Anglo-Saxon Epic

  • Beowulf is the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon poem.  It was written some time between the 8th and 11th century.
  • It is an epic-- a long narrative poem about the adventures of the hero Beowulf.  It has 3182 lines.
  • The epic is filled with alliteration, kennings and caesuras.  
  • The epic, Beowulf, was not written down until many years after it first originated.  It was what is known as oral tradition.  In early times there was no alphabet, so literature was passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth.  A bard (story teller) usually told the stories and often music played in the background.
  • When it was written down, it was most likely written down by a monk (a man of the Christian faith who lived in a monastery), and it was written in Old English.  
  • Examples of Old English:  waes = was; Scyld = Shield; ealle = all; fram = from.
  • Only one manuscript exists today, and it is located in the British Library in London.
  • Beowulf was set in 6th century Scandinavia which is now Denmark and Sweden.
  • This epic was based on loyalty and bravery.  It also contains both Pagan and Christian ideas and beliefs.