Beowulf, Orality and the Anglo-Saxon Conversion
Fahey, Richard N.
Grimwizard.wordpress.com: College of Arts and Sciences Honors Thesis, University of Vermont, May, 1 (2008)
Beowulf, the famous tale recorded in Old English, is a metrically intricate work of art and the longest poem written in the impressive Anglo-Saxon vernacular tradition, which was the largest in early medieval Europe and was derived heavily from an oral culture. The story begins with the mythic founding of the Shieldings, when Sclyd Shefing as an infant arrives in Denmark on a ship filled with gold. After a brief mention of Scyld’s many noble deeds, the poet tells of his funeral ship which carried his body out to sea in a boat full of treasure, a great honor. The reader is then whisked away to Heorot, the mighty hall of the Shielding king, Hrothgar “the Wise.” This lord is a great ring-giver, and men flock to his ranks, but soon Heorot comes under attack by a villainous fiend, the monstrous cannibal named Grendel. This monster is labeled a descendant of Cain, the biblical slayer of his brother Abel. For this antisocial action Grendel and all his kin are banished and roam the swamplands and wilds of Denmark.