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CelticGypsy

Beowulf

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The legend of Beowulf is a fictional story inspired by fact. Today experts are still unsure who created it, but it's believed to have orginated in England in the 7th or 8th century A.D. Making it the oldest story in the English language. It is a poem of great interest to me. As xtianity came to dominate England, the poem reflects a society deeply rooted in their pagan past, and belief system.

 

In the myth/poem, Beowulf's one of his nemesis's is Grendal, who the xtians turn about and point out that Grendal is a decendant of Cain. The myth/poem speaks of Grendal, as always in a shadow, or moving within the shadows, a blood thirsty creature, in ancient texts he is known as " a fiend of hell ". His so called decendancy from Cain, is through the emotion of jealousy.

 

Beowulf is a leader, a warrior, and looking to make a reputation for himself. Though I don't see him as a mercenary, but he wants to do what no man has done, as he is honor bound to himself, and he seeks to slay Grendal.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf

 

If we're familiar with this tale/myth/poem, there is a feast, in a huge hall of Rothgar the King. This is the myth but what is the link to reality ? Sutton Hoo, 90 miles from London, is an archaeology site where they found a mayham of slaughtered men, torn to pieces, limbs missing, like some monster may have did this. Does this lead back to the Beowulf myth/poem ? I don't know, but it sure is a facinating tale with some dark age connections.

 

Evidence excavated in the Danish countryside by archeologists uncovered a huge ancient hall, could that be Rothgar's hall ? A hall of this vastness shows some sort of civilisation, a hall for feastings, living, and a throne area. Definately a sign of greatness.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hro%C3%B0gar

 

Although this is a Anglo-Saxon tale/legend, I found it most interesting, none the less, as how there are links to this myth, and the Dark Ages of Pagansim and the overtaking of xtianity. How the writer(s) of this poem/tale/myth who ever they are, got basturdized by the myth of xtian gods.

 

Regards,

Gypsy

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Tolkien wrote a piece called Monsters and Critics about the poem which was very well received and can be read on Scribid if that helps...

 

M

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Michael Crighton wrote a short novel that describes the Beowulf story through the eyes of a Middle Eastern courtier. The book became a movie later - The Thirteenth Warrior.

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Here's a link to the Tolkien essay Michele mentioned.

 

Thanks MW, I can never figure out how to do that, lol, and if I do I forget by the next go 'round.

 

M

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I loved 'The Thirteenth Warrior'. I didn't realise that the story had any connection to the Beowulf legend. (There's a gorgeous big blond viking chief in 13th Warrior - check him out!)

 

Has anyone seen the film with Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and various other famous actors. Angelina Jolie plays Grendel's mother. Ray Winstone is a muscle-toned Beowulf. The music is haunting.

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Sorry CG, but I am going to suggest the original source of the Beowulf myth.

 

Professor S.H. Hooke traces the legend of Beowulf and Grendel back to the Babylonian myth of Creation. (p17 Middle Eastern Mythology.)

 

“For example, the myth of the slaying of the dragon which is, as we shall see a central element in the Babylonian Myth of Creation has given birth to the legends of Perseus and Andromeda, Hercules and the Lernaen Hydra, Siegfried and Fafnir, Beowulf and Grendel, and still survives in the mummers’ play of St George and the Dragon.”

 

Hooke points out that as civilizations waned their religious liturgies remained as literary forms, which were passed on to other civilizations.

 

Marduk was a great hero but only a minor god. He was the son of Ea, the god of wisdom.

 

Tiamat the Great Dragon assembles an army of monstrous beings and advances to destroy the gods of Babylon.

 

Marduk agrees to fight Tiamat and her host of monsters provided he is made king of the gods.

 

There is a great feast in the hall of the gods when Marduk is elected their king.

 

Marduk singlehandedly vanquishes Tiamat and her hordes of monsters! Having seized the seven tablets of destiny from the first-born son of Tiamat, he was then able to create the universe and mankind. (S.H. Hooke pp 43-45)

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Ah, Beowulf, love it.

 

I think I agree with anjeaunot on the origin though; it's an archetypical, classic tale of good overcoming evil, probably as old as mankind itself. Mead halls such as Hrothgar's were probably not rarities in successful nordic kingdoms, and Grendel is ..well, your typical evil personified. Plus there's his mother, and finally, the dragon.

What Beowulf does have that is uniquely Anglo-Saxon/Nordic in nature is the way in which the warrior class is exalted, honored, boastful and unapologetic, even over-the-top, and love/romance elements kept to a minimum.

These guys were the original Klingons.

 

The bodies at Sutton Hoo that were scattered about are believed to have been executions.. there may have been a gallows at mound #5 even.

 

I totally agree with you CG in your last paragraph. Most scholars believe Beowulf originated during the pre-christian Anglo-Saxon era, and was altered later.

I would looooove to read the original.. if it were ever actually written, which I doubt. It was probably an oral tradition in its pure pagan form. It doesn't appear that runes were ever used for lengthy bits of writing, increasing use of the Latin alphabet was part and parcel with the advent of christianity there.

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