Quest-lust (ll.3076-3086) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Quest-lust and Wyrd
The Repercussions of a Lost Act
Closing

Back To Top
Abstract

Wiglaf speaks to the assembled Geats, recounting Beowulf’s unquenchable fervour for striking out against the dragon.

Back To Top
Translation

“Wiglaf spoke, Weohstan’s son:
‘Oft it happens that one warrior’s wish makes
the many endure misery, just so it has happened with us.
We could not persuade that dear prince,
this guardian of the people would not accept any counsel,
to not attack the gold guardian then,
to let him lay where he long was,
in that dwelling place remain until the world’s end,
to keep his exalted destiny. The hoard is
bitterly won; it was fate that impelled
that king of a people to that hard place.'”
(Beowulf ll.3076-3086)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

Back To Top
Quest-lust and Wyrd

It sounds like Geatish kings could be total jerks. Or, at the least, self-centred power trippers.

Whatever the case, Wiglaf’s words are a grand reminder that the system of the comitatus is hardly an equal thing. Based on his opening here, it seems that from time to time one warrior would become obsessed with some impossible goal, and cause the rest of the group to suffer through it. What Wiglaf leaves unsaid though, is whether or not these impossible quests would cost the whole group their lives or only the warrior who proposed them.

In either case, this periodic obsession becomes a curious way that wyrd comes into people’s lives, welling up from within like some sort of fatal disease. However, at least in the case of Beowulf, fate or wyrd‘s presence in the mad desire felt by warriors is able to be read out of the experience. Fate is at the least recognizable in hindsight.

Though, maybe, just maybe, the obsessed warrior was one way in which people thought fate could be seen, they were an expected anomaly that gave the game away, so to speak. That fate could be seen in such a way suggests that preparations could be made for the inevitable, but it needs to be wondered if they were.

Would such preparations tip off fate that its path was known and force it to change?

Or could planning for that inevitability merely be considered as fated as the warrior’s tragic heroic effort?

It seems that no matter how it was construed, this madness could spell the end for whole peoples if the wrong fighter was infected. If, of course, it was a people’s leader who came down with it.

Back To Top
The Repercussions of a Lost Act

Though, going back a ways in the poem, it needs to be wondered if Beowulf’s fervour for fighting the dragon was less random than some disease can seem.

Beowulf mentions his dark thoughts during the time when the dragon first attacks, how he wonders if he did something wrong in his past and is now paying for it.

So,fate or not, there may also have been some prior causation in Beowulf’s obsession with the dragon. Perhaps, since his obsession is enough to destroy the dragon’s “exalted destiny” (“wicum wunian” l.3084), that earlier causation gave Beowulf the momentum to change destiny. That’s definitely something to create a 3000+ line poem about.

Back To Top
Closing

Wiglaf’s speech to the assembled Geats continues next week, as he speaks of his time in the hoard and Beowulf’s final wish.

You can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

Between Religions? (ll.3069-3075) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
The Ward on the Hoard
Wiglaf: Favoured and Condemned
Closing

Back To Top
Abstract

A brief passage about the curse laid upon the dragon’s hoard.

Back To Top
Translation

“Just so the renowned princes solemnly declared
a curse upon that which they placed there until doomsday,
that the man would be guilty in sins,
confined in idol’s shrines, held fast in hell-bonds,
tormented in evil, whoever plundered that place;
not at all had he earlier perceived
the gold-giving lord’s favour.”
(Beowulf ll.3069-3075)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

Back To Top
The Ward on the Hoard

One of the strongest arguments for this poem’s being written down for some sort of missionary purpose is its treatment of pagan seeming religions. We get the first taste of this all the way back at the poem’s opening, when the poet describes Hrothgar’s use of strange rituals to try to ward off Grendel. Here, as there, there’s a clear connection between idols and evil.

Though, interestingly, and especially given the poem’s symmetry, in this extract, the poet isn’t condemning the characters to evil and hellbonds, but rather is the poet reporting what the hoard’s original owner did to protect their wealth.

Rather than a mention of religion that condemns people, this is a mention of it that sees people condemning those who seek out worldly wealth, as represented by the impossibly valuble hoard. To do so, the one hurling the curse would need to be invoking an opposite power – or, perhaps that same hellish power that they condemn the hoard’s violator to.

This is where things get complicated in themselves, since the powers invoked could be either or, but also in the broader context of the poem.

Back To Top
Wiglaf: Favoured and Condemned

It was noted two weeks ago that the poet states that only someone whom god judged worthy would be allowed into the hoard. Wiglaf seems to have passed, since he in fact delved into the hoard. But now, the poet tells us that the hoard’s establisher laid a curse on it that would condemn any looter to hell. Read as a whole, these two parts of the poem say that god wanted the Geats to be destroyed, essentially having set a kind of trap.

