Beowulf: between Myth and History

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Beowulf was bound to get praise from different sectors of the world where some revered him as a hero because of the exploits which he had in defeating his enemies and creatures which had come to terrorize his people. The narrative that the author brings to focus is the role which people have come to understand Beowulf with and where the history of that tale came to have an origin. The myth and history section that I have chosen is because it gives a concise and clear history of what Beowulf entailed and any misinformation that may have come from previous translations is explained.

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The author uses different authors and excerpts that were written before to strengthen her argument on why most people falsely translate the heroic deeds of Beowulf and the artistic work that was used in writing the relic. In this context, the author writes concise, clear and detailed information about the myth and the truth that is Beowulf and the circumstances which the poem was written.

Background to the myth of Beowulf

The origin and proximate location of the manuscript of Beowulf cannot be stated, and there may be a few manuscripts that may have been written. The reason why the author first states this fact is because the original poem may have been written on an animal hide because there were no writing materials that were available. Some of the myths and legends that were told could have been true, but it was the work of the writers and orators of medieval times to add and heap praise on the heroes who the community associated themselves with. In doing this, it was a way of encouraging the warriors or push the children to engage in bravado that was associated with their legends.

Therefore any claim that the copies which were made by other scholars after the first poem are still in existence may be true, but there is no any conclusive evidence to support that claim. So the researchers who have made their interpretations may have done that due to the lack of knowledge of the medieval language which it was written Most scholars assume that the surviving manuscript is a copy of an earlier written text and is probably the last in a long chain of texts’ (Liuzza, p.18). The language that is used in the poem is medieval, and it has various interpretations depending on the translation that somebody is reading.

Prove that Beowulf was an oral representation

The reason why it is noted that the poem was a narration rather than a writing was the opening sentence which calls people into action. Later into the work, the author notes the difference that is found in other traditional written works comes from the way the author addresses the reader. Many works that were found to have existed earlier on did not come as a result of writing because it was a privilege of few individuals who had the means to study. So if a person who was talented wanted to keep information they hired scribers and writers who were part of that elite faction. Therefore the writer of Beowulf was a learned individual who could have been hired by the narrator.

“I have never heard” or “as I have heard” are the sentences that the author of Beowulf used in the work to prove that it was a narration and not a written poem. If it was a written poem, there are other medieval writings that point to particular examples by using words like “as books tell us” ( Liuzza, p.19).In such an example the difference comes from the fact that if there was any oral literature that existed it is invisible and the remaining evidence is in writing. So whether Beowulf was narrated or written people will have to go with the evidence that exists to show that a manuscript of the original narration exists.

Origin and dating of Beowulf

There is no precise moment that the poem was written by many writers and researchers have tried to pin the work to have been written earlier than it was previously thought, but they came up with the notion that it may have been between ninth and tenth century. In trying to understand the poem a person first needs to look at its origin from the word and vocabulary that it uses so as to place it a particular place. However, as it has been with Beowulf there has been no specific date and time, and that is one of the controversies that surround the poem.

Therefore the writers who have pointed to a particular date may have erred because there has never been a definite conclusion which can be supported by data to prove the date and time. This is because Beowulf has West Saxon and Anglian vocabulary which cannot be traced to any particular time or place because there was a lot of movement of different people across those regions. “The range of the current opinion on the question is limited by the absolute limits of the poems possible date c. 520” (Liuzza, p.22).

The old English dialect that has been used in many medieval works are easily traceable if such phrases were used in the dialects of the local community. But as it is with many languages any variations are as a result of assimilating and integrating the words of their neighboring communities so that the language can thrive and spread. However, the various phrases and contexts that are found in Beowulf preclude certainty.

The spread of the legend of Beowulf

Beowulf’s legend either in terms of the poem or the individual whom the author praise may have spread without any preplanned thought as that was during the migration that was going on in Europe. Therefore apart from the use of various words that are Anglo-Saxon, there are others which make the work to have a myth about it because its place of origin is not known.

Through the description of various wars and encounters that Beowulf had, it is hard to pick if the work spread as one unit or it was written in different parts. Scholars such as Ludwig Ettmuller and Karl Mullenhoff were eager to separate Beowulf into different layers from different sources (Liuzza, p.26). All these variations continue to create more suspense into the work that is related to Beowulf, and that is why the study of its origins continues to have so many changes. Therefore more researchers and scholars continue to offer different variations and conclusions on what they think might have happened to the legend that is Beowulf.

Work Cited

Liuzza, Roy M., ed. Beowulf. Broadview Press, 2013.

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Beowulf: Between myth and history. (2020, Feb 16). Retrieved from