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Anglo-Saxon Culture - Beowulf

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Anglo-Saxon Culture – Beowulf

The Anglo – Saxons were tribes in the the year 410 and inhabited the area northern Germany and southern Denmark. They were among other people who were at the time invading the Roman Empire from three directions. They were generally called ‘Saxons’ by their neighbors. But the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ did not become common until the eighth century, when people on the continent started using it to distinguish between the inhabitants of Britain and the Saxons who remained in northern Germany.

By 500 AD, many of the invaders had settled. The Angles, Saxons, and another group of people called the Jutes had taken most of that area. Much has been discovered of the Anglo – Saxons , mostly because through Archeology. They have discovered a lot about them through their graves. They placed weapons and other personal things in their graves. For example, the most famous grave has to be “Mound 1” which is located at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, United Kingdom. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo/) It is most likely the cemetery of the kings of East Anglia. Archaeologistsare led to believe that they settled in this area because of a 30-foot oak ship that was discovered on the site with many objects buried with it. 

Throughout the epic poem Beowulf, we can see key essentials of the Anglo-Saxon Culture such as bravery, friendship, generosity, and loyalty. Probably the most important trait to them is loaylty. The Anglo-Saxons governing system was built on the fundamental of Loyalty. It shaped the very tribal culture in which they lived. This can be seen in the novel. It was Beowulf’s loyalty to the Danes that brought him to Hrothgar to defeat Grendel (Beowulf 112-115). Beowulf was being loyal to an alliance his uncle had made with Hrothgar. He sailed the seas to write his story: “ When we crossed the sea, my comrades and I , I already knew that all my purpose was to this: win the good will of your people of die in battle, pressed in Grendel’s fierce grip. Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in this hall welcome my death!”(Beowulf 364-369). Loyalty is so great that it is even seen on Grendel’s side. Grendel, the villain of this tale and his mother were loyal to each other as family is. After her son is killed, Grendel’s mother brought her wrath upon Hrothgar’s people by killing Aeschere. Generosity is another element of Anglo-Saxon culture as reflected in Beowulf when Hrothgar promised great riches to Beowulf for saving the Danes. Generosity also showed honor among warriors like the way Hrothgar honored Beowulf just for coming to see him, “But to table, Beowulf, a banquet in your honor: let us toast your victories and talk of the future.” (Beowulf, 223-224). In the story Beowulf boasts of his bravery by talking about his past battles and victories. He went against monsters with his bare hands. He was brave until the end. This reflects the ideals of Anglo-Saxon lifestyle. It’s safe to say that Beowulf’s bravery was best shown by his actions. “….He leaped into the lake, would not wait for anyone’s answer” (Beowulf, 570-571). Friendship, an element seen throughout this tale and in the Anglo-Saxon culture. “then that brave king gave the golden necklace from around his throat to Wiglaf, gave him his gold-covered helmet, and his rings, and his mail shirt, and ordered him to use them well” (Beowulf 817-820). This shows that he was so close to him and was given gifts. 

Anglo-Saxon Culture - Beowulf

Anglo-Saxon Culture – Beowulf – Throughout the epic poem Beowulf, we can see key essentials of the Anglo-Saxon Culture such as bravery, friendship, generosity, and loyalty. Probably the most important trait to them is loaylty. The Anglo-Saxons governing system was built on the fundamental of Loyalty. It shaped the very tribal culture in which they lived.Beowulf demonstrates a number of Anglo-Saxon beliefs which fall within the so-called "heroic code" of warriors. One of these is the idea that one must stay with his lord to the end—as demonstrated…The Anglo-Saxon epic stresses the physical world, fairness, boasting, love of glory, belief in wyrd, deep sense of loyalty to the tribe and the tribal leader, and the importance of generosity and bravery. The Anglo-Saxon value of fairness is reflected by Beowulf.

