A great Danish warrior? And compact reward words (ll.1292-1301)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
How Great is this “Famed Fighter”?
Treasure for Glory
Closing

Grendel's mother menaces a pinned Beowulf with a knife.

By J. R. Skelton – Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth (1908) Stories of Beowulf, T.C. & E.C. Jack, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11001837

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Abstract

Grendel’s mother grabs a Dane for the road.

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Translation

“She was in haste, she wished to be away from there,
to save her life, since she had been discovered.
Quickly, before she went, she seized one
man fast, as she fled to the fens.
That man was Hrothgar’s dearest warrior,
his closest companion of all people living between the seas,
a powerful shield-warrior, that was the man she killed while at rest,
that famed fighter. Beowulf was not there,
he had been assigned a different resting place earlier,
during the gift giving for that renowned Geat.”
(Beowulf ll.1292-1301)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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How Great is this “Famed Fighter”?

Grendel’s mother flees now, but takes one with her. Why, exactly she grabbed anyone isn’t entirely clear. I mean, I guess she came for revenge, was frightened by all the clamour and such that met her and then just grabbed someone in lieu of killing several. I guess it’s just her luck that she grabbed one so dear to Hrothgar. First her son’s killed, now she’s unwittingly called down the wrath of the Danish fighting force (and Beowulf, too, since he’s still around somewhere).

If he was such a renowned warrior, though, then why was this Dane so easily carried off?

Perhaps, like Hrothgar, this warrior was past his prime but was quite a fighter in his day? That seems most likely, though if that was the case, I just don’t understand the blocking of the scene.

I mean. at this point in Grendel’s mother’s attack, everyone in the hall has grabbed their swords and shields. They’ve left behind their helmets and mail shirts, so that’s how you know that they’re in haste. In a sense, they’ve forgone the proper defensive measures (putting on armour) in favour of just getting right to their offense. Like someone who slinks down to the kitchen and grabs their biggest knife when they hear someone breaking in, the Danes here aren’t thinking of their own personal safety but are more interested in getting the intruder out.

I can understand that.

But why, then, is this one guy taken away?

Reading the passage again, it sounds like the Dane Grendel’s mother grabbed was probably out front, being such a renowned fighter and all of that. Which does make sense, though it also shows just how hasty everyone was in the face of this new terror. Unless the one that Grendel’s mother carried off was well in front of everyone else, I don’t see why those around him didn’t struggle against her or somehow try to wrench him from her grasp.

Though if any of the Danes had the wits about them to do that, I suppose that they wouldn’t have had much need for Beowulf in the first place.

Do you think Grendel’s mother plucked the Dane she took from a crowd, or just from the front of the Danes’ group?

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Treasure for Glory

This week’s passage doesn’t have many compound words, but here’s a short sort of sentence all the same.

A truly worthy “rand-wiga” would enjoy great “blaed-faestne” on the battlefield. And rightfully so, since fighting well with a spear or sword and shield, as a “rand-wiga,” (combining “rand” (“border,” “edge,” “boss of a shield,” “rim of a shield,” “shield,” or “buckler”) and “wiga” (“fighter,” or “man”)) or “shield-warrior” (or “man at arms,” more generally), would require a lot of skill.

Though that skill would help such a “rand-wiga” to be “blaed-fastne,” (“blaed” (“blowing,” “blast,” “inspiration,” “breath,” “spirit,” “life,” “mind,” “glory,” “dignity,” “splendour,” “prosperity,” “riches,” or “success”) and “faeste” (“fast,” “firmly,” “securely,” “straitly,” “strictly,” “heavily,” or “speedily”)). And being “blaed-faestne” is a great thing, since the word means “glorious,” “prosperous,” or “[a] success.”

Plus, based on the meanings of “blaed,” it sounds like just about anyone could be “blaed-faestne” if they were well practiced enough. You’d just need to hold securely enough your spirit, or inspiration.

