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.



750 a.d. Probably composed around 750 a.d.  Circulated orally. 
1000 a.d. Written down sometime around 1000 a.d.  Only surviving Old English epic. Mingling of pagan (heroic virtue, mortality) with the Christion (humility).
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.

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.