On God and Wiglaf’s Re-Naming [ll.2852b-2863] (Old English)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Invocations
Wiglaf Smoulders
Closing

{The Anglo-Saxon god Tiw, deity of war and warriors – is he what Anglo-Saxons would visualize when the poet/scribe refers to god/the Ruler/the Measurer? Image found on weartheenglish.com.}

Back To Top
Abstract

Wiglaf’s grief continues, and he turns his anger toward the cowardly thanes.

Back To Top
Translation

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp”He sat exhausted,
the warrior on foot near his lord’s shoulder;
tried to revive him with water – not at all did that speed him.
He might not on earth make that chieftan keep his life,
though he wished well to,
nor could he at all change the decree of the Ruler;
God’s decree would rule over the deeds
of each man, as he now yet does.
Then from that young warrior a grim answer
was easy to obtain for those who earlier had lost their courage.
Wiglaf spoke, Weohstan’s son,
the man sad at heart – he saw them as not dear:”
(Beowulf ll.2852b-2863)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

Modern English:

Back To Top
Invocations

The reference to god on lines 2857-2859 lends Beowulf’s death finality. Every other reference to god has been at a set points, nodes even, of the story.

When Beowulf defeats Grendel he thanks god for the victory, when he comes back from the mire, he thanks god again. References to god and fate like this one seem to be the pillars that hold Beowulf on high. But then, what are they holding it up for? If the poem’s like a woven piece of Anglo-Saxon sculpture or jewelry, then what is the purpose of having anchor points? I suppose, because they’re references to cosmic forces, and are references to things that would hold the swirling designs of the universe in place. God’s referenced at the points in the story that emphasize order where things are otherwise going wrong.

A king’s hall being assaulted by a monster, a terrible she-beast wreaking havoc, a kingdom in turmoil, a dragon ravaging the land. Like any good fantasy story, this isn’t about a bunch of men talking about the latest tourney that went off without a hitch, or a bunch of ladies in waiting discussing what to bring their lady from the kitchen. This is a tale of action and adventure, particularly that of a young man who proves his worth and grows into greatness. References to god at key moments accentuate those moments and subtly nudge Christianity, or at the least the conception of there being just one god, into early audiences’ minds.

Back To Top
Wiglaf Smoulders

After this reference to god, we then move onto the epilogue. And with the return of Wiglaf’s name, and therefore, I argue, his agency, we swing back into his perspective.

Wiglaf’s frustrated with the thanes who ran since all of them working together could have very well slain the dragon without losing Beowulf. He’s also frustrated because of the immensity of the responsibility that he’s been saddled with (Beowulf having made him his successor). The whole trouble of dealing with a people who are very obviously not ready to defend themselves as valiantly as they had in the past is also now a worry of Wiglaf’s.

So it’s fair to say that Wiglaf is feeling quite overwhelmed by the task ahead of him now. He’s also moving into the anger stage of his grieving, lashing out at those whom he can easily pin the blame on. And rightfully so within Anglo-Saxon culture – but we won’t see just how direly he lays into them until next week.

Back To Top
Closing

In the meantime, check out A Glass Darkly tomorrow for a tip-toeing into the 2011 horror flick Silent House for Part Three of Shocktober. And come next week, watch for the Sixth stanza of “Dum Diane vitrea” and Wiglaf’s words to the cowardly thanes.

Back To Top

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s