Ongoing Ongeontheow (ll.2961-2970) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Teaching by Analogues?
Against Anger, About a Word
Closing

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{Wiglaf shown landing the distracting blow, or Beowulf landing the fatal one – that’s just how much of a team this duo is. Image found on Weird Worm.}

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Abstract

In the messenger’s story, Ongeontheow is captured and attacks Wulf, son of Wonred, in self defense.

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Translation

“‘There by the sword’s edge Ongeontheow,
the grey-haired lord, was left to suffer at
Eofor’s command alone. Angrily against him
Wulf son of Wonred reached with a weapon,
so that his sword swing struck, sending blood
forth from under his hair. Yet he was
not frightened, the old Scylfing,
he paid him back double for that blow,
turning a far worse death strike against that one,
after that the king turned thither.'”
(Beowulf ll.2961-2970)

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Recordings

I’m currently without a recording microphone, and so have no way to record these. However, I should be picking one up over the coming weekend.

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Teaching by Analogues?

As the messenger’s story continues, so too does his focus on Ongeontheow. Here we see him, gray-haired, retaliate against one of the Geats who was too angry to wait for Eofor’s decision.

Actually, it’s a curious detail to add that Ongeontheow is “grey-haired” (“blonden-fexa” l.2962). Obviously we should take it to mean that he is an old man, but as such it’s difficult to not think of Hrothgar, another old man encountered in the poem.

Or, to even think of Beowulf himself.

After all, the messenger must have a point for telling the story of the Ravenswood at such length. I mean, if he just wanted to remind everyone of their feud with the Swedes he could have cut things off with his statement about them not showing any mercy (l.2922-2923). Instead, he launches into a story that runs for 75 lines (ll.2923-2998), involves detailed descriptions of events, and focuses not on a Geat, but the chief of the Swedes.

Apart from using this story to get the Geats to recognize their current situation (as noted in last week’s entry), Ongeontheow could be a stand in for Beowulf.

Perhaps the messenger is warning the Geats of the Swedes, but also, for some strange reason, he’s trying to remind them of themselves. He’s trying to show them how their own laziness and their own cowardice – represented by Wulf’s inabiity to contain his anger – is what caused the trouble stirred by the dragon, just as the same lead to the death of Wulf (and of Beowulf).

But how could such an interpretation be backed up? Well, with the idea that the messenger like all of those bearing news and facts some might not like, needs to add a spin to what he says. His spin is to use a story that everyone can relate to but present it in a way that is different.

Or, perhaps everyone was familiar with Ongeontheow’s actions from a poem or story the Geats told amongst themselves. As of now we can’t really say for sure.

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Against Anger, About a Word

In a much more direct fashion, this excerpt from the messenger’s story is clearly an admonition against anger, against acting when a passion is in you.

Instead, at least through implication, the messenger is telling the people that they must be cautious, just as Eofor was in deciding Ongeontheow’s fate rather than just lashing out at him as Wulf did. Just as an army that has captured their opponent’s leader must think things throw and step carefully into the future, so too must the Geats if they’re to navigate the difficult, leaderless times that lay ahead of them.

For the Geats it is a time that is likely to be noisy with deathblows. A concept perhaps strange to us, but familiar to Anglo-Saxons since the Old English compound “wael-hlem,” meaning “death-blow,” literally translates to “carnage-sound.”

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Closing

That’s it for this week, but the messenger’s story continues next week, as Eofor steps into the fray.

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