And, in the world of Beowulf, if you were “blaed-faestne” with anything that was relevant to someone with wealth, you’d no doubt be given a “maþðum-gife,” or “gift of treasure.” Perhaps because it was such a common practice to reward good work with treasure, this word combines “maþðum” (“treasure,” “object of value,” “jewel,” or “ornament”) and “giefu” (“giving,” or “gift”) to mean just what those words together suggest: a gift of treasure, whether that treasure is just something valuable or something shiny.

One other thing to note about the compounds in this week’s passage is that they’re all concentrated around the Dane that Grendel’s mother seized and Beowulf. Given how the poet tends to use more compounds in war scenes, I’d have thought they’d be more spread out in this passage, but I guess he’d used enough to talk about Grendel’s mother and wanted to put the spotlight back on male glory.

Maybe all that time on monstrous femininity was a bit too much for the poem’s early audiences.

What do you think about the distribution of compound words in this week’s passage?

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Closing

Next week, more on what Grendel’s mother stole from Heorot.

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The threat Grendel’s mother poses, more war words (ll.1279-1291)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Grendel’s Mother’s Real Threat?
Of War-Terror and Armed Men
Closing

Grendel's mother menaces a pinned Beowulf with a knife.

By J. R. Skelton – Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth (1908) Stories of Beowulf, T.C. & E.C. Jack, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11001837

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Abstract

Grendel’s mother arrives at Heorot, and even though the poet pretends like they don’t, everyone freaks out.

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Translation

“It came then to Heorot, where the ring-Danes
within that hall slept. There would soon be
a reversal among the warriors when
in came Grendel’s mother. The terror she inspired
was only lessened slightly, as a woman warrior’s might
may be against the great strength of an armed man
when with ornamented sword, hammer forged,
blade bloody and raised over the boar helm,
the sharp edge shears the opponent.
Then in the hall were swords drawn,
blades pulled over benches, many a broad shield
held firm in hand; but they paid no mind to helmets,
or the battle shirt, when terror returned to the hall.”
(Beowulf ll.1279-1291)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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Grendel’s Mother’s Real Threat?

All right, I can’t let the mention of warrior women slip by me here. What’s up with the reference to warrior women in line 1283?

It sounds like the assumption is that these women warriors would be unarmed. Or is it that they’d be armed but couldn’t handle their weapon as well as men? Or is it that these woman warriors seldom used swords whereas men were used to swinging their sharpened metal sticks around and so anyone else using them was a joke?

But why is there even this assumption? Is it that a man with a sword is a natural fighter because he’s a man? Or is it that “sword” refers to what a man has between his legs, and so a woman would indeed be “unarmed”?

Yes, this part of this week’s passage really bothers me.

Seamus Heaney’s translation of “wig-gryre wifes” as “amazon [sic] warrior’s” makes it clearer, but even the Amazonian women were armed and expert in the use of their weapon of choice. But if the poet is referring to Amazons here (quite possible, given their popularity in Greek and Roman mythology, not to mention women like Boudicca who may have been a little closer to the poet’s experience if he was Germanic or Celtic), then it just sounds like he’s making the assumption that women just aren’t as skilled when it comes to fighting as men are. Well, maybe slicing through someone’s head to a palm below the neck is more spectacular than just getting hit with an arrow in the heart, but both are going to kill you.

Though that kind of thinking does make a little sense for a poet. Spectacle is a pretty important part of Beowulf after all. Though subtlety also comes in, too. I guess that part of the poet’s world was a kind of misogyny. Maybe that’s just how it is with such old writings.

Or, maybe this passage is evidence that women didn’t “know their place” back then and were trying to fight despite whatever assumption they were running up against.

