a caesura in each line; it is
organized into three main
parts, each revealing one of
Beowulf's conflicts

Tone:  fervent when relating
Beowulf's exploits; ominous
when foreshadowing and
revealing Beowulf's fate


“Beowulf” notes

 Written around 700 A.D.
~composed orally by a
scop or bard sometime
     between the middle of the
seventh and the end of the
tenth
     century A.D., with
references to earlier historical
events

  In the story "Beowulf"
both Christian and pagan
elements are found.  
      Its composition occurred at
the same time as England's
      conversion to Christianity.

  Epic poem, a long,
heroic poem composed
somewhere between the
middle of
     the 7th and the end of the
10th century A.D., about 4
centuries before the
     Norman conquest.  
Composed in Anglo-Saxon/Old
English, yet set in Scandinavia,
     the poem recounts the
deeds of a Scandinavian price
(Beowulf) and reflects the world
     of 6th century Geats,
Danes and Swedes, who were
rigidly futile, highly civilized,
violent,
     and also newly Christian.

 The Anglo-Saxons
looked up to bravery and
having heroic qualities.

 The story takes place in
Denmark and Sweden, it
involves King Hrothgar
having a   
     dilemma with the monster,
Grendel who has been
attacking his mead-hall called
Herot,
     a battle in an underwater
lair with Grendel's mother, and
a final battle with a menacing
     dragon.


Grendel and his mother are
both described as descendants
of Cain.  The figure of Cain is