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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beowulf Comprehension Questions


In conquering these questions, I formed a group with Allyson Brown, Brenna McNamara, Miki Kagawa, Rachel Shedd, and Rebecca Aldrich.  We all split up the questions evenly and collaborated over emails and group messages.  Our biggest resource was the Internet for questions about passages that weren't in the literature book.

[Prologue: The Rise of the Danish Nation] courtesy of Rebecca Aldrich
It was unusual how Shield became ruler of the Danes because he was orphan, found as an infant who rose to extreme power and became a praised leader. At his funeral, he was very much honored and mourned. He is carried to shore and put on a ship by his companions, like he had requested. He was cast off into the ocean along with his many treasures. Hrothgar is Shield’s great great grandson (Shield’s son is Beow, Beow’s son is Halfdane, Halfdane’s son is Hrothgar)

[Heorot is Attacked] courtesy of Rebecca Aldrich
Hrothgar’s magnificent work was the creation of a grand hall called the Heorot where parties and feasts were held. Heorot was attacked by a fierce monster named Grendel. Grendel attacked the hall at night and killed 30 men. For 12 years no one went in Heorot because every night Grendel would kill anyone he saw so the people stayed as far away as possible. The Danes lived in great fear of this monster.

[The Hero Comes to Heorot]
1.  When Beowulf hears of Hrothgar's problems with Grendel, he and his fellow Geats set sail to Denmark to promise Hrothgar that he will slay Grendel once and for all.

2.  When the Geats first arrive in Denmark they meet a Danish watcher patrolling along the cliffs.  He happens to be Hrothgar's lieutenant who demands to know who they are and what they are doing there.  The Geats respond that they have come to meet with Hrothgar and they they intended to rid the Danes of their beast, Grendel.  The lieutenant believes them and takes them to Herot.

3.  Hrothgar's herald is Wulfgar of the Wendla tribe.  When he first sees the Geats he stops them and asks them why they carry so much armor.  He them implies that they are there for adventure rather self gain because they seem brave.  Wulfgar goes to Hrothgar and tells him not to refuse their help because their leader Beowulf seems strong and worthy.  Hrothgar speaks of knowing Beowulf's father and encourages Wulfgar to go get the Geats right away.  I'm not surprised that Beowulf and Hrothgar know each other so well because Beowulf wouldn't  otherwise risk his life and the life of others for someone he didn't know.

4.  Beowulf tells Hrothgar that he is basically very experienced and planned to take Grendel on with no weapons.  He also told Hrothgar not to refuse him.  Hrothgar paid off Beowulf's father's feuds during a waring period for the Geats.

[Feast at Heorot]
1.  Unferth jealously claims that Beowulf couldn't beat Grendel and brings up a time in the past when Beowulf lost in a swimming competition to Breca.  Beowulf tells Unferth that he is drunk and claims the true story that he was separated from Breca and pulled underwater by a sea monster that he later killed.  This shows how confident and competitive Beowulf is throughout the story.  Beowulf then accuses Unferth that if he was really as brave as he said he was, Grendel would have never come to Herlot.

2.  She hands out mead goblets first to Hrothgar and then to the rest of the men.  She thanks God for Beowulf and then takes her seat next to Hrothgar.

[The Fight with Grendel]
1.  The difference with Beowulf is that he is getting rid of his armor.  He plans to take care of Grendel with his bare hands

2.  When Grendel enters Herot he immediately goes to his business of eating sleeping soldiers.  When he gets to Beowulf, he isn't asleep and Beowulf immediately latches onto him.  Grendel tries to flee but Beowulf's grip is too strong.  Grendel barely escapes and leaves behind his arm.

[Celebration at Heorot]
1.  "A Danish scop recites the story of Sigemund, a great hero who slays a horrible dragon. The dragon is a keeper of a treasure chest that Sigemund wins by slaying the dragon. The treasure won by Sigemund resembles the gold rewards earned by Beowulf from the ring-giver, King Hrothgar. This Norse myth is obviously recited at Beowulf’s celebration to compare both Sigemund’s and Beowulf's heroic acts. (...) Heremod is known as an evil Danish king who turns against his own people. This is clearly a symbol of the reverse of Beowulf’s characteristics. By comparing and contrasting Beowulf to two different kings, the narrator is indicating that Beowulf will be king later in the epic."(http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/projs2003a/Johane,Heidi&Yee/)

Courtesy of Rebecca Aldrich:
2. Hrothgar responds to Beowulf’s deed by celebrating him. He announces Beowulf as his son and says that he will never be forgotten. He gives Beowulf numerous gifts including a sword. Unferth doesn’t have much to say to Beowulf unlike the first time they spoke. He is more humbled now that Beowulf has saved the Danes.

