By Jennifer Gardner
Master’s Thesis, Western Carolina University, 2006
Abstract: This historical novella charts the events as they unfold within Beowulf through the eyes of the minor character Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s Helming Queen. The novella tries to remain as historically accurate to the culture of fifth and sixth century Scandinavia, for this is when most scholars agree the historical events of Beowulf unfolded. This fictional account of the Beowulf-poem presents the story within a different genre in hopes of creating an environment that is vivid and more easily accessible to modern readers, especially young adult readers, not only referencing Scandinavian culture but also the role of Anglo-Saxon women.
Introduction: My goal in writing this fictional novella is twofold: to make Beowulf more accessible to modern readers and to expound upon the less articulated female point of view in the poem. As a result, I try to create a culture that is as vibrant as the reader’s own and transmit the plausible thoughts and actions of a woman living in Scandinavia during the fifth and sixth centuries. Thomas Prendergast states that “Beowulf has a bad reputation,” because of the “lack of pleasure that readers take in the Anglo-Saxon work”. I want to change this perception for those who are familiar with Beowulf and for future readers of the poem.
Fiction, like nothing else, materializes foreign or imagined realms within a reader’s mind, drawing on the imagination to help create the unfolding story and generating a world that is exceedingly personal and familiar. Because fiction writing functions in this way, it is highly conducive to the learning process, promoting facts and historical data that can effortlessly, successfully, and memorably be transmitted to readers of any age, but particularly to young adults.
The target audience for this novella is primarily the young adults who read Beowulf in High School or College. I envision this novella as a tool for educators who can use the story to further explore early Scandinavian history and issues within Beowulf. Beyond the realm of academia and teaching, the novella is largely fictionalized as to make it interesting to readers of any age who may not be studying Beowulf or have no interest in the poem. The discussion of supernatural beings, the attack of monsters, and the battles and violence that the characters face create a science-fiction atmosphere that is vastly popular in today’s media. As a result, the novella encompasses a broad audience.