Get help from the best in academic writing.

Familial and Marital Relationships in Beowulf

Familial and Marital Relationships in Beowulf

Two Works Cited To the reader of Old English Beowulf the familial and marital relationships are not so very obvious, especially when one is concentrating all of one’s mental energies on translating the thousand-year-old vocabulary of the poem. The following essay is intended to clarify those relationships while proceeding sequentially through the poem.

First of all, Scyld Scefing, historic king of the Danes (Scyldings), had a son Beow(ulf) to occupy the throne: “Then in the strongholds [Beow] the Scylding was king of all Denmark, beloved by his people” (53-55). Then [Beow] “had a son in his turn, Healfdene the great, who, while he lived, aged, war-fierce, ruled lordly Scyldings” (56-58). Healfdene’s progeny were numerous: “From Healfdene are numbered four children in all; from the leader of armies they woke to the world, Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halga the good; it is told that [Yrse was Onela’s] queen”(59-62). Heorogar fathered Heoroweard; Halga fathered Hrothulf who lived with Hrothgar (“the mighty minded ones, Hrothgar and Hrothulf” (1016-17). Implied in this and in the following lines is the hint that Hrothulf will slay Hrothgar’s oldest son, Hrethic, and take the throne: “Wealhtheow came forth, glistening in gold, to greet the good pair, uncle and nephew[Hrothulf]; their peace was still firm, each true to the other” (1162-5) (Chickering 280). Hrothgar’s other two children were Hrothmund and Freawaru (“I heard the men give her the name Freawaru when she passed to those heroes the gem-studded cup” (2022-23).

The hero Beowulf, upon arriving in Denmark with his band of Geats, states his geneology: “My own father was well known abroa…

… middle of paper …

… grown up in King Hrethel’s household along with the king’s own sons: “In no way was I, a man of his stronghold, more hateful to him than his own sons, Herebeald, Haethcyn, or Hygelac my lord” (2432-34). Haethcyn accidentally killed “his brother [Herebeald]… with an arrow from his bow” (2437-38), causing the father’s death through grief.

Perhaps this essay will elucidate some vague familial and marital realtionships for the new student of Beowulf, who is grappling with somany trranslation problems from the Old English that he may find it difficult to discern all the intricate relationships.


Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Wilbur, Richard. “Beowulf.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Sutton Hoo and Beowulf

Sutton Hoo and Beowulf

Beowulf displays at the beginning and at the end such very lavish burials that they formerly seemed to be the work of the poet’s imagination. Then Sutton Hoo changed all that by giving historic evidence supporting not only the types of burials but also many other aspects of the Old English poem.

“. . . the poem is the product of a great age, the age of Bede, an age which knew artistic achievements of the kind buried at Sutton Hoo . . . (Stanley 3).

Sutton Hoo was the ancestral burial ground of the East Anglian kings, called the Wuffings, from Wuffa. Their father was said to be the first of this dynasty to rule the East Angles. Fifteen of their barrows or grave mounds make up Sutton Hoo; the first was excavated in 1939, and Beowulf has not been the same since.

Mound One contained a a great ship burial, the richest treasure ever dug from British soil, and the most important archaeologicl evidence found in Europe for the era of Germanic migrations during the fifth to seventh centuries (Clark 34). This find made the ship-burial of King Scyld in the opening of Beowulf very realistic and true to historic fact:

Scyld then departed at the appointed time,

still very strong, into the keeping of the Lord….

They laid down the king they had dearly loved,

their tall ring-giver, in the center of the ship,

the mighty by the mast. Great treasure was there,

bright gold and silver, gems from far lands (26-37)

Scyld’s body was placed beside the mast along with a supply of arms and armor, with treasures in his lap, and his golden standard set high over his head. Beow…

… middle of paper …

… nineteenth century, but the few fragments remaining suggest its occupant was as richly buried as King Raedwald , and the burial chamber more closely resembles that of Beowulf (Clark 36).

The Sutton Hoo discoveries have provided and continue to provide historic backing for various aspects of the Old English poem Beowulf: the customs, the accoutrements, the symbology, the wealth.


Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

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

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.