What Anglo-Saxon beliefs are present in Beowulf? – eNotes – Beowulft can help readers understand many characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon culture, such as the emphasis on hospitality, gift giving and mixing of pagan and Christian traditions. Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon poem that describes the heroic deeds of a warrior named Beowulf who belongs to a tribe called Geats.In the Anglo-Saxon culture, the epic poem "Beowulf" was a staple in the society, but by analyzing contents of this poem and Anglo-Saxon cultural values, it can be explained exactly why his story is used as a representation of culture. In order to begin, the story and characters of Beowulf must be analyzed.- a society organized into warrior tribes: Anglo-Saxon people were divided into tribes, with each tribe having its own ruler, or king. If you only take a look at Beowulf, you will see that Hrothgar and Beowulf come from different tribes, however, both of them are Anglo-Saxons.

What Anglo-Saxon beliefs are present in Beowulf? - eNotes

Free Essay: Anglo-Saxon Values in Beowulf – The passage features Anglo-Saxon culture because people are Then it was like old times in the echoing hall, proud talk and the people happy, loud and excited; until soon enough Halfdane's heir had to be away to his night's rest. He realized that the demon was going to descend on the hall, that he had plotted all day, from dawn-lightWhich statements accurately compare Beowulf and Grendel? Check all that apply. Both works are written in an Old English poetic style. Beowulf characterizes Grendel as bloodthirsty, but Grendel shows Grendel's gentler side. Beowulf is sympathetic to the humans, while Grendel shows the monster's perspective.Through the culture of the Anglo-Saxons, the Geats became barbaric figures unlike the Celtic people who resemble the five knightly virtues. Beowulf helps resemble the Anglo-Saxon culture through his passion, ambition, and courage as well as through the stories of his successes that he shares.

