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The Tale of Beowulf By Anonymous Characters: 18574

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

For him then they geared, the folk of the Geats,

A pile on the earth all unweaklike that was,

With war-helms behung, and with boards of the battle,

And bright byrnies, e'en after the boon that he bade.

3140 Laid down then amidmost their king mighty-famous

The warriors lamenting, the lief lord of them.

Began on the burg of bale-fires the biggest

The warriors to waken: the wood-reek went up

Swart over the smoky glow, sound of the flame

Bewound with the weeping (the wind-blending stilled),

Until it at last the bone-house had broken

Hot at the heart. All unglad of mind

With mood-care they mourned their own liege lord's quelling.

Likewise a sad lay the wife of aforetime

3150 For Beowulf the king, with her hair all upbounden,

Sang sorrow-careful; said oft and over

That harm-days for herself in hard wise she dreaded,

The slaughter-falls many, much fear of the warrior,

The shaming and bondage. Heaven swallow'd the reek.

Wrought there and fashion'd the folk of the Weders

A howe on the lithe, that high was and broad.

Unto the wave-farers wide to be seen:

Then it they betimber'd in time of ten days,

The battle-strong's beacon; the brands' very-leavings

3160 They bewrought with a wall in the worthiest of ways,

That men of all wisdom might find how to work.

Into burg then they did the rings and bright sun-gems,

And all such adornments as in the hoard there

The war-minded men had taken e'en now;

The earls' treasures let they the earth to be holding,

Gold in the grit, wherein yet it liveth,

As useless to men-folk as ever it erst was.

Then round the howe rode the deer of the battle,

The bairns of the athelings, twelve were they in all.

3170 Their care would they mourn, and bemoan them their king,

The word-lay would they utter and over the man speak:

They accounted his earlship and mighty deeds done,

And doughtily deem'd them; as due as it is

That each one his friend-lord with words should belaud,

And love in his heart, whenas forth shall he

Away from the body be fleeting at last.

In such wise they grieved, the folk of the Geats,

For the fall of their lord, e'en they his hearth-fellows;

Quoth they that he was a world-king forsooth,

3180 The mildest of all men, unto men kindest,

To his folk the most gentlest, most yearning of fame.


(Numbers refer to Pages)

In this and the following section, links lead directly to the name or word cited. Series of pages were printed in the form "167-9"; they have been expanded here to "167-169". The names "Dayraven" and "Ravenwood" are hyphenated in the body text.

Beanstan, father of Breca (31).

Beowulf the Dane (not Beowulf the Geat, the hero of the poem) was the grandfather of Hrothgar (2, 4).

Beowulf the Geat. See the Argument.

Breca (30), who contended with Beowulf in swimming, was a chief of the Brondings (31).

Brisings' neck-gear (70). "This necklace is the Brisinga-men, the costly necklace of Freyja, which she won from the dwarfs and which was stolen from her by Loki, as is told in the Edda" (Kemble). In our poem, it is said that Hama carried off this necklace when he fled from Eormenric, king of the Ostrogoths.

Dayraven (143), a brave warrior of the Hugs, and probably the slayer of Hygelac, whom, in that case, Beowulf avenged.

Eadgils, Eanmund (136, 137), "sons of Ohthere," and nephews of the Swedish King Onela, by whom they were banished from their native land for rebellion. They took refuge at the court of the Geat King Heardred, and Onela, "Ongentheow's bairn," enraged at their finding an asylum with his hereditary foes, invaded Geatland, and slew Heardred. At a later time Beowulf, when king of the Geats, balanced the feud by supporting Eadgils in an invasion of Sweden, in which King Onela was slain.

Eanmund (149), while in exile at the court of the Geats, was slain by Weohstan, father of Wiglaf, and stripped of the armour given him by his uncle, the Swedish King Onela. Weohstan "spake not about the feud, although he had slain Onela's brother's son," probably because he was not proud of having slain an "exile unfriended" in a private quarrel.

Ecglaf, father of Unferth, Hrothgar's spokesman (29).

Ecgtheow (22), father of Beowulf the Geat, by the only daughter of Hrethel, king of the Geats. Having slain Heatholaf, a warrior of the Wylfings, Ecgtheow sought protection at the court of the Danish King Hrothgar, who accepted his fealty and settled the feud by a money-payment (27). Hence the heartiness of Beowulf's welcome at Hrothgar's hands.

Ecgwela. The Scyldings or Danes are once called "Ecgwela's offspring" (99). He may have been the founder of the older dynasty of Danish kings which ended with Heremod.

