Friday, August 7, 2009

When was Beowulf written?

We do not know.

My very personal* hunch: since it stresses the heroism of the Geats, as well as their religious ignorance - "they knew not their Maker" in modern translation, and neither did they expect resurrection but burned Beowulf on a pyre like Hektor at the end of the Iliad - it was maybe written to inspire missionaries to go from England to ... nowadays it is The Hising island, Gothenburg, and so on.

Like Pope Gregory who had a dialogue about some slaves he then bought free:

- Qui sunt?
- Angli.
- Non Angli sed Angeli. Cuius regni sunt?
- Deira.
- De ira Dei ad gratiam Christi vocati sunt. Quid est nomen regi eorum?
- Ælla.
- Alleluia ibi cantabitur.

Now it was the turn of the English to have that charity for Westrogothia and Ostrogothia in what now is called Sweden.

*J R R Tolkien may have agreed. I am not sure I am not repeating some halfforgotten thing.

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Hising Island and Gothenburg are the western coast of Westrogothia. These places must have been in the Geatish Kingdom, it was from there that he swam the Kattegatt.

An archeologist has identified a howe quite a bit further east in the South of lake Væner as the burial mound of Beowulf. But there the dating under the uppermost layer tends to 700 AD, which is too late for Beowulf the Geat.

And insofar as they regard him as a "mere myth" (he was as strong as Hercules, more or less and they regard Hercules as a myth too) they are not really looking for any other burial mound either.