Perhaps Beowulf put in a word for Wiglaf, though, and his death has been staid until the last of the Geats has fallen. After all, Beowulf’s soul did go to where the righteous are judged (l.2820).

Back To Top
Closing

Leave your thoughts in the comments. And check back here next week for the first part of Wiglaf’s words about Beowulf and his mad sally against the dragon.

You can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

Wondering about the Strange and the Draconic (ll. 3033-3046) [Old English]

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Dragon Gawking
Of Dragonkind
Closing

Back To Top
Abstract

The Geats come down to where Beowulf died, but are distracted by a more wondrous sight.

Back To Top
Translation

They found him on the sand where his soul left his body
emptily guarding his couch, he who had given rings
in days past; that was the final day
of that good man’s journey, indeed that great-king,
lord of the Weders, died a wondrous death.
Yet before that they saw a stranger creature,
opposite him there on the strand was the serpent, there
the loathed one lay: it was the dweller of the drake’s
den,the sombrely splattered horror, glowing like an
ember for its flames. It was full fifty feet long,
laying there; just days ago it knew
the joy of night-flight, keeping a searching eye out for
its den down below; it was held there in death,
never again would it know its earth den.
(Beowulf ll.3033-3046)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

{Forthcoming}

Modern English:

{Forthcoming}

Back To Top
Dragon Gawking

The first thing to ask after reading this passage is: Why does the dragon get so much attention?

It’s the “loathed” enemy (“laa[th]ne” l.3040), and Beowulf overcame it. So why spend nine lines going into detail about it?

There are a few possibilities here. The Anglo-Saxon audiences of the poem before it was written down probably had a good sense of a creature’s strength. More than likely, simply by hearing about him, her, or it, even. The prevalance and power of boasting among them definitely attests to such an idea. But any culture that can so readily size up opponents needs some sort of metric to go by. So, maybe, all of this extra detail about the dragon is provided to show how Beowulf is at least equal to the dragon, since they mutually slew one another.

Or, maybe the point of having such detail isn’t to compare it to Beowulf in terms of strength at all. Instead, maybe it’s more about their common strangeness. For, whatever a man’s boasts were in those days, few would have crossed paths with monsters as varied and powerful as those that Bwowulf scuffled with. In that sense, then, maybe this passage is suggesting that Beowulf himself should be viewed as a kind of monster. Or, at the very least, a wonder.

Maybe this is why Beowulf was bound together with a life of Saint Christopher, Wonders of the East, and a Letter of Alexander to Aristotle. Rather than being about a normal person going around the world and finding oddities, Beowulf offered audiences a glimpse into the perspective of a creature as rare and wonderful as dog-headed men, or a land over which thick darkness has settled.

Back To Top
Of Dragonkind

Matters of the dragon and Beowulf sharing the page in this excerpt aside, there’s the question of what kind of dragon it is. Given its description here, it sounds more like an Oriental dragon than an Occidental one. It must be rather thin (its fire burning through its skin can be seen long after it’s dead), it can fly but no real mention of wings is made in the poem, and, at least so far as I’m imagining it, it seems like it’s coiled up in death.

Why should the kind of dragon that Beowulf and Wiglaf defeated matter?

Well, one of the biggest influences on Beowulf (particularly its being written down) was Christianity. Of course, Christianity isn’t without its depictions of dragons. These, though, especially up to the early Medieval period, are generally of a serpentine beast that’s supposed to be the devil incarnate. Maybe there’s a bit of that here too, but it seems more likely that having a unique dragon is just another reason that the book was bound with fantastic tales from around the known world.

Back To Top
Closing

Next week, the poem moves from treasure-hoarder to treasure itself. Don’t miss it!

You can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

Spreading the Word [ll.2892-2899] (Old English)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Why so few Thanes?
More ‘Limits Lessening’
Closing

Looks like those knights have maille. Image found on iStockPhoto.
 

Back To Top
Abstract

Wiglaf commands a messenger to go to tell the encamped Geats about Beowulf’s battle with the dragon.

Back To Top
Translation

“Commanded he then that the battle work be
reported to those encamped on the cliff-edge, where the
noble warrior host sat sorrow-hearted the morning length of day,
the shield bearers, each entertained both possibilities:
that it was the end of the dear man’s days and that
the prized prince would return again. The messenger
kept little silent in his story, so that naught was left
unsaid, and so he spoke truth to them all:”
(Beowulf ll.2892-2899)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

Modern English:

Back To Top
Why so few Thanes?

