Anonymous: Beowulf

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Source:  "Anonymous: Beowulf", in Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, Volume 1: Ancient Times to the American and French Revolutions (Prehistory-1790s), edited by Joyce Moss and George Wilson, Gale Research, 1997. Accessed 02/07/2001

Source Database:  Literature Resource Center

The Early Anglo-Saxons

Why should the English compose and preserve a long poem about a foreign people? One reason is that the poem champions values that were also important to the early Anglo-Saxons of Britain: bravery, loyalty, and devotion to the community. It is difficult to convey just how challenging the lives of the earliest Anglo-Saxons were. Every day was a battle to survive. The Anglo-Saxons lived in huts and dressed in animal skins to protect themselves against the miserable, bone-chilling dampness of the weather. They eked out an existence by farming the land, hunting, and venturing forth on dangerous, turbulent seas to fish. When they weren't scraping together a skimpy existence, they were fighting neighboring tribes and clans. These tough conditions created strong ties within tribes and encouraged intense loyalty to clan leaders. The environment also contributed to the high esteem in which the inhabitants held individual bravery, a quality they honored above all others.

The history of early Britain is one of foreign domination. The Angles and Saxons from the lowlands of Europe took over the rule of England (Angle-land) between 450 and 550 A.D. Viking invaders from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway made their presence felt as well, constantly raiding England during the period in which the poem was written. These seafaring warriors, descendants of

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