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Sue Takes on the Sutton Hoo Helmet | Curator's Corner S6 E5 #CuratorsCorner #SuttonSue #TheDig – I'm Dr Sue Brunning.
I'm the curator of
the European Early Medieval Insular Collection at the British Museum
and this is my Corner! [Music] Welcome to a very special edition of
Curator's Corner. Myself and my colleagues behind the
camera have stayed after hours at the Museum
in order to hold an audience with one of the most
famous archaeological discoveries ever made
and it is of course the amazing Sutton Hoo helmet. The helmet takes its name from the site
in Suffolk eastern England where it was discovered in 1939
as part of an amazing ship burial – 27 meter long ship that was buried beneath
the huge earth mound. And this burial took place in the
early 7th century so we're talking about the Anglo-Saxon period in England.
And the helmet was one of an array of grave goods that was laid out inside
that ship; things like gold and garnet metal work,
illustrious feasting equipment, drinking horns, silver
from the eastern Mediterranean and of course an array of glittering war
gear of which the helmet was the key piece. There are only about four
complete metal helmets that survive from this period
otherwise we only really have fragments of others and this one is the most
elaborate. But I think another reason why it is the
favourite object from the ship burial is simply because it has this amazing
human face. And I think that for a period of time
– you know 1500 years ago – and for people that can seem quite
remote from us this helmet, this human face, gives us a kind of a
relatable way into that period. And so what I thought we would do with
the helmet today is we would try to get inside the helmet. Try to look out
through the helmet's eyes at that world around
the people that were wearing and using and encountering this helmet.
And I think that would be a really fun thing for us to do
together tonight. Because I think that even though this helmet has this rather
inscrutable expression it really has an awful lot to tell us.
The first thing I thought I'd do is actually explain to you a little bit
about what you're actually seeing here because it's not potentially
as simple as you might expect. So what we have here is a
reconstruction of the helmet that was made in the early 1970s by a conservator
here at the British Museum called Nigel Williams.
And it was actually something that took a year of his life and the reason that
it was so difficult is because the helmet was discovered in
hundreds of fragments and that's because the burial chamber at Sutton Hoo
collapsed at some point and shattered the helmet into all of these fragments
and kind of created the world's most
difficult jigsaw puzzle. And the way that he pieced this together
was by matching curvature of those fragments and the
thickness of them and finding joins here and there whenever he could
to create the kind of piecemeal approach to the helmet and
actually pinning those pieces onto a plasticine head.
And the amazing thing to think about is that he didn't actually really know what
the end product should really look like very much because you know
it's a it's something that is as rare as I mentioned
earlier. And so by all of that piecemeal work he actually managed to create the
helmet eventually and piece it all back together into this amazing thing that
you can see in front of you now. And what we have here is a blend of
original and of modern pieces. So these lumpy
parts that you can see all around here and the facial fittings
everything that you can see down here those are the original parts
of the helmet and the smooth parts that are
interspersed here: those are the modern reconstructed parts.
And that's made from a very heavy duty jute textile that's covered with plaster
and the whole thing has been painted this brown colour so that it matches the
corroded colour of the iron pieces. Now you might be wondering: 'Why would we
use such a fragile material in order to create this reconstruction?' and the
reason is to make it reversible. Ao if we decided in the future based on
new research that the reconstruction was no longer as
accurate as we would like it to be we can actually take the whole helmet
apart without damaging those fragments and start again.
And in actual fact that has been done one time before. So this is the second
reconstruction of the helmet. The first one was undertaken in the
1940s by a conservator called Herbert Marion but unfortunately that
reconstruction was thought to be inaccurate and so the whole thing ended
up going back to the drawing board… Now we can take a slightly closer look
at the helmet itself. So this is the domed skull cap of the
helmet and we think this may have been made in
a single piece because the conservators were not able
to find the tell-tale joins that suggested that the helmet may
have been made in segments like other helmets of this type.
At the back behind me we have the sloping
neck-guard that protected the back of the neck.
On each side we have the cheek pieces which protected the cheeks and they're
on hinges so they were able to move around. Over the top
of the helmet we have this amazing iron crest which is actually in the form
of a two-headed snake. There's one head at the back here staring at me
and then another head at the front here. Now the form of this helmet is really
interesting because its closest parallels do not actually
come from England they come from a part of eastern Sweden known as Uppland which
is kind of up to the north east of Stockholm. There's a place there; two places called Vendel and Valsgärde
where other boat burials have been found a bit similar to what we find at Sutton
Hoo. And inside those burials we also find other equipment that looks a bit
like some of the finds at Sutton Hoo. So there appears to be some kind of connection
between this part of eastern England where Sutton Hoo is
and this part of eastern Sweden. But the reason that the helmets' shapes are quite
interesting is because their form their shape actually looks as if it's based
upon late-Roman types of helmet and one of
the theories about that is that northern European mercenaries
who were fighting in the late-Roman army brought back this equipment or the idea
of this equipment to their homes when they returned after fighting
and then locally made versions were made. There's also a Roman flavour to some of
the imagery that we find on the helmet. Now obviously as you can see it's very