The first thing that comes to mind upon reading this passage is – if Beowulf had all of these shield bearers at his command, why didn’t he have all the Geatish warriors lay on the dragon at once? I can only imagine how poorly he’d do in Pikmin or in Little King’s Story.

Pitifully anachronistic references aside, it is a wonder why Beowulf wanted to travel only with 13. Sure, it could be said that he simply wanted to endanger as few as possible, but then you need to ask: Why 13 and not 3? Or, if there had been some hint of Wiglaf being the most valiant of the bunch, why not just the two of them with the thief as their guide?

However, as a poem that might’ve been used as a missionary tool, or that may have been hurriedly adapted from a pagan original by some deft bard, it makes sense that Beowulf travel with 13. After all, he’s he’s a Christ-figure (having survived the harrowing of the Grendels’ lair) and so to complete the analogy he needs 12 companions. One needs to betray him (the thief in this case, I suppose), and few need to prove true. In Beowulf only one the apostle analogues proves his mettle, but I’m sure that even when this change, or this narrative choice, was made, it was done to keep things interesting rather than boring its listeners with a thinly veiled Christian tale.

Back To Top
More ‘Limits Lessening’

Stranger than any analogy, however, is this messenger that Wiglaf commands to go to the people. He’s clearly quick, and he’s clearly trained in the art of delivering messages (unless his heart and mind were so affected by the sight of Beowulf that he speaks truth to the people). It’s possible that it could be one of the cowardly thanes, but then, where did he come from? I’m not an early medieval military historian, by any means, but given the nature of communications then, it would make perfect sense to have a messenger in every military unit.

To hopefully suss this out a little bit more, let’s look back to lines 2878-2879 where Wiglaf says that he felt his “limits lessen”:

“…ongan swa þeah/ofer min gemet mæges helpan;”

“…I felt my limits/lessen when I strove to help our lord.”

Is it possible that just as Wiglaf found a previously unknown reserve of courage as he defended Beowulf, that the thane who delivers the news of the battle experiences the same?

If Beowulf, as we have it today, is truly a work that’s been influenced by early Christianity, as many believe it is, then this otherwise minor detail might be a major part of its Christianization. A major part of Christianity is the idea that everyone has freewill, and that one way to find your destiny is to essentially give that freewill up of your own choice so that you willingly accept “god’s plan.”

Wiglaf and this nameless messenger may not give up their freewill in doing what they do, but I don’t think it’s far from the mark to say that they both do what they’re supposed to do, and being part of the younger generation (which is almost always cast as defiant in literature), doing what these two do doesn’t come as naturally to them as it might to a young man with something to prove to kin that think he’s a good-for-nothing weakling.

Cutting right to it, then, I think that Wiglaf’s feeling his limits lessen and the messenger (assuming that it’s one of the cowardly thanes, and not some mysteriously a-horse messenger specialist) speaking freely to the gathered Geats are examples of two people finding their callings. Wiglaf is to be the battle leavings: something he can be as long as he goes to battle (if he wins, he survives and is a leaving, and if he loses he dies, and is an heirloom of the battle left to the crows and the sun). And the messenger…well…we don’t get enough information on him to be sure, but if there were certainty in analysis of English literature, science majors wouldn’t be so adverse to it.

Back To Top
Closing

That wraps things up for both blogs this week.

Come Monday, a new short story will appear over at A Glass Darkly, and expect a movie review (title TBA), and Annotated Links entry on Friday and Saturday respectively. Here at Tongues in Jars, the usual Latin and Old English entries will be updloaded on Tuesday and Thursday.

And you can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

Wiglaf’s Prognosticatings [ll.2877-2891] (Old English)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Wiglaf’s Learned Look at the Future
Early Thoughts on Early Medieval English Nationhood
Closing

{Wiglaf casts no runes, but peers into the future nonetheless. Image found on the Daily 23 blog.}
 

Back To Top
Abstract

Wiglaf foretells of terrible times ahead for the Geats, but concludes on a defiant note.

Back To Top
Translation

“I of life protection little could
offer him in the fray, and yet I felt my limits
lessen when I strove to help our lord.
It was ever weakening, when I landed sword blows
on the mortal enemy, the fire from his head then
grew sluggish. As he became desperate, too few rallied
around the prince, at the time of the beast’s final
thrashing. Now shall the sword-gifting and treasure
sharing, all the native-land joy of our people,
our hope, be subdued; each of us will have
our land-right become idle
among our people, afterwards princes from afar
will come seeking, driving us all to flee,
an inglorious deed. Death is better
to every warrior than a life of dishonour!”
(Beowulf ll.2877-2891)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

Modern English:

Back To Top
Wiglaf’s Learned Look at the Future

Here Wiglaf’s rant becomes less about pure anger directed at the thanes (and perhaps redirected from himself, partially) to a bit of prognosticating.

