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**Beowulf Discussion Part 11**

Curious
Half-elven

Jun 20 2007, 4:42am

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**Beowulf Discussion Part 11** Can't Post

Lesslie Hall's 1892 translation is at this link:

http://www.gutenberg.org/...328-h/16328-h.htm#XI

XI.
ALL SLEEP SAVE ONE.

Then Hrothgar departed, his earl-throng attending him,
Folk-lord of Scyldings, forth from the building;
The war-chieftain wished then Wealhtheow to look for,
The queen for a bedmate. To keep away Grendel
5 The Glory of Kings had given a hall-watch,
As men heard recounted: for the king of the Danemen
He did special service, gave the giant a watcher:
And the prince of the Geatmen implicitly trusted
His warlike strength and the Wielder's protection.
10 His armor of iron off him he did then,
His helmet from his head, to his henchman committed
His chased-handled chain-sword, choicest of weapons,
And bade him bide with his battle-equipments.
The good one then uttered words of defiance,
15 Beowulf Geatman, ere his bed he upmounted:
"I hold me no meaner in matters of prowess,
In warlike achievements, than Grendel does himself;
Hence I seek not with sword-edge to sooth him to slumber,
Of life to bereave him, though well I am able.
20 No battle-skill has he, that blows he should strike me,
To shatter my shield, though sure he is mighty
In strife and destruction; but struggling by night we
Shall do without edges, dare he to look for
Weaponless warfare, and wise-mooded Father
25 The glory apportion, God ever-holy,
On which hand soever to him seemeth proper."
Then the brave-mooded hero bent to his slumber,
The pillow received the cheek of the noble;
And many a martial mere-thane attending
30 Sank to his slumber. Seemed it unlikely
That ever thereafter any should hope to
Be happy at home, hero-friends visit
Or the lordly troop-castle where he lived from his childhood;
They had heard how slaughter had snatched from the wine-hall,
35 Had recently ravished, of the race of the Scyldings
Too many by far. But the Lord to them granted
The weaving of war-speed, to Wederish heroes
Aid and comfort, that every opponent
By one man's war-might they worsted and vanquished,
40 By the might of himself; the truth is established
That God Almighty hath governed for ages
Kindreds and nations. A night very lurid
The trav'ler-at-twilight came tramping and striding.
The warriors were sleeping who should watch the horned-building,
45 One only excepted. 'Mid earthmen 'twas 'stablished,
Th' implacable foeman was powerless to hurl them
To the land of shadows, if the Lord were unwilling;
But serving as warder, in terror to foemen,
He angrily bided the issue of battle.

Dr. David Breeden's loose modern translation is at this link:

http://www.lnstar.com/...beowulf/beowulf2.htm

Then Hrothgar, protector
of the Danes, and his band
of warriors left the hall.
Hrothgar sought the queen's bed.

God, as men learned,
had chosen a man
who could fight Grendel.
The chief of the Geats,
indeed, trusted his strength
and God's favor.
Beowulf took off his armor,
off his helmet, handed
his figured sword to the attendant.
Beowulf, that good man, then
spoke some brave words
before he got in bed:
"I don't claim myself
any lower in strength or brave deeds
than Grendel. Therefore, I will
not kill him with a sword,
though I easily might.
Though he is famous for strength,
he knows no weapons to cut a shield.
If he chooses to forego a sword,
if he dares seek me without weapon,
then we two shall fight without,
and wise God, that king, shall
choose who shall win glory."

The battle-brave one lay down then,
a pillow received the warrior's face,
and his brave men sought rest
around him in the hall. Not one
thought he would seek home again,
see his people or birthplace.
Far too many Danes had already
died there. But the Lord would
give victory to the Geat people,
helping and supporting, so that
one man's craft overcame all.
(It is well known that God
always rules the race of men.)

Came then striding in the night
the walker of darkness.
In that gabled hall
the warriors slept,
those who guarded the hall. . .
all but one.

It was well known among men
that, if God willed it not,
no one could drag
that demon to the shadows.
But Beowulf watched
in anger, waiting
the battle's outcome.

Questions:

Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate? Isn't that a little too much information? Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?

Why are the soldiers in the hall going to bed? Don't they know Grendel is coming?

Is Beowulf foregoing weapons in order to make it a fair fight? Isn't this ironic, since Grendel cannot be hurt by swords? Does Beowulf discover the only way to hurt Grendel by sheer luck, or am I missing something?

If "not one" thought they would survive the battle to come, why did they come to the battle? Does "not one" include Beowulf?

What are "Wederish heroes"?

If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake?

There are several mentions of God in this relatively short passage, aren't there? I count five.

Any other comments?


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 12:06pm

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Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate? Isn't that a little too much information? Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?

