Includes the history behind the original epic, Old English poem
Beowulf Cotton MS Vitellius A XV f. 132r.jpg
First page of Beowulf in Cotton Vitellius A. xv
Full title Unknown
Language West Saxon dialect of Old English
Date c. 700–1000 AD (date of poem), c. 975–1010 AD (date of manuscript)
State of existence Manuscript suffered damage from fire in 1731
Manuscript(s) Cotton Vitellius A. xv
First printed edition Thorkelin (1815)
Genre epic heroic poetry
Verse form Alliterative verse
Length c. 3182 lines
Subject The battles of Beowulf, the Geatish hero, in youth and old age
Personages Beowulf, Hygelac, Hrothgar, Wealhþeow, Hrothulf, Æschere, Unferth, Grendel, Grendel's mother, Wiglaf, Hildeburh.
Beowulf (/ˈbeɪoʊwʊlf, ˈbiːoʊ-/; Old English: [ˈbeːo̯ˌwulf]) is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It may be the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. A date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".
The poem is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants cremate his body and erect a tower on a headland in his memory. Wikipedia
The Slosh of Beowulf
(A scene re-telling by Robyn Eggs)
The slosh of Beowulf has swollen my tongue, as has the night’s stiff air. For the air comes in wafts through the great, open doors of the hall. And here I lie in wait for him – the monster – the monster of legend. Soon time slips from me and I am caught up with the night. I awake – my tongue still swollen. The night air has become curiously still and so the most terrible dread starts to take over me. I stave it. I hold it in my chest as I try not to let it take over me wholly. Has he come?? Oh, the dread of it all is too much for me and I am riveted in my slouched posture. I cannot move it seems, and far off in the night I can hear the light tromp of footsteps. But they must be heavy footsteps. They are carried through the great hall and into my mind – open and as long as the hall itself.
It is now that the figures strewn about the hall have come into view. Men lay asleep in like positions; leaning against walls, lying across benches, and sitting up - their chests and necks vulnerable - with their backs against the open air of the great doorway. And, as I continue to lay frozen, against a far wall, I hear him approach. Him, the legendary Beowulf, gurgles and groans slightly; he lurches in a spastic motion and he becomes visible, inside the doors of the great hall. His body is mangled like a zombie, pieced together by a drunkard nearly dead with the slosh, and his face is horrid - even in the deep night light - that my eyes are unseeing of its features. He is like something prehistoric still alive, perfected in adaptation by time itself.
The great Grendel comes. He comes for the shit - the waste of the human soul - what they have left behind as shells - he comes for their limbs. Grendel has walked through the great doors of the great hall, and he is here to do his worst (as I cannot move, as I am drunk). Here the monster walks before me...