As a poet who must’ve had some renown or at least patronage in some form (no matter how advance we become, writing poetry – epic poetry especially – takes time, and the human body needs nourishment during that time, and nourishment doesn’t come free), maybe this is just a reflection of the poet’s patron’s view of things. It wouldn’t be the first time certain people were propped up while others were knocked down in a long poem because of the poet’s own interests (see Dante’s Divine Comedy for a great example of this).

Though, if men are really that powerful, shouldn’t they then be able to fend off a woman even if she’s a warrior or even if she’s armed?

Maybe there is a sexual tinge to this, and perhaps that’s the true terror that Grendel’s mother brings. She’s not just another Grendel – some sort of monstrous creature bent on killing for fun or sport – but she’s an example of what all of the women in the poem so far aren’t: untamed and fierce in the face of men.

It’s a broad assumption to make, but do you think that the Beowulf poet was a misogynist?

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Of War-Terror and Armed Men

Based on this passage, it sounds like a “waepned-men” is only a “wig-gryre” when he’s armed. That might sound redundant, since “waepned” sounds liked “weaponed” which sounds like it means “armed.”

Not so.

Apparently “waepned-men” means nothing more than “male” or “man.” That’s because the word “waepned” means “male” or “male person” and “men” means “person (male or female)”, “man,” “mankind,” “brave man,” “hero,” “vassal,” “servant,” “the rune for ‘m,'” or “one.” So that is actually the only redundancy here.

Though if you have enough armed “waepned-men” of the same type together, that sort of redundancy could inspire “wig-gryre” or “war-terror.” This word comes from the combination of “wig” (“strife,” “contest,” “war,” “battle,” “valour,” “military force,” or “army”) and “gryre” (“horror,” “terror,” “fierceness,” “violence,” or “horrible thing”), which seems like it should just refer to war in general. The idea of “war-terror” itself sounds like a broken record since the two are so closely linked.

Just as “heard-ecg” and “sid-rand” are closely linked.

These words, after all, refer to a “sword” and “broad shield,” respectively. The first, “heard-ecg” is a little literal, since “heard” means “hard,” “harsh,” “severe,” “stern,” “cruel (things and persons),” “strong,” “intense,” “vigorous,” “violent,” “hardy,” “bold,” “resistant,” or “hard object” while “ecg” means “edge,” “point,” “weapon,” “sword,” or “battle axe”. Putting them together makes “sword” just as easily as putting forged steel and leather wrappings together would.

Likewise, a “sid-rand” could draw its strength from the simple yet powerful connection that exists between its parts. After all, the word “sid” means “ample,” “wide,” “broad,” “large,” or “vast” and “rand” means “border,” “edge,” “boss of shield,” “rim of shield,” “shield,” or “buckler.” So it’s pretty clear what the deal is there.

Actually, now that I think of it, a lot of Old English words for war and its implements are pretty tightly constructed. Not too surprising coming from a culture mad for war and fighting, though they also had enough people willing to war with words to create things like Beowulf.

What do you think of the word “war-terror” (“wig-gryre”)? Is it just a synonym for war, or do you think the Anglo-Saxons thought that some wars were not at all terrible or terrifying?

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Closing

The poet briefly turns to Grendel’s mother’s perspective in next week’s passage.

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Wondering what makes Grendel’s mother special, compound words to put to work in the afterlife (ll.1269-1278)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
What’s the Defining Trait of Grendel’s Mother?
Important Compounds for a Visit to Death’s Dwelling
Closing

Grendel's mother menaces a pinned Beowulf with a knife.

By J. R. Skelton – Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth (1908) Stories of Beowulf, T.C. & E.C. Jack, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11001837

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Abstract

The poet wraps his retelling of when Grendel met Beowulf and gets to the monster’s mother.

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Translation

“There that man seized the monster;
nevertheless he was mindful of his great might,
an ample allotment of strength, that which God granted him,
and he trusted in the Ruler’s favour,
comfort and support; through that he overcame the fiend,
laid the hell beast low. Then he humiliated went,
deprived of joy and seeking the dwelling of death,
thus went the enemy of men. And his mother would yet
come, gluttonous and gloomy in mind,
on her joyless journey, all to avenge the death of her son.”
(Beowulf ll.1269-1278)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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What’s the Defining Trait of Grendel’s Mother?

