Beowulf: Fact or Fiction

By: Ansley, Kynsey & Jordon

Historical Context:

Anglo-Saxons began to invade Britain in the 5th century and with them they brought oral poetry.

Most of the poems that were written were about heroic deeds of warriors.


Approximately 30,000 lines of old english poetry remain, and of that 10% are found in Beowulf.

Each line of Anglo-Saxon verse is usually divided into two half-lines, seperated by a pause, or in other words a caesura.

The two techniques that are particularly common in Anglo-Saxon poetry are kenning and variation.


Background of Beowulf:

Written in Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries. Beowulf is an epic poem that reflects the early mideval warrior culture of Europe.

Essentially Beowulf is the oldest surviving significant piece of literature in English, however it's not the very oldest surviving thing wrtten in English.

Beowulf has come to be recognized as the foundational epic of English and British culture.

Beowulf is about characters in Scandinavia-Danish and Swedish warriors who battle fabulous monsters as well as each other.

The epic was written down in a manuscript calles the Norwell Codex but it remained unpublished untill 1815.


Archeological Finds:

Discovered thirty-nine burials, some appearing as 'sand bodies', all interpreted as execution burials of probably the 8th-11th centuries.

In 2000, a rescue dig examined the footprint of the planned National Trust Vistitor Centre, revealing nineteen inhumatations and seventeen early Anglo-Saxon cremations.

One grave contained a male with a sword, spear, sheild boss and decorative sheild-mounts.

They also uncovered the remains of ' the Sutton Hoo Prince' a high-born young man in his twenties with fragments of his coffin, sword, and sheild, and also the skeleton of his horse.


Factual Connections:

The Archeologist found several swords and sheilds in the gave burials that they had dug up. This relatates to Beowulf because of the fact that they used swords and sheilds to fight Grendel and the other monsters.


Most of the poems during this time were about heroic deeds of warriors and this relates to Beowulf because he was a heroic character.



We feel as though this research projects was extremely helpful in understanding Beowulf. For example we discovered that the characters in Beowulf came from Scandinavia. This epic poem wasn't published until 1815, and this is why some of the words are harder to understand. We also learned that Beowulf is the oldest surviving significant piece of literature in English. Overall we learned that Beowulf was a very important piece to this time period and it was interesting getting to learn about this story and its background.


"Old English Literature" Facts on File: Bloom's Literature. 2004. Web. 24, Sept. 2014 Web. 30. Sept 2014

Smith, William H. "Anlgo Saxon Poetry." Facts on File: Bloom's Literature. 2008. Web. 24, Sept 2014 Web. 30 Sept. 2014