Annotated selections from Beowulf
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Four short episodes from Beowulf including

  • Grendel's introduction, ll. 164–188;
  • Sigmund's tale, ll. 865–885a;
  • Grendel's mother's lair, ll. 1361b–1379; and
  • Hygd's introduction, ll. 1925–1962.

Grendel's introduction, ll. 164–188

Line English Old English
So the wretched wanderer1 often committed Swa fela fyrena feond mancynnes,
mankind's most fiendish sins; atol angengea oft gefremede,
166 constant cruelty2 descended unto Heorot,3 heardra hynða; Heorot eardode,
the treasure-decked hall,4 on dark nights. sincfage sel sweartum nihtum.
Never might he approach that altar-throne5 No he þone gifstol gretan moste,
169 with gifts for the Measurer,6 nor know His desires. maþðum for metode, ne his myne wisse.
That brought much hardship to the good Scylding lord, Þæt wæs wræc micel wine Scyldinga,
his spirit crushed. Many councilmen often modes brecða. Monig oft gesæt,
171 took powerful seats; he sought advice rice to rune; ræd eahtedon,
from brave-hearted warriors, those who could best hwæt swiðferhðum selest wære
defend against perilous horror.7 wið færgryrum to gefremmanne.
174 Meanwhile, they promised to honor icons8 Hwilum hie geheton æt hærgtrafum
at the heathen shrine,9 and bade in prayer wigweorþunga, wordum bædon
that the soul-slayer come deliver þæt him gastbona geoce gefremede
177 the people from distress. Such was their way, wið þeodþreaum. Swylc wæs þeaw hyra,
a heathenish hope; they revered hell hæþenra hyht; helle gemundon
with deepest conviction,10 never to know Justice;11 in modsefan, metod hie ne cuþon,
180 their deeds deemed, them never aware of the Lord God. dæda demend, ne wiston hie drihten God,
They didn't know, at any rate, how to praise the glory of God ne hie huru heofena helm herian ne cuþon,
for Providence in heaven.12 Woe be to whomever shall, wuldres waldend. Wa bið þæm ðe sceal
183 through terrible persecution, shove the soul þurh sliðne nið sawle bescufan
into fire's embrace, consolation neither expected in fyres fæþm, frofre ne wenan,
never given; well be it for those who, wihte gewendan; wel bið þæm þe mot
186 after death's day, seek the Lord, æfter deaðdæge drihten secean
and in the Father's embrace, desire salvation.13 ond to fæder fæþmum freoðo wilnian.
Sutton Hoo burial mound № 4, July 2011. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sigmund's tale, ll. 865–885a

Line English Old English
At times, the war-band14 let their Hwilum heaðo-rofe hleapan leton,
chestnut mares spring forth to race on geflit faran fealwe mearas,
867 on well-known tracks, wherever the raceway þær him fold-wegas fægere þuhton,
seemed suitable to them. Meanwhile, a king's thane, cystum cuðe; hwilum cyninges þegn,
a man of tales mindful of songs,15 guma gilp-hlæden gidda gemyndig,
870 who knew a great many ancient stories, se þe eal-fela eald-gesegena
found new words time and again, worn gemunde, word oðer fand
bound in tradition.16 The man then began soðe gebunden: secg eft ongan
873 to stir up Beowulf's story with wisdom, sið Beowulfes snyttrum styrian
and wrought a tale to recite with talent,17 and on sped wrecan spel gerade,
entwining his words.18 He told all wordum wrixlan, wel-hwylc gecwæð,
876 what he'd heard in songs about Sigmund,19 þæt he fram Sigemunde secgan hyrde,
his daring deeds unknown to many, ellen-dædum, uncuðes fela,
the strife and wide wanderings of Wael's son, Wælsinges gewin, wide siðas,
879 of which sons of men were barely aware þara þe gumena bearn gearwe ne wiston,
but not Fitela, with him always when conflict and crime fæhðe and fyrene, buton Fitela mid hine,
were passed along from uncle to nephew.20 He felt þonne he swylces hwæt secgan wolde
882 compelled to confide, as they were always eam his nefan, swa hie a wæron
comrades-in-arms, partners in need. æt niða gehwam nyd-gesteallan:
They killed a great many giants, hæfdon eal-fela eotena cynnes
885a slain with swords. sweordum gesæged.

