'Beowulf' Facts: Understand The Importance Of This Old Epic Poem | Kidadl

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'Beowulf' Facts: Understand The Importance Of This Old Epic Poem

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'Beowulf' tells the epic story of the titular hero and is the oldest Anglo-Saxon literature to have survived, and is believed to have been written in the eighth century.

Although it was originally written in the Old English language, the setting of 'Beowulf' is not England but the Scandinavian country of Denmark. The poem is deemed to be a piece of valuable literature not only for its literary merit but also for enlightening us about the social cultures of the time.

'Beowulf' has been translated into more than 60 languages all over the world and has been adapted a number of times on the screen as well as on stage. The characters of the poem are said to have been inspired by real-life after archaeologists found some evidence, such as the burial site of Sutton Hoo having a close resemblance with Beowulf's burial rites.

Although some historical elements may be present in the poem, it is generally agreed that the hero Beowulf and his adventures are fictional creations of an unknown author.

History Of Beowulf

The manuscript of 'Beowulf' has passed through many generations, with only a single manuscript preserved now at the British Library located in London. It is quite interesting to find more about the history behind this famous epic poem.

The manuscript that is kept in London is believed to have been written in the 11th century. It is a fragile document that survived a fire in 1731. The manuscript is kept inside a paper frame for protection.

Historians are of the opinion that 'Beowulf' may have been written as an elegy for a Danish king who passed away in the seventh century. The identity of the author, or the king remains a mystery, but some people believe it was written in honor of King Canute.

The 'Beowulf' manuscript that survives today has two distinct handwritings meaning it may have been composed by two people.

Lawrence Nowell, a sixteenth-century scholar, is the earliest known owner of this manuscript.

Robert Cotton added the manuscript to his collection in the 17th century, and thus it is known as Cotton MS Vitellius A. XV. He was the owner of two copies of the historically significant 'Magna Carta' and the priceless 'Lindisfarne Gospels'.

Robert Cotton gave the manuscript to the British Museum after it was damaged by a fire in 1731.

The paper frame we see today was framed in 1845 to save the pages from more damage.

The Electronic Beowulf Project was initiated by the British Library in 1993. With the help of modern technology, the 'Beowulf' manuscript was digitized, and interested folks can now read it online.

Importance Of Beowulf

'Beowulf' is a valuable piece of literature not only for England but for world literature too. It has served as inspiration for many scholars who have written works taking elements from the heroic tale.

The Old English language has been learned by students for decades who want to read the text in its original language without taking the help of transcriptions in modern languages. The epic poem has fascinated readers of so many countries that it has been translated into over 6o languages, including Russian, Greek, Japanese and German. The poem has been made into feature films that have been highly successful and encouraged people to learn more about the great poem. A kids version of the poem was published by Michael Morpurgo, which is one of his bestsellers. Fantasy authors have been greatly inspired by 'Beowulf' as evident in the highly popular 'Lord of the Rings' series by J. R. R. Tolkien. The author was so fond of the book that he quoted lines verbatim from 'Beowulf' in the literary club at his school.

In 1976, 'Jurassic Park' author Michael Crichton wrote 'Eaters of the Dead' inspired by the Anglo-Saxon poem. This was even made into a film titled 'The 13th Warrior' that came out in 1999. The character of Grendel is depicted as an antagonist in the poem, but a 1971 novel by American author John Gardner named 'Grendel' put the monster as the main character and spun the story from its perspective.

Stories from Anglo-Saxon texts like 'Beowulf' are fascinating to read.

Summary Of Beowulf

The story of 'Beowulf' is one for the ages. It tells the tale of a hero, Beowulf, who can be compared to the modern superheroes we are familiar with from movies and comic books.

The poem can be divided into three parts, each featuring a monster whom the hero fights. They are Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a fire-breathing dragon.

The Danish king Hrothgar built a huge mead hall which he named Heorot, for the purpose of celebrating victories at wars. The people are fond of the hall and enjoy merrymaking in Heorot. However, a monster called Grendel attacks the people sleeping inside the hall, and this goes on for twelve years.

Beowulf, a hero from Geatland, hears about the event and comes to help Hrothgar. He successfully fights Grendel with his bare hands, ripping off the monster's arm and leaving Grendel to die in the marshes. People celebrate the deed of Beowulf, but the next night Grendel's mother arrives and kills a number of people as revenge. Beowulf follows her to the lake but finds his sword powerless to harm the monster. Fortunately, he finds a magical sword under the water and kills Grendel's mother. Hrothgar rewards him with a powerful sword as Beowulf returns home, becoming a king later on.

Fifty years pass by, and a dragon attacks his people after a servant steals a golden cup from its cave. With the aid of a young warrior Wiglaf, Beowulf manages to kill the dragon, but he is mortally wounded while fighting.

The poem ends with Wiglaf becoming king and the people giving a grand funeral to Beowulf.

Author And Characters Of Beowulf

The most famous of Anglo-Saxon English poetry, 'Beowulf' tells the story of the legend of the titular hero Beowulf. Debate is raging even today about whether the story is historical or fictional.

The narrator-cum-author of the story remains a mystery, with people saying that it was a poet in the court of King Canute who composed 'Beowulf'.

The poem is filled with a number of characters, the most noteworthy of them being Beowulf, Wiglaf, Grendel, Grendel's mother, and King Hrothgar.

Beowulf is the protagonist of the story who is a brave warrior not afraid to fight monsters. He continues to battle creatures till his death on encountering a dragon. Wiglaf is a loyal subject of Beowulf and helps his king in his battles. He rises to the throne after the death of Beowulf. Grendel is the first monster the hero encounters in the poem and ultimately kills.

Grendel's mother is much more powerful than her son, who lives beneath a lake whom Beowulf killed with a magic sword.

King Hrothgar was a Danish ruler who had to take the help of Beowulf when Grendel began killing his people in Heorot.

FAQs

What is the meaning of Beowulf?

Beowulf comes from the Icelandic Bodulfr, which means 'war wolf' signifying a great war hero.

What kind of poem is 'Beowulf'?

'Beowulf' is the oldest English epic poem to have survived.

How many lines are there in 'Beowulf'?

The long poem is made up of 3,182 lines.

How did 'Beowulf' affect the history of English?

The language 'Beowulf' is written in Old English, which makes it very important in the history of the language.

Why is 'Beowulf' so important?

'Beowulf' has inspired writers and artists for many generations helping them create their own heroic tales and arts.

What are the three characteristics of Beowulf?

Superhuman physical strength, bravery, and loyalty to the king are three features of the hero Beowulf.

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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