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362 Study Questions: "The Wanderer"
Old English, Anglo-Saxon, oral-formulaic, elegy, lament,
fame/shame culture, cyning, hlaford, thegn,
lyric, conflict (internal), ubi sunt motif, wyrd
Identification: the Wanderer (the earth-walker)
- In a shame/fame culture, what happens to a thegn
who outlives his hlaford or cyning?
- What are two possible significances of the Anglo-Saxons
describing the ocean as having "yellow waves"?
- What is unusual about Anglo-Saxon terms for various
colors as opposed to modern terms for colors?
- How is the concluding line an example of monastic
How does the editor describe the general mood or tone of
"The Wanderer"? Does he see this as typical or
atypical of Anglo-Saxon poetry?
- Elegies normally are not considered to have plots.
Can this poem be read as having signs of internal conflict,
however? Discuss this idea.
- The term translated as "fate" at the end
of the first paragraph is the Anglo-Saxon word wyrd.
How does knowing the original meaning of this word alter
our understanding of the opening lines?
- In the fourth paragraph, several kennings appear.
What do you suppose the kenning "gold-friend"
means? What about the compound "winter-sad"?
- What is the paradox about the companion of a man with
no protectors at the top of page 101? Who (or what personified
abstraction) is his cruel companion?
- What does the wanderer dream of when he falls asleep?
What does he discover when he awakens?
- What does the setting appear to be? (I.e., where is
the Wanderer if he has to stir with his arms "the
frost-cold sea" and he awakens to see "yellow
waves" where "the sea-birds bathe"?)
- What are the traits of the "wise man" in
Anglo-Saxon thinking, as indicated by this poem?
- Many critics read the last lines as a bit of Christian
propaganda. Where does the poet suggest the Wanderer
can find comfort and stability?
A: "He who is alone often lives to
find favor, mildness of he Lord, even though he has long
had to stir with his arms the frost-cold sea, troubled in
heart over the water-way, had to tread the tracks of exile.
Fully fixed is his fate." So spoke the earth-walker,
remembering hardships, fierce war-slaughters--the fall of
B: "Where has the horse gone? Where
is the young warrior? Where is the giver of treasure? What
has become of the feasting seats? Where are the joys of
the hall? Alas, the bright cup! Alas, the mailed warrior!
Alas, the prince's glory! How that time has gone, vanished
beneath night's cover, just as if it never had been!"
C: So spoke the man wise in heart, sat
apart in private meditation. He is good who keeps his word;
a man must never utter too quickly his breast's passion,
unless he knows first how to achieve remedy, as a leader
with his courage. It will be well with him who seeks favor,
comfort from the Father in heaven, where for us all stability