Grendel's mother's lair, ll. 1361b–1379

Line English Old English
It's no farther than Nis þæt feor heonon
a mile's measure, where the mere lies; milgemearces, þæt se mere standeð;
1363 over this hangs a hoary thicket,21 ofer þæm hongiað hrinde bearwas,
the wood held fast by roots overshadowing the water.22 wudu wyrtum fæst wæter oferhelmað.
There might anyone find a wicked wonder23 at night, Þær mæg nihta gewhæm niðwundor seon,
1366 fire on flood24 Nor for that do the wise live, fyr on flode. No þæs frod leofað
sons of men who have seen such depths.25 gumena bearna, þæt þone grund wite.
Though a heath-stag hunted by hounds,26 Ðeah þe hæðstapa hundum geswenced,
1369 a hart with strong horns,27 banishing [evil] from afar, heorot hornum trum holtwudu sece,
would seek the holtwood ere he deliver his soul, feorran geflymed, ær he feorh seleð,
offer his life ere he will aldor on ofre, ær he in wille,
1372 leap forward; that's no virtuous place28 hafelan [beorgan]; nis þæt heoru stow!
From there surging waves arise, Þonon yðgeblond up astigeð
reaching for the heavens. Then the wind stirs won to wolcnum, þonne wind styreþ
1375 in hateful storms, until the sky grows dark lað gewidru, oð þæt lyft drysmaþ,
and the heavens weep. Now help depends roderas reotað. Nu is se ræd gelang
again on you alone. Yet you don't know the area, eft æt þe anum. Eard git ne const,
1378 the dangerous place where you might find frecne stowe, ðær þu findan miht
the sinful creature; seek if you dare! sinnige secg; sec gif þu dyrre!
The Sutton Hoo helmet, October 2011. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Hygd's introduction, ll. 1925–1962

Line English Old English
The house was superb, distinguished the king, Bold wæs betlic, bregorof cyning,
lofty in the hall, Hygd was quite young,29 heah in healle, Hygd swiðe geong,
1927 wise and able in spite of her youth,30 wis welþungen, þeah ðe wintra lyt
Haereth's daughter having lived [only] under burhlocan gebiden hæbbe,
within city walls. She was not mean, however,31 Hæreþes dohtor; næs hio hnah swa þeah,
1930 nor too miserly with gifts for the Geatish people, ne to gneað gifa Geata leodum,
precious treasures. [But]32 Queen Thryth's spirit came to mind,33 maþmgestreona. Modþryðo wæg
the Queen of men infamous for awful sins. Fremu, folces cwen, firen ondrysne.
1933 Not one of her bold companions in court Nænig þæt dorste deor geneþan
but her wedded lord34 dared to brave that, swæsra gesiða, nefne sinfrea,
so when eyes gazed upon her by day, þæt hire an dæges eagum starede,
1936 they might then seem destined for death-bond, ac him wælbende weotode tealde
twisted by hand; after being seized,35 handgewriþene; hraþe seoþðan wæs
soon thereafter did the blade settle matters! æfter mundgripe mece geþinged,
1939 So the damascened sword36 must make þæt hit sceadenmæl scyran moste,
known deadly evil. Such was not queenly manner cwealmbealu cyðan. Ne bið swylc cwenlic þeaw
the way she acted,37 though peerless she may be,38 idese to efnanne, þeah ðe hio ænlicu sy,
1942 that a peace-weaver39 deprive a dear man þætte freoðuwebbe feores onsæce
of life after misplaced anger.40 æfter ligetorne leofne mannan.
Yet Hemming's kin detested that,41 Huru þæt onhohsnode Hemminges mæg;
1945 the ale-drinkers told further:42 ealodrincende oðer sædan,
that she inflicted no more pain to people43 þæt hio leodbealewa læs gefremede,
by fearsome acts since she had first been inwitniða, syððan ærest wearð
1948 given to the gold-adorned young prince, gyfen goldhroden geongum cempan,
dear and of noble birth. On her father's advice, æðelum diore, syððan hio Offan flet
she ventured to King Offa's hall ofer fealone flod be fæder lare
1951 over fallow flood. There she took to throne, siðe gesohte; ðær hio syððan well
and was great for good deeds well afterward, in gumstole, gode mære,
an ordered life enjoyed living.44 lifgesceafta lifigende breac,
1954 She safeguarded [the kingdom] with her heroic lord, hiold heahlufan wið hæleþa brego,
king of all men, according to my sources, ealles moncynnes mine gefræge
those being the best between the seas, þone selestan bi sæm tweonum,
1957 of all mankind.45 Therefore Offa was eormencynnes. Forðam Offa wæs
a brave man in bounty and battle, geofum ond guðum, garcene man,
made worthy by many,46 his wisdom kept wide geweorðod, wisdome heold
1960 in common memory.47 Thence Eomer woke,48 eðel sinne; þonon Eomer woc
a hero to help Hemming's kinsmen, hæleðum to helpe, Hemminges mæg,
a grandson of Garmund,49 with power in terror.50 nefa Garmundes, niða cræftig.