Eofor (142, 167-169), a Geat warrior, brother of Wulf. He came to the aid of his brother in his single combat with the Swedish King Ongentheow, and slew the king, being rewarded by Hygelac with the hand of his only daughter.

Eotens (61, 62, 66) are the people of Finn, king of Friesland. In other passages, it is merely a name for a race of monsters.

Finn (61-67). The somewhat obscure Finn episode in Beowulf appears to be part of a Finn epic, of which only the merest fragment, called the Fight at Finnsburg, is extant. The following conjectured outline of the whole story is based on this fragment and on the Beowulf episode; Finn, king of the Frisians, had carried off Hildeburh, daughter of Hoc, probably with her consent. Her father, Hoc, seems to have pursued the fugitives, and to have been slain in the fight which ensued on his overtaking them. After the lapse of some twenty years Hoc's sons, Hn?f and Hengest, are old enough to undertake the duty of avenging their father's death. They make an inroad into Finn's country, and a battle takes place in which many warriors, among them Hn?f and a son of Finn, are killed. Peace is then solemnly concluded, and the slain warriors are burnt. As the year is too far advanced for Hengest to return home, he and those of his men who survive remain for the winter in the Frisian country with Finn. But Hengest's thoughts dwell constantly on the death of his brother Hn?f, and he would gladly welcome any excuse to break the peace which had been sworn by both parties. His ill-concealed desire for revenge is noticed by the Frisians, who anticipate it by themselves attacking Hengest and his men whilst they are sleeping in the hall. This is the night attack described in the Fight at Finnsburg. It would seem that after a brave and desperate resistance Hengest himself falls in this fight at the hands of the son of Hunlaf (66), but two of his retainers, Guthlaf and Oslaf, succeed in cutting their way through their enemies and in escaping to their own land. They return with fresh troops, attack and slay Finn, and carry his queen Hildeburh back to the Daneland.

Folkwalda (62), father of Finn.

Franks (70, 165). Hygelac, king of the Geats, was defeated and slain early in the sixth century, in his historical invasion of the Netherlands, by a combined army of Frisians, Franks, and Hugs.

Freawaru (116), daughter of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow. Beowulf tells Hygelac that her father has betrothed her to Ingeld, prince of the Heathobards, in the hope of settling the feud between the two peoples. But he prophesies that the hope will prove vain: for an old Heathobard warrior, seeing a Danish chieftain accompany Freawaru to their court laden with Heathobard spoils, will incite the son of the former owner of the plundered treasure to revenge, until blood is shed, and the feud is renewed. That this was what afterwards befell, we learn from the Old English poem Widsith. See also ll. 83-85.

Friesland (65), the land of the North Frisians.

Frieslands (135), Frisian land (165), the home of the West Frisians.

Frisians. Two tribes are to be distinguished: 1. The North Frisians (61, 63), the people of Finn. 2. The West Frisians (143, 165), who combined with the Franks and Hugs and defeated Hygelac, between 512 and 520 A.D.

Froda (117), father of Ingeld. See Freawaru.

Guthlaf and Oslaf (66). See Finn.

H?reth (112, 114), father of Hygd, wife of Hygelac.

H?thcyn (139, 142, 165), second son of Hrethel, king of the Geats, and thus elder brother of Hygelac. He accidentally killed his elder brother Herebeald with a bow-shot, to the inconsolable grief of Hrethel. He succeeded to the throne at his father's death, but fell in battle at Ravenwood (165) by the hand of the Swedish King Ongentheow.

Half-Danes (61), the tribe to which Hn?f belongs. See Finn.

Hama (69). See Brisings.

Healfdene (4), king of the Danes, son of Beowulf the Scylding, and father of Hrothgar, "Healfdene's son" (16).

Heardred (126, 136-137), son of Hygelac and Hygd. While still under age he succeeds his father as king of the Geats, Beowulf, who has refused the throne himself, being his counsellor and protector. He is slain by "Ongentheow's bairn" (137), Onela, king of the Swedes.

Heathobards, Lombards, the tribe of Ingeld, the betrothed of Freawaru, Hrothgar's daughter (117).

Heatholaf (27). See Ecgtheow.

Helmings. "The Dame of the Helmings" (36) is Hrothgar's queen, Wealhtheow.

Hemming. "The Kinsman of Hemming" is a name for Offa (112) and for his son Eom?r (113).

Hengest (62-65). See Finn.

Heorogar (5), elder brother of Hrothgar (27), did not leave his armour to his son Heoroward (124); but Hrothgar gives it to Beowulf, and Beowulf gives it to Hygelac.

Herebeald (139, 141), eldest son of the Geat King Hrethel, was accidentally shot dead with an arrow by his brother H?thcyn.