Here we see the third retelling of Beowulf’s fight with Grendel come to an end. Blech. After hearing about it twice in under 500 lines you’d think the poet would be sick of telling it, right?

Well, maybe. But each time that it’s been retold so far, the story of Grendel being beaten is told with a distinct purpose.

The first time, when the poet gives us the play-by-play, the fight is purely an action sequence and a display of the incredible strength that both combatants are using.

When Beowulf retells the fight, he does so to recount fresh glory and to bolster his reputation through boasting. Here, the poet retells it as a way of giving us information about Grendel’s mother. He does this by starting and ending the story with a mention of her, and he uses this story to show us what’s motivating her attack.

So Grendel fought Heorot because he was the kin of Cain and the noise of the joyous partying inside disturbed him. But Grendel’s mother is fighting for vengeance.

Even so, information about just what makes Grendel’s mother a threat is still scant.

Grendel’s reputation as a terrible monster who was immune to weapons was established well before Beowulf encountered him. But, so far all we know of Grendel’s mother is that she’s been pushed to vengeance because of her son’s death, otherwise we know nothing about her specifically. Really, the one thing the poet’s been emphasizing is that she has a “woman’s misery” (” yrmþe gemunde” (l.1259)) in mind and comes in off the moors “gloomy in mind” (“galgmod” (l.1277)). So Grendel’s mother’s major characteristic appears to be that she’s a woman. What’s up with that?

So far the only other women that have been mentioned are mothers and sisters, women defined by their familial roles and civil duty. Of these women we saw Hildeburh weeping over her dead brother and son (ll.1076-1080), and throughout the “Heorot freed?” part of the poem we see Wealhtheow ruling with her son’s protection and advancement in mind. Those are the only named women so far, and they’ve been ladies of the court. We really know nothing about other women in this world. Though, if Hildeburh and Wealhtheow are ladies of the court, and behave in a way that’s civil within the patriarchal society of the poem, what’s that say about Grendel’s mother?

It definitely suggests that she’s a savage by comparison, but that goes without saying right? She’s some sort of wild creature living on the fen, so of course she’ll be savage. Though, the poet’s emphasizing her living amongst wild things does mark her as an outsider. This also doesn’t come as any surprise. But, really, how can you be surprised when you’ve been told so little?

Why do you think it’s such a big deal that Grendel’s mother is a woman? Is this a point in the poem that’s just plain misogynistic? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Important Compounds for a Visit to Death’s Dwelling

This week’s small tale told with the passage’s compound words is pretty straightforward. So I’ll get right to it.

At one time or another, we all come to the “deaþ-wic,” or “dwelling of death.” This strangely fun euphemism for death comes to us from the combination of “deaþ” (“death,” “dying,” or “cause of death”) and “wic,” (“dwelling place,” “lodging,” “habitation,” “house,” “mansion,” “village,” “town,” “entrenchments,” “camp,” “castle,” “fotress,” “street,” “lane,” “bay,” or “creek”) making the literal translation stand up pretty well. Actually, I can’t help but wonder if the definitions of “wic” are so broad because death can be found “living” just about anywhere.

Anyway, once we’ve been welcomed in it’s possible that we’ll meet a “helle-gast” or two. As you might’ve guessed, this wouldn’t be the best of meetings, since a “helle-gast” is literally a “spirit of hell.” This straight-to-the-point compound sees “helle” (“hell”) and “gæst” (“breath,” “soul,” “spirit,” “life,” “good or bad spirit,” “angel,” “demon,” “Holy Ghost,” “man,” or “human being”) combined into something that’s unmistakable. Just as unmistakable as the fact that meeting a “helle-gast” would probably make you “galg-mod.”