3. The singer sings the story of Finn during the feast. Basically, in the story Finn, Lord of the Frisians, marries Hildeburgh, a Dane, to end a feud between the two tribes. The idea was to use the bride to ensure that the families wouldn’t feud anymore but obviously this was a bad idea. The Frisians killed Hildeburgh’s brother when he came to visit her. Finn was also eventually killed out of revenge.

Courtesy of Allyson Brown:
4.  Wealhtheow asks Hrothgar not to give the throne to Beowulf, but to trust in his biological son’s abilities to rule as king.  She believes that the throne should stay in the bloodline.

5.  It is foreshadowed that Beowulf gives the necklace to his uncle Hygelac, who wears it until he dies in battle.  She also asks Beowulf to guide and protect her children, but not to take the throne from them when Hrothgar dies.

6.  So many men remain in the beer hall to sleep because they believe it is as safe as it once was now that Grendel is dead.  This is a mistake because Grendel’s mother comes to the hall for revenge for her son.  She takes one of Hrothgar’s esteemed men and the arm of Grendel back to her cave.

BEOWULF AND GRENDEL’S MOTHER

[Another Attack]
1.  Grendel’s mother has come to Heorot to revenge the death of her son.  She is melancholy and wants the men to pay for what they did.  This motive for coming to Heorot is different from Grendel’s because Grendel only terrorized Heorot for the thrill of killing men and to stop the constant merrymaking in the hall he kept hearing about.  He wasn’t seeking revenge for anything.

2.  Hrothgar’s response is to go to Beowulf for help.  Grendel’s mother killed one of his dearest friends and advisers, Aeschere.  He wants Beowulf to kill Grendel’s mother as he killed Grendel.

3.  The mere is a lake surrounded by a dark forest where Grendel and Grendel’s mother supposedly live in an underwater cave.  It is described as a place where a hunted animal would rather die next to the water than go into to it to survive.

[Beowulf Fights Grendel’s Mother]
1.  Beowulf tells Hrothgar to respond as though a blood feud has been started; he should not feel sorrow, but he should be revengeful.  Killing Grendel’s mother is the only way, Beowulf says, to truly avenge Aeschere.

2.  Before Beowulf enters the mere, he and his men kill a sea monster in the water, and then Hrothgar and his men find Aeschere’s severed head on the shore.  This solidifies Hrothgar’s motive for Beowulf to kill Grendel’s mother.

3.  Beowulf prepares for battle with Grendel’s mother by putting on his new armor from Hrothgar.  During the process, Unferth, the man who originally doubted Beowulf’s abilities, gives Beowulf his sword, Hrunting, to fight with.

Courtesy of Brenna McNamara:
4. When Beowulf enters the mere, Grendel’s mother grabs him and pulls him down as other monsters are trying to attack him; however, he is unharmed because of his armor. It’s surprising where Grendel and his mother live because it takes half a day to arrive there.

5. The sword Beowulf borrowed from Unferth breaks as he strikes Grendel’s mother.

6. Beowulf’s armor saves him from the knife wound Grendel’s mother was trying to inflict on him; he then was able to use his strength to throw Grendel’s mother off of himself.

7. Beowulf uses the sword of Eotens (forged by giants long ago) and cuts the mother’s throat. Seeking vengeance for those killed by Grendel, Beowulf brings his decapitated head home. But, his sword melts from the mother’s acidic blood; only the hilt is left.

8.  Beowulf safely swims back to the surface and none of his men are there because they doubted his ability to beat Grendel’s mother.

[Further Celebration at Herot]
1. Beowulf gives Hrothgar the hilt of his sword, as well as Grendel’s head.

2. Hrothgar praises Beowulf but also warms him of how to be a fair ruler; the consequence of not being fair was told by Hrothgar in the context of a story. Heremod (the worst king because of his betrayals and murders) was banished and exiled; eventually the tables turned and he was betrayed and killed.

3. Beowulf gives Unferth his sword, Hrunting, back.

[Beowulf Returns Home]
1. Hrothgar predicts a future in which Beowulf will come back to protect the Danes once again.

2. Hyd is the Queen of the Geatlands (young and wise), however, unlike Modthryth, she won’t kill and torture her people for simply looking at her.

3. Hrothgar is hoping that by having his daughter, Freawaru, marry Ingeld, he can thus create peace between the Danes and Heathobards. However, Beowulf assumes that Hrothgar is only bringing back the feud and it’s inevitable that more conflict will arise because it’s difficult to simply to forget history. This is a different side to Beowulf because he previously wouldn’t put much thought theoretically and would result to acting on impulse rather than reason.

Courtesy of Rebecca Aldrich:
4. Beowulf reports that he earned glory. He doesn’t add any false details to his stories but he does report them in a way that makes him sound very brave and glorified.

