The Essential Nature of Each Story in Beowulf by Gummere Essays

The Essential Nature of Each Story in Beowulf by Gummere Essays

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Each story in Beowulf, when given more thought and analysis, would be viewed essential to the book itself and the way the issues were seen by the readers. Without the considerations of why these stories were told at their specific times, who narrated the story and to whom they were speaking, what the events would be foretelling or referring back to, and how they applied to the present characters, one would be able to grasp that they set up each possible event in Beowulf and allowed more understanding in the reasons why each situation played out the way it did.
Through out the Anglo-Saxon culture, oral tradition was kept to its highest regards. Considering the Anglo-Saxons’ entire days consisted of hard work, hearing stories was their version of someone in our time watching television after an eleven-hour shift at work. It was their entertainment and brake from the harshness and reality of their time period. Beowulf itself was an oral story, but with in the main body, it contained other myths and legends that were told by the heroes, kings, and scops. Because the Anglo-Saxon’s had such high regards for the oral tradition, they knew that if these characters had been real, which some believed and still believe they are, they too would have kept the tradition of portraying stories to entertain, praise, enjoy, and foretell events to come or refer to those that had happened in the past. There are many allusions that pertain to even bigger stories in Beowulf. For example Shield Sheafson’s story, the account of Ecgtheow’s life, which included his relationship with Hrothgar, the swimming competition between Breca and Beowulf, Sigemund’s story, King Heremod, Princess Hildeburh and Finn, and Queen Modthryth all show big pictures that rela...


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...either backstories, flashbacks, or tales of the glory days of different tribes. However, the timing of these stories was crucial to Beowulf itself. Not only did the narrators of these stories make an impact, but so does where the story is being told, and to whom it is mentioned. These elements and many more, affected how the person to whom the story relates to will react and how the foreshadowed event will come into play. Without these interludes, Beowulf would be more complicated to follow and less reasonable in the way each story occurred. A random story about Shield in the beginning would have seemed confusing if not the expectation it set up for how a good king should be portrayed. Without the story of Breca and Beowulf’s swimming contest, the reader never would have fully learned who Unferth was and the effect hubris could have on any social class in Beowulf.


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