Beowulfs Origins Essay

This essay has a total of 694 words and 3 pages.

Beowulfs Origins

The origins of Beowulf predate the era of readily available manuscripts and texts for a
common and, at the time, mostly illiterate peasantry to read. Though Beowulf was recorded
in Old English, it can readily be assumed that its roots are to be found in the mostly
oral traditions of the ancient Germanic tribes that roamed and settled much of Western
Europe. Because of this heavy oral tradition, stories and legends were passed on by
storytellers who would recite their tales from memory. Beowulf, in many ways, reflects
this tradition in how it is told. Epics and ballads of considerable length may have needed
repetition in order to be memorized easier, and Beowulf has many of its events told again
and again. In that sense, a story being retold in Beowulf might be akin to refrain of a
song. Also, it is quite possible that the especially more heroic events needed more
emphasis, for killing Grendel was no small task, so repetition might have been used as a
tool to remind the storytellers as to which events within the Beowulf story were the most
important. In essence, repetition in Beowulf was used both for memorization and event

First of all, repetition in Beowulf may be present as an aid for memorization. Though
there are two different tales of Beowulf's heroism in water, it can be noted that both
have many similarities. The first is told at the banquet before Beowulf it to face
Grendel. Unferth, king Hrothgar's spokesman, notes that Beowulf was bested by one Breca in
a swimming contest. Though Beowulf's response is long and detailed, it is to be seen that
he faced more than a few sea monsters. "Rough were the waves; fishes in the sea were
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