At least, I imagine meeting a “spirit of hell” would make you “sad,” “gloomy,” or “angry.”

The compound “galg-mod” itself is made up of “galg” (“gallows,” “cross,” or “melancholy”) and “mod” (“heart,” “mind,” “spirit,” “mood,” “temper,” “courage,” “arrogance,” “pride,” “power,” or “violence”). The mix of “melancholy” and almost any of the definitions of “mod” (which I’d broadly define as “spirit” in both the ethereal sense and the will power sense) is pretty clear, but I quite like the reference to Christ in the definition of the word as “cross.” Despite the definition of “galg” as “gallows” I can’t help but feel that “galg” is weirdly uplifting, likely because it tempts me to try to translate “galg-mod” as “gallows humour.”

Though, if instead of a “helle-gast” you met the “an-walda” when Death ushered you through its dwelling, you’d likely be filled with straight up humour (maybe, depending on how many harps and angels are involved, it could be a kind of super syrupy “vanilla” humour, though). After all, “an-walda” is one of many Old English terms for “god,” though it’s usually translated simply as “Ruler.”

I think we all know where it’s coming from, though.

Especially if you look at the meanings of “an” (“one”) and “walda” (“might,” “power,” “possession,” “control,” “command,” “dominion,” “bridle,” “protection,” “subjection,” “groin,” or “pudenda”). It could be a bit of Christianization, but there’s definitely one deity here who’s trying to come out on top – in both the poet’s and Beowulf’s estimation.

But why not go with this “an-walda”? I mean, if it’s the thing that’s giving Beowulf his strength, then it’s an entity that’s quite “gim-fæst.” That is to say, it’s quite “liberal” or “ample” in its gift giving. Which makes sense since “gim” is a form of “ginn,” a word meaning “spacious,” “wide,” or “ample” and “fæst” which means “fast,” “fixed,” “firm,” “secure,” “constant,” “steadfast,” “stiff,” “heavy,” “dense,” “obstinate,” “bound,” “costive,” “enclosed,” “closed,” “watertight,” “strong,” “fortified.”

Why do you think that Old English has more than one word for god (Anwalda, Metod, Drihten, etc.)?

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Closing

Next week, Grendel’s mother arrives in Heorot.

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Grendel’s mother teased, monstrous and criminal words (ll.1251-1268)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Slow Reveal of Grendel’s Mother
Lady Monsters, Criminals, and Festive Bedtime Stories
Closing

Grendel's mother menaces a pinned Beowulf with a knife.

By J. R. Skelton — Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth (1908) Stories of Beowulf, T.C. & E.C. Jack, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11001837

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Abstract

The poet lingers on Grendel as he starts to introduce the next threat: Grendel’s mother.

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Translations

“Sank they then to sleep. One man paid a dear price
for that evening’s rest, as they went to it as they would
in the gold hall before Grendel occupied it,
ruled with terror, until his end came,
death after such dire crimes. They then became manifest,
those deeds of the widely known man, that avenger then yet
lived after that hateful one, for a long time,
while he wallowed in war wounds. Grendel’s mother,
that hag, the one with a woman’s misery in mind,
who was made to inhabit fearsome waters,
who lives in cold streams, after Cain became
the slayer by the sword of his own brother,
kin by the same father; he fled as an outlaw for that,
marked with murder, fled from the joy of companionship,
occupied the wilderness. Thence was born
that terrible fate; that was hateful Grendel,
the savage outcast, then at Heorot he found
a watchful man waiting for war.”
(Beowulf ll.1251-1268)

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Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

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The Slow Reveal of Grendel’s Mother

This passage is quite a bit longer than previous weeks’. I think the poet lengthens things here to draw out the suspense. Though he might go a little too far, teasing us with talk of Grendel’s mother only to fall back to recounting Grendel’s visits to Heorot and the night that he found Beowulf there, “waiting for war” (“wer wiges bidan” (l.1268)).

