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Anonymous Beowulf, lines 1105 through 1139, Longman Anthology.

Vocabulary: cyning, fame/shame culture, foreshadowing, setting

Lecture or Handouts: What does the word Heorot mean in Anglo-Saxon? Explain how this connects symbolically with the description of how animals behave near the lake. Why does Grendel's mother only kill one individual in retaliation for her son's death? How is the mere or lake an inversion of the mead-hall? How is Beowulf's descent into the lake similar to the Harrowing of Hell in apocryphal Christian sources like The Gospel of Nicodimas?

Identify the Following Primary Characters, Items, and Places from the second section of Beowulf
Beowulf, Hrothgar, Heorot, Hygelac, Unferth, Wealhtheow, Wiglaf, Aschere, Grendel's Mother, Grendel, the Mere or Lake, the sword Hrunting, the giant-sword, Queen Modthryth, Princess Freawaru

Explain the Significance of the Following and How it Relates to the the second section of the Beowulf Narrative

blood-feud, oral-formulaic, peace-weaver, wergeld

Reading Questions:

  • Who comes to avenge Grendel's death?
  • Grendel's mother kills whom in retaliation for her son's death?
  • What does Grendel's mother do with Aeschere's head? How does this connect with the way Beowulf earlier positioned Grendel's arm?
  • Where does Grendel's mother live?
  • What unusual supernatural features does the lake or mere have?
  • In line 1212, how does a hart or stag react when it is chased by hunters to the edge of the mere? How is that symbolic, given the name of King Hrothgar's hall?
  • Who loans Beowulf a sword initially to go fight Grendel's mother? What is this sword's name?
  • How long does our text say it took Beowulf to reach the bottom of the lake? (See line 1325)
  • How old is the female monster, according to our translation? [Lecture note, the Anglo-Saxon word "wintra" or "winters" is here translated as 'half-years' in our text-book. Is there another way to interpret her age from that phrasing that would make her even older?]
  • What happens when Beowulf uses the first borrowed sword to strike the Troll-Wife (Grendel's Mother)? Where does he find a second weapon? According to the text, who made this weapon?
  • How long did Beowulf stay under water in total? i.e., What time is it when Beowulf emerges back to the surface in line 1412?
  • When Beowulf retells his battle to Hrothgar, he lets us know what happened to the sword after it penetrated the female monster's skin. Although the hilt and handle and crossguard survive, what happens to the blade itself after fatally stabbing the monster? (see lines 1470 et passim.)
  • When Hrothgar examines the damaged blade, what decorations does he find on the sword? (i.e., what Biblical event is carved on it from the Old Testament?) [See lines 1490-1500.] What is the symbolic connection between this decoration and the feats of Beowulf, and what does this imply about Beowulf himself?
  • How many men does it take to carry Grendel's head on a spear back to Heorot?
  • What is Queen Modthryth's behavior like? What does the poetic tone indicate about the ideals of femininity in ancient Germanic cultures?
  • When Beowulf returns to King Hygelac, he recount in miniature all that took place earlier. How is this an example of oral-formulaic literature?
  • What does King Hygelac present to Beowulf to reward him for his bravery at King Hrothgar's court?

Quotations for Identification (Be able to identify what work these quotations come from, what the author is, what character (if any) is speaking, and briefly comment upon the quotations significance or importance in the work:

A: "I have heard spokesmen speak in my hall, / country-folk saying they sometimes spotted / a pair of prodigies prowling the moors, / evil outcasts, walkers of wastelands. One, they descried, had the semblance of woman."

B: That mere is not far, / As miles are measured. About it there broods/ a forest of fir trees frosted with mist. / Hedges of wood-roots hem in the water / where each evning fire-glow flickers / forth on the flood, a sinister sight. / That pool is unplumbed by wits of the wise; / but the heath-striding hart hunted by hounds, / the strong-antlered stag seeking a thicket, / running for cover, would rather be killed than bed on its bank. It is no pleasant place...

C: "Grieve not, good man. It is better to go / and avenge your friend than mourn overmuch. We all must abide an end on this earth / but a warrior's works may win him renown / as long as he lives and after life leaves him."

D: So saying, he dived, / high-hearted and hasty, awaiting no answer. The waters swallowed that stout soldier. / He swam a half-day before seeing sea-floor. / Straightaway someone spied him as well: she that had hidden a hundred half-years.

E: He beheld in a hoard of ancient arms / a battle-blessed sword with strong-edged blade, / a marvelous weapon men might admire / though over-heavy for any to heft/ when finely forged by giants of old.

F: The sword had melted. Its banded blade was burnt by the blood, so hot was the horror, so acid the evil.

G: [He] spoke as he studied the hilt, / that aged heirloom inscribed long ago / with a story of strife: how the Flood swallowed / the race of giants with onrushing ocean. / Defiant kindred, they fared cruelly, condemned for their deeds to death by water. Such were the staes graven in gold-plate, / runes srightly set....


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