fragmentary but originally we have to imagine that
the entire surface of the original helmet was covered in rectangular and
square and sort of oblong plaques that were all completely covered
with repoussé or pressed imagery. It covered the entire helmet. Was
absolutely dense with this imagery. Some of the images showed
human beings and other images showed animals. We have a wonderful
replica in the gallery at the Museum that you can come and see
a little bit about what it would have actually looked like in its heyday… but
I still think it's pretty magnificent. One of the scenes on the helmet, this
one that has a Roman flavour, shows a mounted warrior trampling over
his enemy crushed beneath his horse's hooves and
the enemy is just dealing a bit of a parting shot by
sticking his sword into the horse's breast. And at the back of the horse – sort
of perched on its rump – there's a mysterious third, small figure – human figure
– that's grasping onto the horseman's spear and
appears to be controlling it in some way. Now this imagery of the horseman
trampling his foe seems to have Roman roots we find it in
Roman art but this northern European version that
we find at Sutton Hoo and in those areas of Sweden which I mentioned
seems to have added a couple of details. So that detail of the enemy
doing the parting shot – sticking the sword into the horse – and that curious
third figure perched at the back of the horse and guiding the spear – the meaning
of it is not exactly clear, but it appears that those those changes
may have been made to make that particular scene
more relevant to the northern European, non-Roman people that were consuming it. And it's very interesting because it makes
a kind of unambiguous imagery of victory into something a little bit more
ambiguous. Both of those warriors, the rider and the person that's being
trampled, appear to be experiencing both victory
and defeat at the same time. Another image on the helmet is a little
bit more curious. It shows two human beings standing side by side
carrying a sword and a pair of spears and the most
fabulous headgear. It's kind of like this this horned piece or headdress or
something like that and each horn ends in two fierce birds
of preys' heads. Now we don't really know what
these people are representing, but we do know that they turn up in the art not
just at Sutton Hoo but in other parts of northern and north-western Europe as well.
Some people interpret it as some kind of ritual performance –
the men are not kind of facing each other as if they're warring with each
other – they're standing side by side and their legs are kicking out so they
appear to be moving. Some people have seen this perhaps as
some kind of ritual dance that's connected with traditional,
that is pre-Christian beliefs and cultural practice,
we really don't know for certain I'm afraid. It's one of those enduring
mysteries. But I think that what we can see with
this imagery based on what we've looked at just now
is that we can see the imagery is showing us these connections between the
past and the present between different regions and cultures, different times.
The helmet is not just home to a lot of strange human beings
it's also a veritable menagerie of creatures.
There are so many animals that are kind of depicted all over this helmet. There's
lots of interlacing creatures on some of the other panels covering the body of
the helmet but the thing I really want to talk to
you about today is these facial fittings and this great
crest that's running over the top of the helmet.
So this crest is a functional piece it's made of iron. It's very solid. It would
have been able to deflect any blows but it's actually also a great serpent.
So you'll be able to see at the front here the serpent's head and
it has two of these heads there's also one at the back that's
staring at me right now – it's a little bit disconcerting. So we have this
strange two-headed creature not really like anything that you find in nature
with these staring eyes made from two garnets.
And then there are also three other creatures on the front of the helmet
they take a little bit of puzzling in order to see them.
If I invite you to look at the human face
the more you look at it the more you might begin to see that actually it's
not just a human face it's a flying creature. So we can see the
head of the creature here coming up to meet
the crest of that snake. Coming down then those eyebrows actually
become the creature's wings. The nose becomes
its body. And the little curved moustache becomes
its tail. And what we're left with is this flying
creature that's soaring up front of the helmet
and each one of its wings is lined with these red garnets so it's almost
as if those wings are flaming away there. But at the ends of each one of those
eyebrows we also have boars heads with these sharp tusks – very strange. But
boars appear to have some kind of special connection with helmets during
this period. So two of the other helmets that we have that survive from this
period are also emblazoned with boar motifs and the famous
early medieval poem Beowulf also describes helmets that are emblazoned
with boars and those helmets are impenetrable
because of those boar motifs. Now if you're able to come around the
side of the helmet here and look at the sides of the dragon like
creature and the snake that's coming down the centre
of the crest here you'll actually be able to see that
they're not just passively meeting noses and having kind of like a quite nice
conversation they've not just been laid there
sides of their faces are full of teeth so they're baring their teeth as if
they're almost ready to tear each other apart
and what we have here are a set of creatures that are predators
they're very difficult to deal with you wouldn't really want to cross them they
have these very strong aggressive qualities these qualities
actually that any leader of this period would have aspired to and by wearing a
helmet like this that is covered with this aggressive imagery
he's really saying (DEATH METALLLL!!!) I AM LIKE THE DRAGON I AM LIKE THE SNAKE
CROSS ME AT YOUR PERIL So I'd like us to return briefly to the eyebrows of the helmet
because they contain another surprise each one of the eyebrows is lined with
red garnets and they're a semi-precious gemstone
that was very popular in high status metal work of this period
now normally each one of these garnets would be backed with a gold
foil and the reason for that would be that the light would shine into the