5. Beowulf gives most of his gifts to Hygelac and Hygd. He gives his king weapons, armor, 4 horses and most of the other treasures he received. Beowulf gave Hygd the necklace that Wealtheow gave him. Hygelac gives Beowulf land, a sword, and a house.

BEOWULF AND THE DRAGON
[The Dragon Wakes]
Courtesy of Rachel Shedd:
1.  Fifty years later, Hygelac and Heardred have died since Beowulf received his treasure which makes Beowulf himself become the king.  A dragon has awoken since then, however, and has become very angry.

2.  A man stole a golden goblet from the dragon guarding the treasure, which made the dragon very angry. The dragon was to guard the treasure for an ancient civilization since they all died out.  The man took the cup because he wanted to take the cup to his master in return for his freedom.

3.  The dragon burns all the houses of the Geats to avenge his losing the treasure.

4.  Beowulf thinks that his house was burned down because the dragon burned all of his kingdom.  He calls for an iron shield to be made for the battle against the dragon because he knows that a wooden shield would do nothing against a fire breathing dragon.  He planned on fighting the dragon with a sword, too, due to its poisonous breath.  He doesn't plan on being a hero but rather accepting his death and not calling for any assistance.

5.  Hygelec died in battle!  Beowulf escapes and is offered to run the kingdom but he turns it down because he thinks that Headred should run the kingdom.

6.  Headred lets exiled Swedes into his kingdom.  These Swedes are Orneala's brothers, which Orneala wants to kill... And he does!  He kills Headred and Eanmund in battle and Beowulf vows to avenge their deaths by killing Orneala.

7.  Beowulf brings eleven men and the man who stole the goblet to confront the dragon, even though he vows to fight the dragon alone.

Courtesy of Brenna McNamara:
8. Hygelac’s oldest brother, Herebeald, was accidentally killed with an arrow by Haethcyn while they were hunting. His father, King Hrethel, knew this was was an accident but died of grief (Herebeald was his eldest son). After Hrethel’s death, the Swedes and the Geats continued fighting which led to deaths of Haethcyn and Hygelac. Beowful avenged the death of Hygelac by killing the great Frankish warrior, Dayraven.

[Beowulf Attacks the Dragon]
1.  Beowulf tells his companions to wait outside for him.  If he dies he wants them to keep his armor and pass it down.

Courtesy of Rebecca Aldrich:
2. The first time that Beowulf and the dragon fight, Beowulf feels very confident going into the fight but that quickly changes. The shield that is protecting Beowulf begins to melt. His sword breaks before it is able to do any real damage to the dragon. All of Beowulf’s companions abandon him when he is losing the fight, except Wiglaf. Wiglaf tries to make the other warriors stay and he attempts to make them feel ashamed for deserting because they all promised to be loyal to Beowulf. Wiglaf joins Beowulf in battle.

3. Wiglaf and Beowulf work together as a team to defeat the dragon. Wiglaf fights bravely and is able to stab the dragon. Beowulf is bitten in the neck by the dragon but is able to deliver one last vital wound to the dragon. The killed the dragon together but Beowulf will die from his wound.

Courtesy of Miki Kagawa:
4. Dying Beowulf asks Wiglaf to bring the gold to him before he dies. When Beowulf sees the gold, he thanks God for allowing him to get rid of the dragon. Finally, Beowulf wanted his body to be burned at the coastal headland and named it, Beowulf’s Barrow.

[Beowulf's Funeral]
1. When the companions return, Wiglaf tries to bring Beowulf back to life, but it was already too late. Wiglaf yells at the companions for leaving Beowulf behind and letting him fight by himself. He expects that in the future that the Geat’s empire will be destroyed.

2. The messenger tells the city that Beowulf has died. At the Ravenswood, the Gaets were threatened by Ongetheow and his men, but Hygelac saved the Geats from Ongentheow the next morning. Although, Ongentheow and his men retreated, Hygelac still killed Ongentheow. The messenger says the gold is cursed and those who tried to steal it will also be cursed. The final image of the messenger’s speech was the dragon.

3. Wiglaf tells the crowd that Beowulf would have been alive if he had listened to the people, but since he was a military hero they decided to give him a burial. Also, Wiglaf mentions what a brave and honorable warrior Beowulf was.
4.  Wiglaf’s men pushed the dragon off the cliff and fell in to the ocean. Everyone was rejoiced after the death of the dragon.

5. During the ten days of the funeral celebration, everyone mourns for Beowulf and place rings and jewelries around this grave. They talk about his war achievements and praised him.

6. The Geats said that Beowulf was the “kindest of kings”, the friendliest, and most honorable man. The words kindest and friendliest would not be used to describe a military hero because Beowulf killed his enemies with no regrets. Although, he was honorable which is a characteristic used for a military hero.


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