  1. This reference to Grendel is made clearer in the poem's context. Our passage begins after the antagonist's lineage is traced to Cain, who murdered his brother Abel in biblical times. This sets the religious tone of the passage. ↩︎

  2. "Constant cruelty" is an adaption of Seamus Heaney's translation, p. 13. Shifting the semicolon alters his intended meaning of heardra hynða, which I turned into the implied subject in line 166b. ↩︎

  3. "Descended unto" seems more appropriate than the Electronic Beowulf's "inhabited" given Grendel's novel abstraction as "constant cruelty." ↩︎

  4. Bosworth-Toller defines sincfag drily as "variegated with costly ornament," thus decked with treasure, at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/027778 ↩︎

  5. It is unclear exactly what a gifstol was, though the most literal translation is "gift-stool." This doesn't help much in determining what it actually meant. The commentary in Klaeber's Beowulf describes the complexity of this mysterious term: The gifstol could belong either to Hrothgar or God, p. 126. Most likely, it is "used" by Hrothgar on earth and "owned" by God in the sense of its symbolic importance. This is arguable, and as a result people write different translations.

    Heaney offers "treasure-seat," p. 13, and the Electronic Beowulf, "gift-throne." I chose "altar-throne" for two reasons: (1) The altar is a widespread religious symbol that plays on the poem's mixed Christian and pagan values, and (2) the relationship between the lord of the Scyldings and the Lord God is of interest. ↩︎

  6. Klaeber suggests that Hrothgar is not the subject of this sentence, though he may sit on the throne. ↩︎

  7. Bosworth-Toller defines færgryre as "perilous horror" at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/009981 ↩︎

  8. Klaeber describes lines 175–188 as "remarkable" because it references both Danish heathens and the author's "pointed Christian comment" (p. 127). ↩︎

  9. Klaeber cites evidence for the hearh's importance as a shrine, maybe public, "in a high, commanding place," p. 128. It is difficult to assess pre-Christian religion in Northern Europe, because the only surviving evidence for these practices includes decayed remains and histories by Christian authors.

    Lacking words today to adequately describe these practices, the only practical translation options are generic terms like "pagan" and "heathen." I chose "heathen" because it is a native Germanic word from Gothic that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "could only have arisen after the introduction of Christianity." The word "pagan" is considered "post-classical Latin" and its linguistic development is unclear.

