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The Anglo Saxons and Beowulf


The Anglo Saxons and Beowulf Elegy funeral song or lament for the dead; mournful poem Table of Contents Great Britain The Celts Invasion of Britain Life Questions ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Anglo Saxons and Beowulf

The Anglo Saxonsand Beowulf
Table of Contents
  1. Great Britain
  2. The Celts
  3. Invasion of Britain
  4. Life
  5. Questions
  6. Christianity
  7. Kings
  8. 1066
  9. Feudalism/chivalry
  10. Language
  11. OE Poetry
  12. Beowulf
  13. Culture in Beowulf
  14. Did he exist?
  15. Typical themes
  16. Epic poem
  17. Beliefs
  18. Geats and Danes
  19. Kennings

Great Britain
  • Great Britain
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Ireland is NOT considered a part of Great Britain

The First People
  • Britain first settled by Celts
  • Celts came from continental Europe between
    800-600 B.C.
  • 2 tribes of Celts
  • Britons (settled in what is now Great Britain)
  • Gaels (settled in what is now Ireland)

The Invasion
  • In 43 A.D., Romans invaded and Britons were
    either forced northward or into slavery
    introduced the concept of Christianity
  • Eventually (449), the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes
    invaded (these are Germanic tribes). They took
    over and called the island Angle-land. They
    enslaved the people who were there
  • Angles, Saxons, and Jutes carved the land into
    tribal kingdoms, but they came to think of
    themselves as one people the English (a.k.a.
  • By 650, most of England was Christian (but held
    onto pagan beliefs, too)

  • There was no written tradition
  • People were farmers and hunters
  • Warfare was a way of life
  • People believed in many different gods

Tyr (god of glory and honor)
Thunor (aid to warriors in battle)
Woden (protector of heroes)
  • Why were people illiterate?
  • What qualities were most admired in this society?

A/S Kings
  • The small kingdoms fought amongst each other
    until 829King Egbert of Wessex won control of
    all A/S kingdoms. Unfortunately, by the end of
    Egberts reign, Vikings had captured much of the
    kingdom (Vikings were Scandinaviancalled Norse
    because they had crossed the North
    Seapredominantly Danes) Vikings had taken over
    much of France, and that area became known as

In 878, Alfred, King of Wessex (Egberts
grandson) defeated the Danes at the Battle of
Edington. Alfred went on to recapture most of
England, as well as promote education and
literacy among his people. He became known as
Alfred the Great. Alfreds son and grandson won
back the rest of England and made peace with the
  • King Edward died
  • William (the Duke of Normandy) laid claim to
    the throne (Edward may have promised the throne
    to William)
  • Instead, the English council of elders chose
    Harold II as king
  • Duke William attacked, defeated the A/S and
    killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings. He
    became King William I
  • Remember France Vikings

This brought French culture to England
  1. feudalismland is divided among lords who are
    loyal to the king. The lords give land to vassals
    in exchange for military duty.
  2. chivalryknights are expected to be honorable,
    brave, generous, skillful in battle, respectful
    to women, and helpful to the weak.

  • 1066 marks the beginning of what we consider
    English culture.
  • Old English a combination of the languages
    spoken by the Anglo-Saxons. Today it looks like a
    foreign language.
  • Beowulf written in OE
  • Oral tradition heroic themes of courage,
    goodness, loyalty, strength
  • Stories passed down by a scop (traveling
    storyteller often accompanied by a harp)
  • Heroism in stories gave people a model for
    living and a form of immortality (tales would be
    about them and their heroism, to be told for
    generations).Remember, most people couldnt read
    or write. They learned through stories, songs,
    and poems.
  • Monks could read and write they focused on
    Christian themes and are responsible for
    recording most of the OE literature that survives
    today (they added a religious quality to the

Old English Poetry
  • 3 major types of OE poetry
  • heroic versecelebrates courage, honor, loyalty
  • elegymourns a loss
  • religious versefocuses on Christian teachings
    and stories
  • Beowulf contains all three.

