The Anglo-Saxon Culture as Illustrated in Beowulf
Beowulf is an epic poem, which takes place in ancient Denmark and Geatland and describes the adventures of Beowulf, a Geat hero. Through their heroes, epic poems usually describe the traditions and beliefs of a certain culture. An Anglo-Saxon author wrote Beowulf about the Danes and Geats. The Anglo-Saxon’s had similar beliefs to that of the Dane and Geat’s, so the poem gives us some idea of what the Anglo-Saxon culture was like. Throughout Beowulf, it is illustrated that women were thought to be virtually valueless; that Anglo-Saxons believed in paganism, and that there was great emphasis on valuables and weaponry.
The Anglo-Saxon culture did not value women highly. Women were not recognized for the deeds they did. The Danish Beowulf’s own mother was not even recognized for her part in his birth. His father Ecgtheow was given all the credit for Beowulf’s birth: “And he gave them more than his glory…conceived a son for the Danes, a new leader.” (Beowulf, 1057). Kings usually would give away their daughter’s hand in marriage to a total stranger for a peace treaty with another nation. The daughter had no say in what was done with her, like Healfdene’s daughter who was given away to Onela the Swedish king. In all aspects of life, women were not considered very valuable and were treated as objects rather than people. Hrothgar remembers Beowulf upon his arrival: “His father was called Ecgtheow: Hrethel of the Geats gave him his only daughter for his home. Now has his hardly offspring come here, sought a fast friend.”(1067). The daughters were usually forced to marry someone they did not know rather than being able to marry someone they loved. A woman was consi...
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...rs on the wall, and the worm’s lair…” (1098).
Beowulf gives the reader an insight into what it might have been like to live during the Anglo-Saxon period of history. It also gives the reader an understanding of what characterized the Anglo-Saxon society. The Anglo-Saxons thought women to be virtually valueless, accepted pre-Christian beliefs, and they put a great deal of emphasis on rewards obtained for doing good deeds. These traits are all evident in the epic poem, Beowulf.
“Beowulf.” The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed. Sarah Lawall. United States of America: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1999. 1057-1103.
Mauro, John. The Treatment and Mistreatment of Women in Beowulf. 5 Dec. 2000. .
Young, Ceri. The Anti-Beowulf: Modern Fantasy's Response to Beowulf. Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. 5 Dec. 2000. .
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