He predicts that now the Geats are doomed because stronger neighbours will overrun them once it becomes known that the Geats have found great treasure and lost a greater leader. However, it’s not fair to pin nothing but prognostication onto Wiglaf’s words here, I think it’s fair to say that they’re simply predictions borne of observation.

Wiglaf has never fought in any battle before, but surely he’d have heard stories about them from his father, or from bards while at the court of Beowulf. With all the time the Geats spent in the meadhall it would be a wonder if their heads weren’t as full of tales as their bellies seem to be of mead and ale. So it’s safe to say that Wiglaf would know about the dangers of being without a powerful leader.

Back To Top
Early Thoughts on Early Medieval English Nationhood

Anyway, the bigger thing here, at least, as far as I’m concerned, is the compound word “londrihtes” (l.2887). In modern English, this literally translates as “joy of land ownership” or “native land joy.”

The importance of this word, and its connotation appearing earlier in the use of words like “leodscip” (meaning “nation,” “people,” “country,” or “region”) is great. It suggests that the Geats, or the Anglo-Saxons who composed and refined and listened to and watched this poem, had more than just a concept of land ownership – they had a concept of their belonging to the land as much as they did of the land belonging to them.

What makes this so important is that it implies that they weren’t just roving bands of mercenaries, but felt some kind of connection to the land that they occupied, much in the same way that Wiglaf feels a connection to the land that he fears and predicts the Geats will be forced to flee. This isn’t a major aspect of the story, by any means, but its being mentioned and its being used as a threat of future doom buttresses its importance.

Follow me here. Earlier in the poem, speeches to inspire have involved the prospect of treasure or of glory of one kind or another. Even Wiglaf’s speech to the thanes involves reminding them of Beowulf’s generosity with his war spoils, themselves a kind of treasure (in the same way that an iPhone might be considered a treasure today – something ubiquitous that could also have a great deal of sentimental or personal meaning).

However, when Wiglaf starts his doom-saying about the entirety of the Geats he doesn’t say that their war gear will be snatched away, or even that they’ll lose the hoard of treasure – instead he says that they’ll be forced from the land. They’ll be forced to flee. In my mind, and I think, throughout this poem, this is the absolute worst thing that could happen to an Anglo-Saxon because it’s a form of exile.

Yes, the Geats will be forced to flee together, but they’ll still have to flee from the place that they call home. And if being exiled is such a big deal, and it can be expressed through a reference to land, then it seems to me that these Geats have at least some sense of living in a country – in Geatland.

That this is mentioned in this poem matters because its Anglo-Saxon creators wouldn’t waste their breath composing something meaningless. Even setting matters of structure and oratorial decoration aside, the word is there, and it comes at the climax of Wiglaf’s prediction. Therefore, the threat of land-loss must be things that strike a chord in medieval Anglo-Saxon minds. And if the notion of losing one’s country strikes a chord, then there needs to be a concept of even having a country for it to do so.

Thus, these references are important because they point to the importance of a nascent sort of nationalism that, admittedly needs to be expressed (or at least is only expressed as far as we can tell from surviving records/literature) through the story of another nation. It needs to be projected, in other words, which suggests that the nation doing the projecting might not be fully defined as yet, but nonetheless has some sense of nationhood.

Of course, for the reference to concepts of nationhood within Beowulf to suggest some nascent sense of nationalism, the poem would need to have been written (or at least first composed) around the time of Alfred the Great (ninth century) or earlier. All the same, there’s something to be said for the poem’s implications about nationhood.

Back To Top
Closing

Tomorrow, watch for a review of The Room – it’s coming!

And you can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

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

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Invocations
Wiglaf Smoulders
Closing

Tir, perhaps akin to the god Mars, the Norse god of warriors like Beowulf.

The Norse god of warriors Tir, Tiw to the Anglo-Saxons. Also strongly related to justice and law — is he what Beowulf’s audience would think of when they think of “The Measurer”? Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IB_299_4to_Tyr.jpg.

Back To Top
Abstract

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

Back To Top
Translation

                     “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.