Beowulf (the poem)
  • 3200 lines
  • Composed between 700-750 AD set in the early
    6th century
  • Based on early Celtic and Scandinavian folk
  • Only manuscript to survive Henry VIIIs
    dissolution of the monasteries and destruction of
    monastic libraries manuscript dates from 1000
    (but was composed before that) now in British
    Museum in London
  • Deterioration of manuscript means that there
    are gaps scholars have to fill in by guesswork

(No Transcript)
Poem gives vital information about OE social life
  • society rigidly feudal, highly civilized, highly
    violent. The poem glorifies war, death, and fame
    (fame is the most precious thing a man can have
    because it is the only thing that survives).
  • Male dominated society
  • In this society, weapons had names but slaves did
    notthey valued warfare more than people
  • Proven swords and helmets were passed down from
    fathers to sons
  • In a warrior society, the most important
    relationship is between warrior (thane) and his
    lord based less on subordination than on mutual
    trust and respect. Warrior who pledged his
    loyalty became a voluntary companion to his
    lordtook pride in defending his lord and
    fighting in his wars. In return, the lord was
    expected to take affectionate care of his thanes,
    to reward them richly.
  • Relationship between kinsmen also very important
    if ones kinsman was slain it was ones duty to
    kill the slayer or exact paymenteach rank of
    society was ranked at a price this price had to
    be paid to the family to avoid their vengeance,
    even if the killing was accidental.

Did he really exist?
  • The tribe in southern Sweden did exist, but
    Beowulf himself is fictitious.
  • There was a real man named Beowulf (may mean
    bear) who helped the Danes and Geats fend off
    pirate attacks however, he was not king of the
    Geats nor a Danish hero (more of a regular guy)
  • Higlac (king of Geats, Beowulfs king) and
    Hrothgar (king of the Danes, whom Beowulf helps)
    both based on real kings
  • Significance of battle what makes a good fighter
    tick? God grants Beowulfs victory, but the good
    fighter (hero) is the one who becomes famous,
    never gives up, doesnt worry about the possible
    consequences of bravery

Typical Themes
  • Contains typical themes of seafaring warriors, a
    society bound by military/tribal loyalties
  • bravery of warriors and generosity of rulers
    highly valued
  • combines pagan folklore (monsters) with Christian
    themes (good vs. evil)
  • ex Grendel is a monster, described as an enemy
    of God and descendent of Cain (first murderer in
    the Bible)

Beowulf OE Superhero
  • Beowulf is an epic hero courage, physical
    strength, wisdom in guiding others, loyalty to
    the king, and supreme self-confidence. He
    embodies the ideals of his people.
  • Story of Beowulf is an epic poemlong narrative
    poem written in formal language that tells of the
    adventures of a larger-than-life hero.
  • Beowulf is a folk epic story rises from the
    people and is passed by word of mouth from
    generation to generation until it is ultimately
    written down (contrast with literary epic, like
    the Aeneid, which is the work of one author
    setting out to follow a literary form).
  • Epic plots contain supernatural events, span long
    time periods, involve distant journeys, and life
    and death struggles of good vs. evil.
  • The hero always represents good
  • The forces that threaten the people always
    represent evil

  • Beowulf is set in a time when warriors gathered
    in mead/banquet halls
  • (meadfermented honey wine)
  • for great feasts, told of their adventures
    (raiding, looting, burning settlements).
  • Kings gave riches to their bravest warriors in
    exchange for loyalty.
  • People believed in monsters and dragons.

Mead Hall
  • Beowulf is NOT set in England, and the
    characters are NOT English its set in
    Scandinavia and involves the Geats of southern
    Sweden and the Danes of Denmark.

Lament An expression of sorrow song or
literary composition that mourns A loss or death
Infamous having a bad reputation or being
Shroud A burial cloth
Writhing twisting as in pain
Forged formed or shaped, often with blows or
pressure after heating.
Caesura A break, pause, or Interruption in a
line of a poem
Kenning a descriptive poetic phrase used in
place of a name for a person or thing whale
road the sea Higlacs follower Beowulf
epic poem a long narrative poem telling of a
heros deeds
Epithet a word or phrase which describes
a persons character in place of a name or title
Boast an exaggerated speech bragging
Archetype an idea, personality, or image that
is copied throughout literature regardless of
time, religion, or culture
Motif recurring subject or theme within a
literary work
Elegy funeral song or lament for the dead
mournful poem
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