Old English Literature was the product of pagan
& Christian cultures. Composed orally by scops, or bards, in
front of audience. Beowulf the only surviving full-length epic.
Beowulf, a Geat, is the hero; extraordinary swimmer & warrior. He comes
to defend the Danes & King Hrothgar against monsters. His father Ecgtheow
owed the Danish king because he had raised blood money for him. Beowulf
repays the debt by slaying Grendel & his mother. He returns home where
he eventually becomes King. Rules for 50 years. Dies after battling a dragon
which had begun to terrorize the Geats. Beowulf had received his stolen
cup through the gift-giving circuit. Beowulf is old & has lost some
of his strength. He is aided in the battle by Wiglaf; other warriors
have deserted Beowulf.
||Probably composed around 750 a.d. Circulated orally.
||Written down sometime around 1000 a.d. Only surviving Old English
epic. Mingling of pagan (heroic virtue, mortality) with the Christion (humility).
Tragic ending. Society breaks down following Beowulf's death. People
fear the Swedes will swarm their land. Also true in the England of the
time of composition. People feared invasions. Like Beowulf, the Romans
were no longer there to protect them.