An Analysis of the Epic Poem, Beowulf - Sources for Beowulf

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Sources for Beowulf

Many of the characters and episodes and material artifacts mentioned poetically in Beowulf are likewise presented to us from archaeological sources, from literary sources, and from English and Scandinavian records.

“I suggested in an earlier paper that the Beowulf poet’s incentive for composing an epic about sixth-century Scyldings may have had something to do with the fact that, by the 890’s at least, Heremod, Scyld, Healfdene, and the rest, were taken to be the common ancestors both of the Anglo-Saxon royal family and of the ninth-century Danish immigrants, the Scaldingi” (Frank 60). Scyld, the ancestor of the Danish royal family, the Scioldungas, bears a close resemblance to Skioldr, ancestor of the Skioldungar, although the Beowulf story itself does not occur in Scandinavian literature (Ward v1,ch3, s3, p10). Healfdene and his sons Hrothgar and Halga are mentioned in Scandinavian sources as well; they are identical with the Danish king Hafdan and his sons Hroarr and Helgi mentioned often in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. There can be no doubt that Hrothulf, Hrothgar’s nephew and colleague, is the son of Helgi, Hrolfr. And Hrothgar’s son Heoroweard may be identical with Hiorvarr, the brother-in-law of Hrolf in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. Hrethric, the son of Hrothgar, may be the same person as Hroereker, the successor of Ingialdr.

Beowulf uses historical sources too. The Heathobard who was predicted by Beowulf to perhaps take vengeance on Hrothgar may be Hothbroddus in Saxo’s Danish History who slew Hroarr (Roe). King Froda in Beowulf and his son Ingeld, Hrothgar’s future son-in-law, correspond to King Frotho IV and his son Ingialdr, both kings of the Danes. In Beowulf the ...

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Clark, Gorge. “The Hero and the Theme.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Cramp, Rosemary. “Beowulf and Archaeology.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Frank, Roberta. “The Beowulf Poet’s Sense of History.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

The Holy Bible, prepared by the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, translated by Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York:, 2000
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