    It is even less clear how the two words influenced each other's development. The word paganus developed from "rustic" or "civilian" in classical Latin, and took on a "heathen" sense when used to describe people outside a community or city, therefore rural. "Heathen" developed from the Gothic haiþi, which developed as a "kind of loose rendering" of paganus. Christianity's expansion brought with it a need to tell Christians apart. "Pagan" seems pejorative, with connotations or "savage" or "uncivilized," while the term "heathen" suggests religious beliefs "that are considered unenlightened," or polytheistic today. Klaeber realizes that the Beowulf poet didn't need to know about ancient Scandinavian religious rites, and mentions them here "only to condemn them," p. 128. ↩︎

  10. Modsefan is a compound of two words of metaphysical significance: (1) the spiritual, as opposed to the bodily, "mood," and (2) "understanding, mind, heart," from Bosworth-Toller at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/023026 and https://www.bosworthtoller.com/027324

    Heaney offers a translation of "deep in their hearts they remembered hell," p. 15. This phrase lacks the implication that they engage in actual worship—it comes after narrating a heathen ritual. ↩︎

  11. Bosworth-Toller suggests that metod had more impersonal connotations of fate and destiny, compared to the Christian image of God as the ultimate arbiter of sins, at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/022758 ↩︎

  12. The Old English helm simply means "helmet" in the literal sense, but apparently had a somewhat mystical protective connotation. Since this passage deals largely with Christian and pagan themes, "providence" or the protection of God seems most appropriate. ↩︎

  13. It is essential to the passage's meaning to stress the importance of intent in salvation. Because this passage is not only applies to Grendel, but also to the Heorot pagans too, its message is subtler than simply condemning Grendel as an outcast. The difference between Grendel and the Scyldings becomes one of intent: Grendel forfeited salvation by his "thought, word, and deed," while the Scyldings might have worshipped the Christian poet's own God, if only England were converted at the time. ↩︎

  14. Translation from Heaney, Beowulf, p. 57. ↩︎

  15. The Beowulf poet regards this gilp-hlæden poet favorably, but it is uncertain whether the scop or his stories are "boast-laden" here. Modern translations—including this one—generally relate how the scop knows many stories, but this passage complicates the poet's relationship to the poem in Anglo-Saxon literary culture. According to Klaeber, it represents both the "improvisation of lays in connection with great, stirring events" and the "circulation of famous short epic poems," p. 154.

    Stories are described here as both gilp, or "pride, boasting, arrogance," and gid, or "song, lay, poem." These definitions are from https://www.bosworthtoller.com/017068 and https://www.bosworthtoller.com/016986

    How did this relate to the Anglo-Saxon world? With both words occurring in the same line, it is reasonable to conclude that the court poet's main purpose was to enhance the reputations of others, preserving heroic stories with spoken word. Heaney describes the bard as "deeply schooled in the lore of the past," p. 59, and Bosworth-Toller defines gilp-hlæden as "filled with lofty themes," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/017073

    The court poet exalts Beowulf's killing Grendel, telling his story with that of Sigmund the dragon slayer. The scop invoked this ancient Germanic hero to elevate Beowulf's heroic feat—this also foreshadows Beowulf's death later, when a dragon fatally wounds him. The Beowulf scribe hints that the scop "has not been altogether forgotten," and was a necessary element in preserving Germanic folk stories, Klaeber, p. 154. ↩︎

  16. Klaeber offers a translation that he "framed a new story, founded upon fact," but questions whether word in fact conveys such a meaning, p. 154. This relationship between words and stories will be expanded in the next note; here, it is necessary to focus on the phrase soðe gebunden, or "founded upon fact." Bosworth-Toller defines soþ as "conformity with an absolute standard," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/028340

    What constitutes this "absolute standard," and how does it appear in Beowulf? The word soþ is related to "sooth" or "truth." Weaving old stories into new ones, the Beowulf scribe suggests that the scop's value was based on how well he could invoke common emotions with familiar themes. Truth, in this sense, comes from the ability to do justice to an ancient heroic literary tradition. ↩︎

  17. "Wisdom" and "talent" seem insufficient for this passage. These translations convey the general idea of an accomplished scop, but today's English doesn't imply the same qualities that Anglo-Saxons would have found in a wise, talented poet. Bosworth-Toller defines snytro as "prudence, wisdom, sagacity," or sapientia; it defines sped not only as "speed," but also as "success." These definitions can be found at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/028270 and https://www.bosworthtoller.com/028429

    It is easier to understand how the scop created his poem on sped, as he has already been established as an excellent storyteller. But in what sense was the court poet wise? Here it is useful to look at the word sapientia. The Latin equivalent to snytro is more meaningful to the contemporary Anglophone because it still enjoys modern usage: Humanity is called Homo sapiens in scientific nomenclature. This distinguishes the rational human as its own species, one capable of self-reflection.