And, you can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top

The Fallen Hero and the Fleeing Thanes [ll.2836-2852a] (Old English)

Abstract
Translation
Recordings
Reflection amidst Grief
Joining the Two
The Battle-Leaving
Closing

Back To Top
Abstract

Today’s excerpt is very clearly in two parts. In the first we see the wrapping up of explicit mourning for Beowulf, and in the second the return of the cowardly thanes who fled when the dragon grew fierce.

Back To Top
Translation

“Indeed few mighty men on earth
have so succeeded, as I have heard,
though every deed they did was daring,
few of them would make a rush against the breath of the
fierce ravager or could disturb a hall of rings by hand,
if he discovered the ward awakened
dwelling in the barrow. Beowulf had paid
for his share of the noble treasures with his death;
each had reached the end of
their loaned lives. It was not long then
before the laggards in battle left the wood,
ten cowardly traitors together,
those that dared not fight by the spear when
their liege lord was in greatest need;
but they were ashamed when they came bearing shields,
dressed in war garments to where their lord lay;
they gazed on Wiglaf. ”
(Beowulf ll.2836-2852a)

Back To Top
Recordings

Old English:

Modern English:

Back To Top
Reflection amidst Grief

The first half of this excerpt clearly expresses closure for Wiglaf, whether directly or indirectly.

Where the earlier meditation on the dragon might seem more like the poet/scribe’s own musing on death, it’s much easier to relate these lines about Beowulf’s sacrifice and his grand deeds to Wiglaf’s own thoughts. Yet, at the same time, having had a hand in defeating the dragon, it’s fair to say that Wiglaf may also have marvelled at the dragon’s corpse.

In fact, it could well be that Wiglaf first had to marvel at the corpse in order to really register the magnitude of Beowulf’s deed. And, as one of the poem’s audience proxies (since the warriors in the audience – of any skill level – could probably relate to Wiglaf’s facing a major, brand new challenge), it’s fair to say that he may have been so shocked by Beowulf’s death that it takes the meditation on the dragon to make him realize that its corpse was his and Beowulf’s doing.

Victory seemed impossible, but together they achieved it – though they can never be together again.

Back To Top
Joining the Two

What’s interesting about the way the poet/scribe transitions between the meditation on Beowulf and the thanes’ return is that he uses a statement involving both parties. It’s not that Beowulf had reached the end of his loaned days, nor that the dragon did, but that both did. In death all things are just creations of the god that the poet/scribe may have been trying to tell his audience about.

Or, all things are ultimately and equally the toys of fate, depending on a person’s outlook. The fact that both the dragon and Beowulf reached the end of their loaned days, though, points to a deeper connection than anything implied by a mere whim like that so often associated with fate or wyrd.

After the transition to the thanes’ return we aren’t given much in the way of juicy material. They wend their way back to see the aftermath of the fight, and we’re not given any solid reason why aside from implications of feeling guilty and ashamed. However, what the poet/scribe chooses to point out in his description of the thanes is very telling.

Back To Top
The Battle-Leaving

After describing them as cowards they’re described as “ashamed when they came bearing shields,/dressed in war garments.” This fits in nicely with the idea of hypocrisy, and may also touch on a distrust of any consciously known dissonance in a person’s appearance.

It’s important for the poet/scribe to mention this here because it underlines a concern with a mismatch of appearance and essence. The thanes that fled are ashamed to be wearing the garb that marks them as warriors since these things were to help them become warriors but their own essences weren’t up to the task.

Further, since the majority of the thanes fled it’s implied that the old ways have failed the Geats. As a result of this, they’ve all gone soft in the face of new challenges, save for one. And, after nearly 100 lines of being without it, he is outfitted once more with his proper name: Wiglaf.

Renaming Wiglaf at this point may seem strange, but I think that it’s a positive example of the exterior matching the interior.

As mentioned in a previous entry, his name literally means battle-leaving or battle-heirloom. Since Wiglaf is the one left after the battle with the dragon, it seems almost as though he has fulfilled his name. Since he is indeed now a battle-leaving, he has achieved its proper meaning and is now a figure of authority that not just the thanes, but that the rest of the Geats will look to for guidance.

Unlike the cowardly thanes who are ashamed of the dissonance between their equipment and their conduct, through his courage Wiglaf has transcended into a perfect alignment between his name and his being which leads to his becoming as major a figure as Beowulf was, though his part of the story is much shorter.

Back To Top
Closing

All the same, check back next week for the continuation of that story on Thursday as Wiglaf lays into the thanes. Also, don’t miss verse four of “Dum Diane vitrea,” which will be posted come next Tuesday.

A little more immediately, go over to A Glass Darkly tomorrow for Part Two of Shocktober: a look at Leprechaun in the Hood

And you can find the next part of Beowulf here.

Back To Top