Heremod (53, 99) is twice spoken of as a bad and cruel Danish king. In the end he is betrayed into the hands of his foes.

Hereric may have been brother of Hygd, Hygelac's queen, for their son Heardred is spoken of as "the nephew of Hereric" (126).

Here-Scyldings (64), Army-Scyldings, a name of the Danes.

Hetware (135, 165), the Hattuarii of the Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours and of the Gesta Regum Francorum, were the tribe against which Hygelac was raiding when he was defeated and slain by an army of Frisians, Franks, and Hugs.

Hildeburh (61, 64). See Finn.

Hn?f (61, 64). See Finn.

Hoc (62). See Finn.

Hrethel, a former king of the Geats; son of Swerting (70), father of Hygelac and grandfather of Beowulf (22), to whom he left his coat of mail (26). He died of grief at the loss of his eldest son Herebeald (139-142), who was accidentally slain by his brother H?thcyn.

Page 70 text (line 1202) reads "Hygelac ... grandson of Swerting." Hrethel is not named.

Hrethlings (167), the people of Hrethel, the Geats.

Hrethmen (26), Triumph-men, the Danes.

Hrethric (69, 106), elder son of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow.

Hrothgar. See the Argument.

Hrothulf (59, 68), probably the son of Hrothgar's younger brother Halga (5). He lives at the Danish court. Wealhtheow hopes that, if he survives Hrothgar, he will be good to their children in return for their kindness to him. It would seem that this hope was not to be fulfilled ("yet of kindred unsunder'd," 67).

Hygd, daughter of H?reth, wife of Hygelac, the king of the Geats, and mother of Heardred. She may well be "the wife of aforetime" (177).

Hygelac, third son of Hrethel (139) and uncle to Beowulf, is the reigning king of the Geats during the greater part of the action of the poem. When his brother H?thcyn was defeated and slain by Ongentheow at Ravenwood (165), Hygelac quickly went in pursuit and put Ongentheow to flight; but although, as leader of the attack, he is called "the banesman of Ongentheow" (114), the actual slayer was Eofor (142, 167), whom Hygelac rewarded with the hand of his only daughter (169). Hygelac came by his death between 512 and 520 A.D., in his historical invasion of the Netherlands, which is referred to in the poem four times (70, 135, 143, 165).

Ing (147). See Ingwines.

Ingeld (119). See Freawaru.

Ingwines (60, 77), "friends of Ing," the Danes. Ing, according to the Old English Rune-Poem, "was first seen by men amid the East Danes"; he has been identified with Frea.

Merwing, The (165), the Merovingian king of the Franks.

Offa (113). See Thrytho.

Ohthere (136-137, 165), son of the Swedish King Ongentheow, and father of Eanmund and Eadgils (q.v.).

Onela, "Ongentheow's bairn" (137) and elder brother of Ohthere, is king of Sweden ("the helm of the Scylfings," 136) at the time of the rebellion of Eanmund and Eadgils. He invades the land of the Geats, which has harboured the rebels, slays Heardred, son of Hygelac, and then retreats before Beowulf. At a later time Beowulf avenges the death of Heardred by supporting Eadgils, "son of Ohthere" (137), in an invasion of Sweden, in which Onela is slain. See also Eadgils; and compare the slaying of Ali by Athils on the ice of Lake Wener in the Icelandic "Heimskringla."

Ongentheow, father of Onela and Ohthere, was a former king of the Swedes. The earlier strife between the Swedes and the Geats, in which he is the chief figure, is fully related by the messenger (164) who brings the tidings of Beowulf's death. In retaliation for the marauding invasions of Onela and Ohthere (142), H?thcyn invaded Sweden, and took Ongentheow's queen prisoner. Ongentheow in return invaded the land of her captor, whom he slew, and rescued his wife (165); but in his hour of triumph he was attacked in his turn by Hygelac near Ravenwood, and fell by the hand of Eofor (168).

Scaney (97), Scede-lands (2), the most southern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, belonging to the Danes; used in our poem for the whole Danish kingdom.

Scyld (1), son of Sheaf, was the mythical founder of the royal Danish dynasty of Scyldings.

Scyldings, descendants of Scyld, properly the name of the reigning Danish dynasty, is commonly extended to include the Danish people (3).

Scylfing: "the Scylfing" (167), "the aged of Scylfings" (142), is Ongentheow.