    To understand sapientia in the context of this passage, we must read the word according to the poet's function. As established earlier, the scop was responsible for both elevating reputation and adding to a collective memory of heroic tales. In this sense, snytro or sapientia appears to refer to collective not individual memory. The Beowulf poet seems less concerned with the scop's individual rationality—a modern concept from Enlightenment philosophy—than with the collective cultural memory of the heroic folk tradition. Unlike rational thought, which is unique to individuals, this collective memory is owned by none but shared by all. ↩︎

  18. Translation from Heaney, Beowulf, p. 59. ↩︎

  19. This line shows that heroic deeds were remembered in song; it is a testament to the richness of Anglo-Saxon storytelling culture. ↩︎

  20. This line provides a perfect counterpoint to the court poet. Just like how the scop publicly praises heroes, indecent struggles are relayed privately from uncle to nephew. The scop described in this passage tells these private stories to a public audience. This flawed Sigmund would likely have been a more relatable character to the audience afterward. The implication is that Beowulf, whose story parallels Sigmund's, likewise appeared more human (flawed) but without the scop having to mention Beowulf's own sins. ↩︎

  21. The word hrind has no known English equivalent. Klaeber describes this epithet as "eminently suitable symbolically" (p. 176), while Bosworth-Toller considers it "a word of doubtful meaning," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/019776

    Other translators have used words to do with hoarfrost and rime, so in this tradition I have translated hrind as "hoary." There is no indication, nor strong reason to believe, that the mere is literally covered in frost. The image of mist hanging over the marsh is still symbolically important, as this mist would indicate the supernatural qualities of Grendel's mother's underwater dwelling. ↩︎

  22. The phrase ofer þæm hongiað … wæter oferhelmað describes the haunted mere where Grendel's mother can be found. Woods encircle this place, and the poem's structure reflects this. On each side of the fen's description, there is a phrase describing how trees hang over Grendel's mother's actual dwelling place, which is under the water. The root word helm in Line 1364b suggests that the copse is protected, either physically or mystically, or both. ↩︎

  23. The compound word niðwundor comprises two ideas: "evil" and "wonder." The former is a more difficult word to qualify, as it encompasses a wider emotional range than wundor, or "astonishment."

    In context, niðwundor refers to the mere's burning water, which is inanimate and on its own lacks the capacity for intent. All translations in Bosworth-Toller imply sentience, which brings up questions about the water's mystical qualities. Bosworth-Toller offers several definitions of niþ, including "envy," "hatred," "spite," and "jealousy," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/023775

    Grendel and his mother have been associated with Cain, the biblical kinslayer who was motivated by envy. Somewhat drily, Heaney translates the passage as "something uncanny happens," p. 95, and the Electronic Beowulf defines the word itself as a "fearful portent." Both of these suggest the presence of an otherworldly force. What is it that emanates from the water? To convey this sense of disembodied evil, I have translated niðwundor as "wicked wonder" for the associations of "sin" and "awe." ↩︎

  24. Klaeber rightly notes that although this burning water might simply be a will-o'-the-wisp, this symbol is "one of the commonest features of all … accounts of hell," p. 177. ↩︎

  25. There is a direct link between wisdom and experience in this passage. Those wise men who witon grund are wise precisely because they've seen destructive personalities like Grendel and his mother. Bosworth-Toller suggests that this grund refers more to a state of mind than any physical ground. In a passage about wisdom and experience, the Latin fundamentum seems appropriate here. This infers disorder in Grendel's fundamental world outlook, or at least a mode of thought that is incompatible with courtly life. Other definitions for grund involve words like "abyss," "bottom," and "depth," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/017570 ↩︎

