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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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Dynastic Innovation in Beowulf

Dynastic Innovation in Beowulf

Chapter:
(p.36) 2 Dynastic Innovation in Beowulf
Source:
The Origins of Beowulf
Author(s):

Richard North (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199206612.003.02

This chapter compares Beowulf's Scyldings with the Skjöldungar of Old Norse analogues, and Beowulf himself with Böðvarr bjarki, his monster-slaying counterpart in Hrólfs saga kraka and elsewhere. The upshot is that the English poet changes his legend of Beowulf by putting him in Hrothgar's court rather than in Hrothulf's, by making him both Hygelac's nephew and a king, and by giving him a new companion in a kinsman named ‘Wiglaf’. These features are defined as innovations through comparison with a wide range of Norse analogues (analogues for another episode, Ingeld's marriage to Freawaru, are discussed in Chapter 4). The poet's changes to his Germanic dynastic legends are held to be consistent with his working for Wiglaf of Mercia some time after King Beornwulf's death in battle. The period of Beowulf's composition is accordingly narrowed down to 826x839.

Keywords:   Beornwulf, Hrothgar, Hrothulf, Hygelac, Wiglaf of Mercia

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