I don't think this is specifically meant to be about sex (although that's clearly understood to be at the basis of the reference). Rather, it's a sign of Hrothgar's status. He's the one with whom this elegant, richly-attired and admirable hostess retires. She has been welcoming and hospitable to all, but now it's time to retire, and she goes with her husband, the King, while the rest of the guests retire alone (as far as I can see!). It's about the comfort of the conjugal bed, as a representation of the rights and honour of kingship, I think. (I may be being influenced by Heaney, who translates: "Hrothgar...left the mead hall to lie with Wealtheow, his queen and bedmate). I don't have any problem imagining Tolkien using a phrase like this for a similar purpose - although since Galadriel is the dominant partner, I'd imagine it being used the other way around.


Why are the soldiers in the hall going to bed? Don't they know Grendel is coming?

I suspect that you have to go to bed and make it look like everyone is tucked up for the night before Grendel will make an appearance.


Is Beowulf foregoing weapons in order to make it a fair fight? Isn't this ironic, since Grendel cannot be hurt by swords? Does Beowulf discover the only way to hurt Grendel by sheer luck, or am I missing something?

I think it's fate rewarding the brave. Beowulf seems to decide not to use weapons so as to make the combat more equal. And apparently by sheer chance (if chance you call it, as Gandalf might say) it's because he makes this decision that he prevails. It's a bit like Frodo refusing to defend himself against Gollum, perhaps. It seems completely illogical, and yet fortune favours the hero who doesn't try to take advantage of an enemy's weakness. In fact, Beowulf seems to imply that his decision might be a factor in earning God's favour in the battle - although he's careful to say only that God will decide as He sees fit, the fact that he mentions this right after his declaration about facing Grendel unarmed makes me think he's trying to earn God's (or fortune's) favour with this decision.


If "not one" thought they would survive the battle to come, why did they come to the battle? Does "not one" include Beowulf?

To be in the right state of mind to take on a challenge such as this, I think you have to accept the reality of your own death. Then you have nothing more to lose, and you can throw yourself totally into the fight. I think the Rohirrim do this too.


What are "Wederish heroes"?

Heaney translates as "Weather-Geats", which has been used before for Beowulf's people. I'd be interested to know what if anything the "weather" is that the people are called after. Storms maybe?


If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake?

They must be pretty good sleepers! I imagine the mead helped.... And they seem to take a fatalistic view as well: "it was widely understood / that as long as God disallowed it, / the fiend could not bear them to his shadow-bourne." (Heaney)


There are several mentions of God in this relatively short passage, aren't there? I count five.

God seems to stand in for fate. There seems to be an assumption that God is pulling the strings based on the worthiness of those involved, but I think this would work just as well if a pre-Christian sense of fate was at play. In fact, theologically this attitude towards God as micromanager seems a bit problematic really. Perhaps it really is just a Christianization of an earlier worldview.


Any other comments?


Both your translators have Beowulf 'angry' in the last lines of the passage. I assume that the Old English word relates to modern English 'angry', but I like Heaney's rendering of the last line better: "awake and on edge, spoiling for battle."

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 20 2007, 3:14pm

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Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate?

Where else is he going to sleep? He can’t sleep in the Heorot. In fact he hasn’t slept there in years. No wonder Wealhtheow was wishing someone like Beowulf would show up.


Isn't that a little too much information?

Historically husbands slept with their wives. Except in the 1950s where Ricky and Lucy Ricardo slept in separate beds. Anyway, husband and wife also indulge in pillow-talk, where they discuss things and try to solve problems together. And believe me, the Danes have a *lot* of problems!


Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?

Why do you think the Fellowship was blindfolded before they entered the Naith? Traditionally the female is the conduit to divine wisdom. And during “la petit morte” a guy can for a very brief moment glimpse that wisdom. And Tolkien said Celeborn was *veeeeery* wise. Just connect the dots.


Why are the soldiers in the hall going to bed? Don't they know Grendel is coming?

An experienced soldier knows you get sleep when you can.


Is Beowulf foregoing weapons in order to make it a fair fight? Isn't this ironic, since Grendel cannot be hurt by swords? Does Beowulf discover the only way to hurt Grendel by sheer luck, or am I missing something?

Shows you’ll win if you fight fair and honorably. I love FarFromHome's idea of chance connecting with Gandalf and Frodo's pity and all that.


If "not one" thought they would survive the battle to come, why did they come to the battle?

It’s their Wyrd. The worst thing anyone could do is to try to avoid the fate that the Norns wove for them. Like with the Numenoreans. See how much trouble they got into trying to avoid Eru’s gift of death?


Does "not one" include Beowulf?

Yep.


What are "Wederish heroes"?

Weders, Wedera, Wedra, Wederas, Wigana, or anything within reason. An alternative name for Geats, Geatas, Gautar, Goths, Gotar, Gøtar, Götar or anything else within reason. The way they interbred so much I’d be tempted to just call them all “Mutts”. My own personal theory is that way back when, Geat was the daddy and Wedera was the mommy.