  26. The compound word hæðstapa contains the root hæð or "wasteland," which is related to hæðen or "heathen," from Bosworth-Toller at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/017973 ↩︎

  27. It is noteworthy that heorot translates to "hart" as a common noun. Taken symbolically, this hart could very well represent Beowulf, the sworn enemy of Grendel's mother, who slayed Grendel and delivered the people Heorot from their misfortune. This notion is reinforced by the passage's context: Hrothgar is speaking to Beowulf about his blood feud with the Grendel clan, describing the haunted mere and promising a substantial reward should he come back alive. The hart was a deeply symbolic animal, and in some medieval mythology, it had a bone that conferred immunity to fear. ↩︎

  28. Literally, heoru translates to "sword." It appears that the Beowulf poet used the sword symbol to invoke some ennobling quality that the evil marsh lacks, from https://www.bosworthtoller.com/018825 ↩︎

  29. Beowulf leaves Heorot and sails across the sea after killing Grendel and his mother. He then arrives at the Geatish kingdom ruled by Hygelac. The young Queen Hygd is introduced in this passage, by way of a short digression about Queen Thryth and King Offa. Thryth is a representational character, an anti-heroine and Hygd's polar opposite, who changes her ways since being married to Offa. Hygd is herself a counterpoint to the common Germanic belief, evidenced throughout Beowulf, that age confers wisdom. ↩︎

  30. Klaeber offers "in spite of her youth" as a translation for þeah ðe wintra lyt, to contrast Hygd's "virtues as a discreet woman" with Thryth's behavior before marriage, p. 187. The fact of Hygd's youth raises questions about the digression's purpose. Because Hygd was so young, she likely lacked life experience, having only lived within the confines of the city. Hygd therefore had no stories of her own, compared to Queen Wealhtheow from the poem's first half, who presented a cup as a diplomatic gesture. Not being able to relate a story about the young and unknown Hygd, the Beowulf poet's only recourse was to represent her apparent opposite. ↩︎

  31. Bosworth-Toller defines hnah as "mean," in the sense of "abject" or "poor," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/019354 ↩︎

  32. I included the conjunction "but" to signal the poem's abrupt shift to the digression on Thryth and Offa. ↩︎

  33. Klaeber discusses the digression on Thryth and Offa at great length, pp. 187–190. The allusion is obscure, but the Thryth, a "remarkable woman," is thought to represent a "haughty, violent maiden" who puts to death any man that dares look at her. After she is wedded to Offa, who was "famed for his valor, wisdom, and liberality," she becomes "admirable" and "womanly."

    Stories of Thryth and Offa originated in Anglia. There was the mythical Offa I, and the fairly well established historical figure Offa II, who was supposedly married to Thryth. Stories about Thryth frequently point to a "mythological origin," Klaeber, p. 189.

    Linguistically, Thryth appears as an abstract or mythic character; her mod is invoked rather than her person. The story came into mind, as if independently; it wæg, which in Old English also possessed an active sense lost today, as in the verb "to path," or to act toward an end. Perhaps the Thryth mythology was readily known to Anglo-Saxons and came to mind because Hygd shared similar characteristics to her wild counterpart. ↩︎

  34. It is unknown which Offa this passage refers to. Benjamin Slade suggests that this digression might serve the purpose of "indirectly praising" Offa of Mercia (757–796) by describing Offa of the Angles, his mythical "eponymous ancestor," at http://www.heorot.dk/beowulf-rede-notes.html#r1934

    Coins from the period show that Offa of Mercia's wife was Cynethryth, so Hygd was either comparable to Offa of Anglia's "nameless wife," or she was that wife. It is also possible that Thryth represents a mythic character type, with certain qualities shared by the wives of both Offas.

