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The Runes of Franks Casket and the Epic of Beowulf

Franks Casket and Beowulf

Runic inscriptions have been found not only in Anglo-Saxon poetry but also in archaeologicial discoveries like the Clermont or Franks casket.

Runic inscriptions have been discovered on coins and various other objects, the most important being the beautiful Clermont or Franks casket. The top and three of the sides are now in the British Museum, the fourth side is in the Museo Nazionale at Florence. The casket is made of whalebone, and the scenes carved on it represent an episode from the Welandsaga, the adoration of the Magi, Romulus and Remus nursed by the she-wolf and, lastly, a fight between Titus and the Jews. The carving on the Florence fragment is still unexplained. The legends engraved around these episodes are intended to represent the capture of the whale and to elucidate the carving. On linguistic grounds it has been thought probable that the casket was made in Northumbria at the beginning of the eighth century.

In several Old English manuscripts runes are found in isolated cases, for instance in Beowulf and in the Durham Ritual. In the riddles of the Exeter Book the occasional introduction of runes sometimes helps to solve the mystery of the enigma, and sometimes increases the obscurity of the passage. Occasionally a poet or scribe will record his name by means of a runic acrostic introduced into the text. Thus, the poems Crist, Juliana, Elene and the Vercelli fragment bear the runic signature of their author, Cynewulf.

In the poem Beowulf we see runes used with connotations of magic or charms. Early Englishmen were fully conversant with the Germanic runic alphabet. In Beowulf the hero is in deadly combat with Grendel’s mother in the mere. He is at the point of being killed…

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…her to cross the sea in search of the distant country where he had found gold and land, etc.. So runes are seen to be usable, as The Husband’s Message illustrates, in common communication with no overtones of magic.

In Beowulf we see the mention of runes used with connotations of magic or charms. Examining historic evidence, we find that early Englishmen used runes sometimes with connotations of magic and sometimes without such implied meanings.


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

The Husband’s Message. In The Earliest English Poems, translated by Michael Alexander. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Collins, Roger and McClure, Judith, editors. Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede’s Letter to Egbert. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.

The Trials of Odysseus of Homer’s Odyssey

The Trials of Odysseus

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey was written after his Iliad which told the tales of the Trojan War. This Odyssey told of the wanderings of a prominent warrior and ruler, Odysseus. Odysseus fought in the Trojan War and, after the Greeks claimed their victory at Troy, began his prolonged journey home. During his travels Odysseus faced many obstacles which he had to overcome. Through his wanderings, Odysseus had to prove his valor, intellect, and determination. Incorporated into The Odyssey are many current-day characteristics of man including a constant dependence on others, the presence of a greater vision, or lack there of, and the essence of a sensitive side behind courage and pride.

At times throughout The Odyssey Odysseus didn’t think about the consequences of his actions and depended on guidance from the gods to help lead him in the right direction. Odysseus was quick to take action and occasionally made poor decisions that were bound to harm him. Odysseus was eager to fight, even if he had little chance of survival. His impulsiveness resulted in Athena coming down from Mount Olympus to warn him saying “Foolhardy man! Still bent on war and struggle! Will you not even yield to immortal gods? This is no mortal being, but an immortal woe, -dire, hard, and fierce, and not to be fought down. Courage is nothing; flight is best” (116). Odysseus didn’t know when to run and leave a situation and when to face and fight. He believed that his courage would pull him through to victory, even against a goddess. Without Athena’s wisdom, Odysseus was sure to meet his doom because there was no way that he could defeat the goddess Charybdis.

Odysseus not only depended on immortals to get him out of a mess, b…

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…. He felt comfortable showing this side because he knew that she wouldn’t laugh at him, but would be understanding because she felt the same as he did; they both longed for each other.

The Odyssey involved many current-day characteristics of man including a dependence on others, the existence of a greater vision, or lack of it, and asensitive side found behind courage and pride. Today people still face these problems and must work to overcome them. Man must learn to survive on his own determination and strengths instead of others. Man must also learn to see a greater vision and look at the big picture rather than the moment. Lastly, man must decide with whom he wants to share his feelings of fear, love, and despair so he can experience a greater fulfillment in life.

Works Cited:

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1962.

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