I mean, this is now the third time or so that we’ve heard tell of Beowulf’s beating Grendel. The first time being when we witnessed it through the poet’s interpretation, then through Beowulf’s retelling of the story, and now, again, we have the poet giving us a précis. What makes this regular retelling strange is that there’s at least one more: when Beowulf tells the tale again (with some embellishments) to his liege lord Hygelac.

What really confounds me here, though, isn’t that the story of Grendel’s being told yet again just a few hundred lines after he was mortally wounded (which comes on lines 814-818, and which Beowulf retells on lines 960 to 979), but that the poet feels the need to refresh us on who Grendel was while he also introduces a new character: Grendel’s mother.

And that in particular bugs me because we get so little detail about Grendel’s mother. She seems to be a dweller in the fen as her son was, but then where’s she been since the Danes built Heorot and moved in? Was Grendel sneaking out to wreak havoc by simply telling her he was “going out for a bit”? Why wasn’t she there with him?

Her absence from Grendel’s raids really makes me wonder if Grendel’s mother wasn’t somehow summoned up by his defeat. Unless she just got back from some very important business on the far side of the fen to find her son lying dead and so lashes out as she does.

But then, is she sophisticated or as beastly as Grendel himself? More modern depictions vary from the seductress of Beowulf the Musical Epic and Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of her in Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf of 2007 to the hag in Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel (2005).

But I suppose that’s what makes Grendel’s mother such a mysterious figure. The poet tells us that she “inhabits fearsome waters” (“wæteregesan wunian” (l.1260)), and that she has a “woman’s misery in mind,” (“yrmþe gemunde” (l.1259)), both of which are supposed to tell us what she’s all about. Though the latter is far less than helpful.

Is this “woman’s misery” the grief that a mother feels for the death of her son? Or is it the sort of superhuman vengeance a woman wronged can direct towards the one who wronged her?

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Lady Monsters, Criminals, and Festive Bedtime Stories

During a “man-dream” many stories would be told. And, no, those stories wouldn’t necessarily end with “and it was all a dream!” That’s because “dream” in Old English means: “joy,” “gladness,” “delight,” “ecstasy,” “mirth,” “rejoicing,” “melody,” “music,” “song,” or “singing.” Combine that with “man” (“one,” “people,” “they”), and you wind up with “man-dream” (“revelry, festivity”).

Then, as now, stories told during such a festive atmosphere, would vary from the heroic (the bread and butter of Beowulf and his poet) to the comical or frightening. A frightening story (or perhaps a heroic one if the ending’s different) might just involve an “aglæc-wif.”

This “aglæc-wif” would be a fresh twist on an old classic (and maybe extra chilling because of it), since “aglæc-wif” means “female monster.” As a compounding of “aglæc” (“wretch,” “monster,” “demon,” or “fierce enemy”) and “wif” (“woman,” “female,” or “lady”; or, as a suffix, “-wif” could mean “fate,” “fortune,” or “a disease of the eye.”), this meaning is pretty clear. Though why the sex or gender of a monster should matter, is a bit of a mystery to me. Whatever the impact, the way that the poet is slowly introducing Grendel’s mother, it seems like this kind of female monster was “wid-cuþ” among storytellers and listeners of the age.

If such tales were “widely known” (that is, wid-cuþ, literally a mix of “wid” (“wide,” “vast,” “broad,” or “long”) and “cuþ” (“known,” “plain,” “manifest,” “certain,” “well known,” “usual,” “noted,” “excellent,” “famous,” “intimate,” “familiar,” “friendly,” or “related”) to bring us here), then there’s very little mystery as to why the poet leaves so much about Grendel’s mother to his audiences’ imaginations. Though it is telling that she is referred to as a “wæter-egesan.”