garnet it would catch on that gold foil and
then it would reflect back out and glow red I think the best
example that I've heard is is of a bike reflector now you may remember in my
previous video about the Sutton Hoo sword hilt we spoke a little bit about
those kinds of effects and the use of those garnets and those gold foils and
it's a similar effect that we're finding with the helmet here but there's
something strange going on with the eyebrows of this helmet the
garnets on the proper right side this eyebrow here those
garnets all have those foils behind them but the ones on the left side here they
don't have those foils so in practice generally what that would
mean is that the right side would have been a bit
more glittery a bit more glowy in certain scenarios such as possibly the
flickering fire light of the mead hall and this side where the foils
are not present would have been left in darkness
so in other words the helmet may have
appeared as if it was one-eyed would this be something that
was just the result of a repair or could it have
been something that was a little bit more deliberate
well a really interesting paper was written in the last few years by a
couple of experts called Paul Mortimer and Neil Price
and they argued that this was actually deliberate
and their point was what we might be looking at here
is a reference to the early god Wōden who's better known by his Scandinavian
name of Odin. Now in Norse mythology Odin quite
famously gave up one of his eyes in order to gain
wisdom and that one-eyedness then became one of his
defining attributes and it's something actually that's lasted down to the
present day so that's why in the marvel movies
in those Thor movies Odin actually has an eye patch so what we might be seeing
here is an attempt to connect the wearer of
the helmet with wooden so possibly to invoke
Wōden's protection to absorb Wōden's particular strength
maybe even at the extreme to even describe or show the the wearer
of the helmet is actually like or becoming Wōden himself
these sorts of ideas start to lead us away from the physical aspects of the
helmet towards more sensory considerations
about what it was actually like to wear this helmet now we estimate that
it probably weighed about two and a half kilograms so it was
pretty heavy you know it was you know literally heavy where's the crown you
know it's something that you had to bear on
top of your head you would never forget that you were wearing it
but also we can see that the helmet is completely enclosed
so we have all of these guards surrounding the head and that actually
would have affected and altered all of your senses
so your sense of vision your hearing your sense of smell even
your voice may have been altered by the very wearing of the helmet
I think everything may have been slightly muffled slightly
dreamlike almost and that makes me wonder whether
it kind of put the wearer into a slightly different mental state whether
you felt like you were transformed whether you felt like you were kind of
transported into another world or were becoming another being you were not
yourself when you were wearing this helmet
and I think those kinds of ideas are just really fascinating
and if we flip that over we can also think about what it was like to actually
encounter this helmet now I don't know about you but I'm
fairly intimidated sitting here and looking at this thing you know it's got
such a huge presence and particularly if we think about the
fact that these metal helmets at the time
may have been quite rare so it wouldn't have been every day that you would see
somebody wearing something like this we can also imagine this person wearing
the coat of mail armour that was also found in the burial
carrying that huge shield which itself was covered with lots of metal wielding
the huge sword that I spoke about in the previous episode of curator's corner
so this person is completely covered in metal wielding metal they would almost
have looked like they were no longer a human being that was made of flesh and
blood it's like they're made of metal like
there's some kind of impenetrable super being and I think that those kinds
of ideas also added an extra power to this helmet
this has a bearing on what's probably the most common question that I'm asked
about the helmet and that is could this thing ever have been worn in
battle well you probably won't be surprised to
know that we don't actually know the answer but we can weigh up the
probabilities so let's do that together one of the theories is that the helmet
is far too ornate in order to have ever been used in
battle surely this was some kind of parade helmet but really I think that
that's our value judgment we might not
necessarily be prepared to risk something like this and damaging it in
battle that doesn't necessarily mean that they
didn't they had different priorities different ideas different concerns
different ways of thinking about things and so that might have led them to use
this helmet in a different way than we ourselves might be prepared to use it
you know this is a time when this kind of display this kind of
imagery is actually really important really powerful
and not all of those battles are actually fought on the battlefield
so sadly that's almost all the time that we have to spend with this wonderful
helmet believe it or not this is only the
second time that I've ever seen the helmet
outside of its display case in more than 10 years working at the British Museum
so really this is kind of like a once in a decade experience that we've been
sharing so thank you for spending this time
with me and with this wonderful helmet and I hope that after everything we've
looked at in this episode we can start to put the person actually
back inside the helmet and maybe we can start to see a pair of
eyes staring at us through those black voids in the face mask there
and we can start to really see a personality start to emerge on that very
inscrutable face if you've enjoyed my corner then
please check out the two other curators corners I've done
one about Anglo-Saxon swords and one about the Sutton Hoo sword
specifically plus lots of other corners have been
created by my colleagues here at the British Museum
and please subscribe to our YouTube channel where you can find all of those
things oh and thank you very much for giving a
name to my wonderful foam sword so behold FLEXCALIBUR!! .

C21 Series: "Adapting Beowulf" – Dr. Craig Jordan-Baker – PART 3 Beowulf and Adaptation – .

Unearthing the Anglo Saxons – .