Beowulf is from the Old English literature. It is an epic poem with more than 3000 lines, a very important scholarly work. Nobody is certain when it was written, but it is believed that Beowulf was composed sometime between 975-1025.
We are also unsure of the author. This isn’t uncommon, as we are unable to identify the writer or poet of many scholarly works from this period. The person might have been from a monastery or court.
Beowulf speaks of a young warrior who helps the King of the Danes by beating a terrorizing monster, Grendel, and then slaying his vengeful mother. He returns to Geatland with treasures for the king, and eventually becomes the king of the Geats himself. The warrior goes into another battle with a dragon later. He slays the dragon, but gets killed himself.
Story of the Early Times
Beowulf is much more than your average supernatural legend. It also records the Anglo-Saxon past. In Medieval England, there weren’t many books. The works of poets in those days, also called scops, was a way to record history. Their work was a way to record the history of the early settlers and the times.
The story of the poem goes back to 6th century Sweden and Denmark. The tribe of Beowulf (The Geats) used to live in the southern part of modern-day Sweden. Hrothgar, the king, was from the Danish island of Sjaelland.However, later, the poem has references to other places, which can be identified as present-day Poland, Germany, and Denmark.
The poem starts at the Hrothgarmead hall. Archeologists have found many beautiful halls is the island that goes back to the 500s. So easily, Heorot’s mead hall could have been here.
Was Beowulf Real?
We do not know whether this character of Beowulf really existed. However, many others did exist, such as Onela, Ongentheow,Hrothgar,Haethcyn, Hygelac,and Heardred. This poem talks of the Ravenswood war that actually happened in 510AD. That’s a true story. Reference to Germanic history mentioned in this epic poem also actually happened. So the character of Beowulf certainly fits the context.
Not much is known about the monster or the dragon, and whether they were actually real people. But we know that monster legends were actually common in those days. You will find many supernatural characters in the scholarly manuscripts of old literature.
We are not exactly sure when it was composed. But we can still narrow it down. It was certainly written after the demise of Hygelac, king of the Geats. He was a real character who died in 521 AD. We can also safely assume that the poem was written after 580 AD, as Beowulf died in this year.
Most people believe the poem to be penned in the 6th or the 7th century. But some scholars are now saying that the poem was probably composed much later, during the 900s, which is later than previously believed.