While I was reading Beowulf, the following passage particularily intrigued me:
“So they went on their way.Â The ship rode the water,
broad-beamed, bound by its hawser
and anchored fast.Â Boar-shapes flashed
above their cheek-guards, the brightly forged
work of goldsmiths, watching over
those stern-faced men.Â They marched in step,
hurrying on till the timbered hall
rose before them, radiant with gold.
Nobody on earth knew of another
building like it. Majesty lodged there,
its light shone over many lands.” (300-311)
Â I found myself running this scene through in my mind like a movie hours after reading it.Â I feel the imagery here is undeniably grand and beautiful. Â For a moment, I forgot I was reading a piece of epic poetry for school. I wasn’t paying attention to the meaning of every single word, I just read it as if it were a novel I had chosen to read in my spare time. The language created this powerful vision of the ship rising and falling on the sea as Beowulfâ€™s party unloaded onto new terrain, marching powerfully in step with looks of determination on their faces as they followed the fearless Beowulfâ€¦ It excited me! Because story was potentially written to be told orally to a group of people shows how important it was that the author created vivid imagery for the mind to play with.Â This passage makes me feel like whoever the author was did a pretty decent job!
What most interested me, however, was Heorot. I loved reading about the moment the group first set eyes on the mead hall, ornamented in gold, glinting sunlight off of its surface like a beacon of light up on a hill.Â I decided to look into the name Heorot to see if I could learn more about this place and why it was so majestic, more-so than anybody on earth knew of at that time as mentioned in line 309? Â I went here and learned that the name Heorot means â€œHall of the Hartâ€; hart being a medieval word for male deer.Â I also found some artwork done of the supposed Heorot in which its roof was adorned with a buckâ€™s antlers.
I decided to look further into the meaning of the male deer in the Middle Ages seeing as it looks to be important. I found that the hart was a highly respected animal, and had “great symbolicÂ and mythologicalÂ significance in that time period“. It was often compared to ChristÂ for its suffering as it was often hunted by man or dogs although it was the king of the forest. I found it interesting that the name of this mead hall was actually named after something that too experienced suffering. Just as Christ and the male deer suffer by being crucified and hunted, Grendel preyed ruthlessly on the people sleeping in the mead hall every night. The name is obviously very symbolic. Â This makes me wonder if Heorot was named before or after Grendel began to wreak havoc on its people? I also wonder what other names or allusions to Christianity are made throughout the text that we have not picked up on, and if the people who this story was initially written for would have picked on on such references, especially in the time of transition from paganism to emphasis on Christianity?
Beowulf.Â Translated by Seamus Heaney. p.48. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed.Â The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume A The Middle AgesÂ 9thÂ ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.