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Epic of Beowulf Essay – Armor in the Epic Poem, Beowulf

Armor in the poem Beowulf

Armor mentioned in the poem Beowulf include helmets and chain mail. There are an incredible number of references to these battle-apparel in the poem, making this topic of armor a very relevant one to consider.

“Helmets are the most dramatic and often quoted item of armor found in Beowulf,” says Catherine M. Hills in “Beowulf and Archaeology.” Indeed, examining the poem, one finds copious references to helmets in just the first 400 lines of the poem:

Boar-figures gleamed

over plated cheek-guards, inlaid with gold;

shining, fire-hardened, fierce war-masks

guarded their lives (303-6)

iron-gray corselets, and grim mask-helmets (334)

the Geatish leader spoke in his turn,

strong in his helmet (341-2)

Now you may enter, in your battle-armor,

wearing war-masks (395-6)

Brave in his helmet

[he advanced] till he stood before the king (403-4)

“Beowulf’s own helmet was ‘inlaid with gold, hooped with lodly bands, and decorated with effigies of boars’” (Arnold 91). In Europe there have been found about 100 helmets dating mostly to the sixth and seventh centuries; of the three types, two are from the Romans. 37 are of the English-Scandinavian type, with a ridge running across the top from nose to rear. Some of these were found buried in cremations in Gotland. In England only three Anglo-Saxon helmets have been found: Benty Grange – 7th century; York – 8th Century; Sutton Hoo – 6th century. section of chain-mail was found attached to the York helmet as a nec…

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…tion and design in the making of helmets especially.


Arnold, Ralph. “Royal Halls – the Sutton Hoo ShipBurial.” In Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co.: 1975

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Cramp, Rosemary. “Beowulf and Archaeology.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Hills, Catherine M. “Beowulf and Archaeology.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Stanley, E.G.. “Beowulf.” In The Beowulf Reader, edited by Peter S. Baker. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000.

Epic of Beowulf Essay – An Epic Poem

Beowulf: An Epic Poem

To qualify as an epic poem, Beowulf reflects the values of the culture in which it was created. The Anglo-Saxon culture and the poem share many of the same values. They shared a heroic ideal that included loyalty, strength, courage, courtesy, and generosity. Like all epic poems Beowulf is a long narrative work that tells the adventures of a great hero and also reflects the values of the society in which it was written. Both Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxons believed in those qualities as an individual.

The strongest ties of loyalty in their society were to kin and lord. A kingdom was only as strong as its war-leader king. In order to have loyal men, the King needed to repay them. In other words the men were paid for loyalty. They were sometimes given, land, gold, money, food, armor and other things for a reward after battle. Both the Anglo-Saxons and the characters in Beowulf are willing to risk their life at any moment-they are inattentive to danger. The Anglo-Saxons acquired riches by plundering treasures of their enemies. Every family formed a bond of loyalty and protection. A family was bound to avenge a father or brother’s death by feud with the tribe or clan which had killed him. This duty of blood revenge was the supreme religion of the Anglo-Saxons. The family passed down this hatred forever until avenged. Always staying loyal to family and the lord. (Allen, 12-14)

“The Anglo Saxons appear as a race of fierce, cruel, and barbaric pagans, delighting in the seas, in slaughter, and in drink “(Allen, 17). The character of the ancient Saxons displayed the qualities of fearless, active, and successful. The Anglo-Saxons are mostly a barbaric race, not savage and rude but mostly military and…

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…. W. Beowulf: An Introduction. Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1967.

Collins, John J. “Apocalyptic Literature,” Harper’s biblical Dictionary, ed. Paul J. Achtmeier. San Francisco: Harper, 1985.

Emmerson, Richard K. and Bernard McGinn. The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell, 1992.

Garmonsway, et. al. Beowulf and Its Analogues. New York: Dutton, 1971.

Gang, T. M. “Approaches to Beowulf.” RES 3 (1952):.6-12.

Gildas. De Excidio Britanniae in Wade-Evans, A. W. , trans. Nennius’ History of Britons. London: Methuen, 1938.

Goldsmith, Margaret. “The Christian Theme of Beowulf.” Medium Aevum 29 (1960): 81-101.

Green, Martin. “Man, Time, and Apocalypse in The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and Beowulf,” JEGP 74 (1975): 502-518.

Hieatt, Constance B. “Envelope Patterns and the Structure of Beowulf,” English Studies in Canada 1 (1975): 249-265.

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