This paper looks to explore the parallels of Anglo-Saxon literature and archeology that existed from seventh century C.E. to tenth century C.E. A variety of historians and archeologists have taken a close look at the story of Beowulf, the Staffordshire Hoard and Anglo-Saxon artifacts to further understand the Anglo-Saxon time period. As archeology has progressed over time, much of the emphasis has switched from observing the artifacts, to looking at the overall social structure and message of the mounds, which leads us to new understandings of the time period in which all of this occurred.
Understanding the differences between the Old English version of Beowulf, and the Modern English version is significant when appreciating what the text is trying to tell the reader. This epic poem does not rhyme, but does however have various alliterations and kennings. Throughout Beowulf, these various alliterations and kennings are used regularly, however in Heaney’s translation he doesn’t always utilize the alliteration technique, but instead “alliterates in only one half of the line” (xxxvii). He decides to utilize this method to emphasize the natural “sound of sense,” using it to exceed the demands of the convention (xxxvii). Often translators are faced with multiple meanings to words that they are trying to translate. Heaney finds it very important to select the right word with the correct “note and pitch” while translating, because he believes that without some thought and “melody” put into the translation, it is hard to establish the original meaning of the text (xxxvi).
Kennings are often used throughout the poem of Beowulf as figurative language that is put in place of a single-word to make it more elaborate. Beowulf often spits a word in two different words, hinting at the same meaning of the single word. Throughout Beowulf, kennings are used to describe physical elements such as, but not limited to, swords, shields, ships, halls, treasure-hoards, rings, helmets, drinking horns, and musical instruments. For example a “battle-torch” is a more detailed way to describe a sword (Heaney 1523). In a way, kennings enrich our understanding of the objects.
The poem of Beowulf revolves around the young hero, Beowulf, and his killing of Grendle, Grendle’s mother, and the attack of the dragon. Beowulf is set up for success in the first few lines of the poem by the description of “that was one good king” (Heaney 11). Right from the very beginning of the poem it is apparent that Beowulf is going to encounter heroic events, and is a natural born leader that has “behavior that’s admired” (Heaney 24). When Beowulf’s heroic ability is called out by Unferth at the feast, Beowulf quickly assures that he defeated Breca and is ready to take what Gredel has to offer (Heaney 528). Beowulf takes on Grendel, and the result is a defeat for the Danes. Grendel’s mother comes to attack the Danes, and after long hard fighting Beowulf defeats Grendel’s mother as well. At the end of the poem, Beowulf goes and attacks the dragon, causing the death of Beowulf, and the only person that was there to help Beowulf was Wiglaf. The parallel that exists between the heroic deeds of the end of the poem and the end of Beowulf’s life is Wiglaf and his help to conquer the dragon. Therefore, after Beowulf died, Wiglaf was honored with being the next suitable successor for the Geats.
Courage that is shown through deeds that may lead to death, honorability, the display of facing overwhelming or impossible odds, strength, and victories are just a few of the characteristics of a great hero during the Anglo-Saxon time period. Beowulf is one Anglo-Saxon warrior that is depicted to have all of the characteristics of a great hero. When Beowulf goes to King Hrothgar and explains that he is here to help defeat Grendel he shows characteristics of a heroic leader. He assures Hrothgar that he is willing to fight through “life-and-death to fight with the...
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