As a “wæter-egesan,” perhaps she, or her kind in general, is specifically well-known as a “water terror,” that word’s translation. Just like its Modern English counterpart, this compound’s “wæter” means “water,” while “egesan” could mean “awe,” “fear,” “horror,” “peril,” “monstrous thing,” “monster,” or “horrible deed.” But put them together and you’ve got a quick way to refer to creatures strange and odd that hunt in the water.

Despite all of this vagueness around Grendel’s mother and how frustrating it might be, it’s not surprising that we know more about her than we do about Grendel’s father. After all, Beowulf comes from a cultural context in which the prevailing Christian idea of sin was that you bore the sins of your father.

So, as kin of Cain, Grendel is still marked by the sin of the first murderer. That’s what he gets as a paternal kinsmen of Cain, one of his “fæderen-mæge”; Grendel is Cain’s son, since of all murderers, the first ever would have a very hard time being redeemed.

That makes “fæderen-mæge” quite potent when referring to Grendel’s paternal lineage. Which makes sense, since, as a combination of “fæderen” (“father,” “male ancestor,” “the Father,” or “God”) and “mæge” (“male kinsmen,” “parent,” “son,” “brother,” “nephew,” “cousin,” “compatriot,” “female relation,” “wife,” “woman,” or “maiden”) the word means “paternal kinsmen.”

Because of Grendel’s particular paternal lineage, he is a “geosceaft-gasta,” or a “doomed spirit” This compound’s neat because it contains a compound itself since “geo-sceaft” is a combination of “geo” and “sceaft” (which I discuss here). It’s also quite straightforward since there’s no escaping that “geosceaft-gasta” means “doomed monster,” or “doomed person.” Which is pretty much perfect since “gasta” means “breath,” “soul,” “spirit,” “life,” “good or bad spirit,” “angel,” “demon,” “Holy Ghost,” “man,” or “human being.”

Such a creature could be described as a “heoru-wearh.”

A “heoru-wearh” is a “bloodthirsty wolf.” Though you wouldn’t necessarily get that sense from this compounding of heoru (sword) and wearg (“wolf,” “accursed one,” “outlaw,” “felon,” “criminal,” “wicked cursed,” or “wretched”). The word leaves me with more a sense of a someone in power (hence their possessing a sword) who is corrupt or criminal, someone who really can’t be trusted with that power since they’ll likely use it against the greater good — solely for their own gain.

A much simpler sort of criminal is contained in the word “ecg-banan.” This compound means “slayer with the sword” and comes from the mix of “ecg” (“edge,” “point,” “weapon,” “sword,” or “battle axe”) and “banan” (“killer,” “slayer,” “murderer,” “the devil,” or “murderess”). So it’s much less metaphorical than “heoru-wearh.” Though either of these beings could cause you “guþ-cear.”

“Guþ-cear” refers to “war-trouble.” As a compound of “guþ” (“combat,” “battle,” or “war”) and “cearu” (“care,” “concern,” “anxiety,” or “sorrow”) that makes good sense. “War-care” is a great way to say “wound” since it’s something you’re likely pretty concerned about in the midst of war, and well afterwards you might still make a fuss about it. Though hopefully not enough of a fuss (whether fresh or long since healed) to let yourself and others enjoy a nice “æfen-ræst.”

This word means “evening rest,” thanks to the combination of “æfen” (“even,” “evening,” or “eventide”) and “ræst” (“rest,” “quiet,” “repose,” “sleep,” “resting-place,” “bed,” “couch,” or “grave”).

Yes, a good “evening rest” after all the tales during a “man-dream” could indeed help refresh you after receiving some “gudth-cear.” Though, with “ræst”‘s meaning (quite similar to our own modern euphemism) “the grave,” your “gudth-cear” could also send you to a lengthy “æfen-ræst” indeed.

Why do you think gender gets specified in the compound “aglæc-wif”?

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Closing

Next week the poet spills more about Grendel’s mother.

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