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The Origins of BeowulfFrom Vergil to Wiglaf$
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Richard North

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199206612

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199206612.001.0001

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The King’s Soul: Danish Mythology in Beowulf

The King’s Soul: Danish Mythology in Beowulf

Chapter:
(p.194) 7 The King’s Soul: Danish Mythology in Beowulf
Source:
The Origins of Beowulf
Author(s):

Richard North (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199206612.003.07

This chapter returns to the question of Danish influence on Beowulf (discussed in Chapter 1), arguing that the poet uses Viking mythology to define the moral status of his heathens, particularly Beowulf. The stories of Hama's necklace - the Brosinga mene, Hrethel's loss of his son Herebeald and Beowulf's death in the dragon-fire are presented as adaptations of Freyja's Brísinga men, Óðinn's loss of Baldr, and Þórr's death in battle with the World Serpent. The poet's concern for the souls of Danish heathens is attributed to his having met some for himself: a meeting which is placed in Breedon in 809, based on the record of a Mercian ransom in that year of a papal envoy from (Danish) pirates. The Carolingian conversion of King Heriold of Denmark in 826 is lastly treated as the poet's stimulus for pathos concerning the fate of the king's soul at the end of Beowulf.

Keywords:   Baldr, Breedon, Hama, Herebeald, Heriold, Freyja, Viking mythology

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