If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake?

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)


There are several mentions of God in this relatively short passage, aren't there? I count five.

There are no atheists in foxholes. Or heorots.


Any other comments?

Is “The Glory of Kings” Hrothgar or God? I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

Re:
But the Lord to them granted
The weaving of war-speed.


More specifically, “wígspéda gewiofu”, or “war-speed weaving”.

Another merging of the pagan with the Christian. God weaves like the Norns. But in paganism weaving is the province of the female; it is the power of women to create and define the fabric of life, the universe, and everything. Look at the word “gewiofu”. or “wiofu”, or “wife”. Makes a nice circle back to Hrothgar and Wealhtheow.


if the Lord were unwilling

Or “þá metod nolde-se”.

“Metod” is “measurer of fate”, which takes us back to the Norns. “Nolde” is “willing or “wishing”. In Quenya “Noldor” means “those with knowledge”, but heck if I can see a connection.


Re:
But Beowulf watched
in anger, waiting
the battle's outcome.


Some think this should be:

But Grendel watched
in anger, waiting
the battle's outcome.


Three meals for the Elven-kings high on the sky flet,
Three for the Dwarf-lords meat ripe off the bone
Three for Mortal Men doomed to diet,
Seven for the Halflings of Hobbiton!
In the Land of the Shire where the Taters fry.
Seven meals to rule them all, seven meals to find them,
Seven meals to bring them all and at the Party bind them
In the Land of the Shire where the Taters fry.


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Jun 20 2007, 3:17pm)


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 21 2007, 12:37am

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Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate? Isn't that a little too much information? Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?

Maybe we just have dirty minds.

Perhaps the king went to spend the night with his wife to protect her? And I don’t think anyone in feudal societies had any illusion that a royal marriage didn’t include… making babies. After all, that’s the whole point of such a marriage.


If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake?

Maybe Beowulf’s men didn’t mean to fall asleep. I’m strongly reminded of the Apostles falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane. This may be just another way in which the poet can throw in a reference to Christianity.

~~~~~~~~

Coming up with reasons for changing my nick from GaladrielTX to Galadriel wore me out.



(This post was edited by Galadriel on Jun 21 2007, 12:38am)


Saelind
Lorien


Jun 29 2007, 2:05am

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Why does the poet tell us that Hrothgar is seeking his queen for a bedmate? Isn't that a little too much information? Can you imagine Tolkien telling us that Celeborn retired to seek Galadriel as a bedmate?
Tolkien wrote about procreation but kept sex for pleasure out of his writing for the most part. I can’t imagine him talking that way about any of his characters.

It’s not too much information. Adds a little “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” to the story. From the Maxims via Herbert again. “’The woman must thrive, loved by her people; she must be light-hearted, absolutely discreet.’” The text goes on to say, that the OE words rune healdom can be taken to mean that the queen doesn’t blab about any pillow talk the couple has. They have a complete relationship, spouses, rulers and lovers. Also, there is a real chance that Grendel might finally be defeated, wouldn’t you want to spend the night in hope with your partner?

Why are the soldiers in the hall going to bed? Don't they know Grendel is coming?
They know but what’s the point in staying up? They don’t think they will survive the night, “None of them expected he would ever see his homeland again or get back to his native place… They knew too well the way it was before,…” Heaney. And they trusted Beowulf and his abilities to overcome the monster. They will be there for back-up but this a mano-a-mano contest between Beowulf and Grendel.


Is Beowulf foregoing weapons in order to make it a fair fight? Isn't this ironic, since Grendel cannot be hurt by swords? Does Beowulf discover the only way to hurt Grendel by sheer luck, or am I missing something?
He does seem to take pity on Grendel by saying that Grendel knows nothing about the art of warfare. I also think he does it in part to win even more glory. It sounds so much more heroic to say, “I killed him with my bare hands,” than “I stabbed him with my sword.”

If "not one" thought they would survive the battle to come, why did they come to the battle? Does "not one" include Beowulf? It must have been some really good mead…Better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised. Also, no cockiness here. Unlike previous attempts to stop Grendel, these men have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for them. They are in it to support Beowulf and maybe win a little renown for themselves. A la “Henry V” . Darkstone’s point about fate leading them to this point is also well taken.

What are "Wederish heroes"? Ones that fate has blessed?

If everyone was scared except for Beowulf, why was Beowulf the only one who stayed awake? Drama! Ups the emotional antey for him to be the only one awake.

There are several mentions of God in this relatively short passage, aren't there? I count five. He is the arbiter of all things. And again is a mixing of pagan and Christian views on fate and who ultimately controls one’s destiny. I suspect the audience would not have noticed the difference as much as we do since there is quite a bit of separation between Christianity and paganism in modern times.

Any other comments? “The board is set, the pieces are moving…”

 
 

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