Scylfings (136), the name of the reigning Swedish dynasty, was extended to the Swedish people in the same way as "Scyldings" to the Danes. Beowulf's kinsman Wiglaf is called "lord of Scylfings" (149), and in another passage the name is apparently applied to the Geats (170); this seems to point to a common ancestry of Swedes and Geats, or it may be that Beowulf's father Ecgtheow was a "Scylfing."

Thrytho (112), wife of the Angle King Offa and mother of Eom?r, is mentioned in contrast to Hygd, just as Heremod is a foil to Beowulf. She is at first the type of a cruel, unwomanly queen. But by her marriage with Offa, who seems to be her second husband, she is subdued and changed until her fame even adds glory to his.

Unferth, son of Ecglaf, is the spokesman of Hrothgar, at whose feet he sits. He is of a jealous disposition, and is twice spoken of as the murderer of his own brothers (34, 67). Taunting Beowulf with defeat in his swimming-match with Breca, he is silenced by the hero's reply, and more effectually still by the issue of the struggle with Grendel (57). Afterwards, however, he lends his sword Hrunting for Beowulf's encounter with Grendel's mother (85, 104).

W?gmundings (149, 160), the family to which both Beowulf and Wiglaf belong. Their fathers, Ecgtheow and Weohstan, may have been sons of W?gmund.

Wedermark (17), the land of the Weder-Geats, i.e. the Geats.

Weders, Weder-Geats (13, 86, 122), Geats.

Weland (26), the V?lund of the Edda, the famous smith of Teutonic legend, was the maker of Beowulf's coat of mail. See the figured casket in the British Museum; and compare "Wayland Smith's Cave" near the White Horse, in Berkshire.

Weohstan was the father of Beowulf's kinsman and faithful henchman Wiglaf, and the slayer of Eanmund (149).

Wonred, father of "Wulf the Wonreding" (167), and of Eofor.

Wulf (167). See Eofor.

Wulfgar, "a lord of the Wendels" (20), is an official of Hrothgar's court, where he is the first to greet Beowulf and his Geats, and introduces them to Hrothgar.

Wythergyld (118) is a warrior of the Heathobards.



(Numbers refer to Pages)

In this and the preceding section, links lead directly to the name or word cited.

A-banning, the work was (5), orders for the work were given.

Arede (119), possess.

Atheling, prince, noble, noble warrior.

Barm, lap, bosom.

Behalsed (5), embraced by the neck.

Berne, man, warrior, hero.

Bestead (143), served.

Beswealed, scorched, burnt.

Beswinked, sweated.

Birlers, cup-bearers.

Board, shield.

Bode, announce.

Bollen, swollen, angry.

Boot (9), compensation.

Boun (18), made ready.

Braided (147), drew, lifted.

Brim, sea.

Brook, use, enjoy.

Burg, fortified place, stronghold, mount, barrow; protection; protector; family (163).

Byrny, coat of mail.

Devil-dray, nest of devils. Cf. squirrel's-dray, common in Berks; used by Cowper.

Dreary, bloody.

Dree, do, accomplish, suffer, enjoy, spend (155).

Ealdor, chief, lord.

Eme, uncle.

Eoten, giant, monster, enemy.

Fathom, embrace.

Feeless, not to be atoned for with money.

Ferry, bring, carry.

Fifel, monster.

Flyting, contending, scolding.

Fold, the earth.

Forheed, disregard.

Forwritten, proscribed.

Frist, space of time, delay.

Gar, spear.

Graithly, readily, well.

Halse, neck.

Hand-shoal, band of warriors.

Hery, praise.

Hild-play, battle.

Holm, ocean, sea.

Holm-throng, eddy of the sea.

Holt, wood.

Hote, call.

Howe, mound, burial-mound.

Hythe, ferry, haven.

Kemp, champion, fighter.

Lithe, slope.

Loom, heirloom.

Low (133), flame.

Lyke, body.

Moody, brave, proud.

Nicors, sea-monsters.

Nithing (12), spite, malice.

O'erthinking, overweening, arrogance.

Rail, railings, coat, armour.

Rimed, counted, reckoned.

Sea-lode, sea-voyage.

Sin, malice, hatred, hostility.

Skinked, poured out.

Slot, track.

Staple, threshold.

Stone-bow, arch of stone.

Sty, stride, ascend, descend.

Sweal, burn.

Through-witting, understanding.

Undern, from 9 o'clock till 12 o'clock; "at undren and at middai," O.E. Miscellany.

Warths, shores, still in use at Wick St. Lawrence, in Somerset.

Wick, dwelling.

Wick-stead, dwelling-place.

Wise, direct, show.

Wit-lust, curiosity.

Worth, shall be.

Wreak, utter.

Wyte, blame, charge with.

Yare, ready.

Yode, went.

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