We have completed our reading of Beowulf!
Here is what we covered and discovered:
The final chapter of the poem takes place much later in Beowulf’s life than his original encounters with Grendel at Heorot.
Beowulf is an old man now, he has ruled his kingdom for many years and the people love him dearly.
The Thief and The Dragon
In Beowulf’s kingdom there lay a dormant dragon who guarded a mass of wealth and treasure. But a wily thief enters the dragon’s lair, stealing a goblet. This awakens the dragon and sets him on a rampage of wrath.
Beowulf must once again defend the land from a devastating monster!
Heroism and Courage in Anglo-Saxon Culture
Beowulf is described in the poem as:
. . .mightiest in valour, in his ways the mildest, most kind to his people and keenest for praise.
The entire last chapter of Beowulf seems to articulate how important the Germanic warrior code was to these people.
When the soldiers cower in fear, and only Wiglaf is brave enough to follow his king into battle, they are chastised as breaking their oaths to stand beside their leader.
Funerals and Old English
The subject that sparked the most interest in the girls from this chapter was how Beowulf was buried. Funeral pyres were not a Christian custom- they were most used by Norse cultures. This aspect of the story shows once again how the culture of the original story conflicts with the culture of the poet.
More than likely, the writer (or writers) of Beowulf changed the symbolic meaning of the funeral to match his Christian values.
But the idea of a burial mound– made of the ashes of Beowulf and his belongings- was not foreign to Anglo Saxon culture.
The excavation of Sutton Hoo– a series of burial mounds in England, has an amazing resemblance to the burial of Beowulf:
The most important grave was that of a warrior. He was buried covered by his shield, and these fierce images decorated his shield.
More info on Sutton Hoo:
The fact that Beowulf is one of our earliest English writings is kind of ironic when you realize that in its original form, you cannot understand much of it!
Our language, in its earliest form, is related more to high German and the Scandinavian languages that it is anything else!
Have fun studying the origins of Old English:
- Old English- History of Grammar
- Old English/Anglo-Saxon at Omniglot
- Ages of English Timeline (History of English in 10 acts) at BBC
Beowulf Notebooking Set!
I have completed all three sets of my Beowulf Notebooking pages. You can download them by clicking on the link below.
We had so much fun reading Beowulf and learning about Anglo-Saxon culture! Let me know if you use any of the resources or notebooking pages– I would love to see pictures as well!