    Klaeber notes that sinfrea could mean either "father" or "husband." Except for Offa, who married an incarnation of Thryth, all the "unsuccessful suitors" were put to death, p. 190. ↩︎

  35. Klaeber translates mundgripe as "being seized," in the sense of "arrested," p. 190. ↩︎

  36. Slade translates sceadenmæl as a "pattern-welded blade" at http://www.heorot.dk/beowulf-rede-notes.html#r1942 and shows a photo of such a blade at http://www.heorot.dk/hrisoulas%20-%20serpent%20damascus.jpg ↩︎

  37. Bosworth-Toller gives various contextual definitions for efnan, common because they refer to performing or doing a deed, at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/009033 ↩︎

  38. Bosworth-Toller defines ænlic as "singular," "incomparable," and also "beautiful," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/000697 ↩︎

  39. The word freoðuwebbe is a compound meaning "peace-weaver," referring to a woman. The association of woman with peace is a persistent theme in Beowulf. Wealhtheow, the primary queen of the poem's first half, was an outstanding diplomat, thus the poet tells a story of how she presided over men swearing oaths on a cup. Thryth only acts as a "peace-weaver" after marriage, and to the best of our knowledge, Hygd hasn't yet acted in that capacity. Unlike Wealhtheow and Thryth, Hygd has no deeds to her name, and therefore no stories. ↩︎

  40. The Electronic Beowulf defines lygetorn as "pretended insult or injury." Bosworth-Toller likewise defines lygetorn as "feigned anger or grief," but Thorpe suggested "burning anger," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/021958

    With the exception of Thorpe, most translators assume that Thryth's anger is somehow false. From the digression's context, Thryth's anger seems more misplaced, or maybe disproportionate, than false. She does not want to be looked at, and her rage about this offense invariably brings about the offender's death. ↩︎

  41. The Electronic Beowulf separates the word onhohsnode into three words, translating the phrase on hoh snod in a way that Hemming's kinsmen "halted on the hill." Bosworth-Toller defines onhohsnian, however, as "to abominate, detest," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/024625 ↩︎

  42. The poem's narrative voice is confused somewhat in this line. Is the Beowulf poet telling a story of Hemming's kinsmen, who are telling a story about Thryth? ↩︎

  43. Klaeber translates læs as "nothing," p. 191. ↩︎

  44. Translation from the Electronic Beowulf. ↩︎

  45. Here the Beowulf poet asserts the strength of their sources, lending weight Offa's fame in Germanic mythology. Poets on either side of the ocean tell stories of Offa, showing the far reach of his deeds. ↩︎

  46. Offa was wide geweorðod, or "made worthy by many" poets telling stories from his life to impart wisdom to their audience. Bosworth-Toller defines geweorþian as "to make worthy," or "to hold in honor," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/050445

    Worth, in this sense, is not some inherent value, but rather it is created by storytelling. The widespread tales of Offa serve to elevate his mythic position, as Germanic peoples evidently found his stories significant enough to preserve in poetry. This status ensured his place in cultural memory, and his life's lessons added to the common reservoir of cultural knowledge. ↩︎

  47. The word eðel implies some sort of delineated space, and the word sinne describes this space as not being physical, existing in the mind. It could be inaccurate to describe this space in terms of common memory, but that seems to fit the poem's immediate context, which is a discussion of reputation and value. ↩︎

  48. The Electronic Beowulf has the adjective geomor, meaning "sorrowful" or "mournful," instead of the name Eomer. Assuming that Eomer is a representational character meant to convey the above meanings, his heroic acts seem out of place here. What aspect of Eomer's relationship to Hemming would make the former reluctant to help the latter's kinsman? ↩︎

  49. Like sinfrea above, the word nefa describes an ambiguous relationship. Bosworth-Toller suggests that nefa can refer to almost any male descendent, at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/055847

    The ambiguity of these relationships might serve to underscore the similarities between Hygd and Thryth, by implying that the two queens are somehow related. Whether the affinity between these two queens is based on blood or myth, the invocation of family suggests that the two women are kindred in a meaningful way. ↩︎

  50. Bosworth-Toller defines niþ as "the effect of hatred, persecution, trouble, vexation, annoyance, affliction, tribulation, grief," at https://www.bosworthtoller.com/023775

    The word is clearly meant to convey ill will, but in many different forms. Eomer's reluctance to help Hemming's kinsmen suggests that Hemming uses terror to stay in power, rather than ruling with valor. ↩︎