Breca the Bronding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Brecca the Bronding (sometimes spelled Breoca) was a Bronding who, according to the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, was Beowulf’s childhood friend. Breca defeated him in a swimming match.

While dining, Unferth alludes to the story of their contest, and Beowulf then relates it in detail, explaining how he needed to stop and defeat multiple sea monsters during the match.

Breca is also mentioned in Widsith as the lord of the Brondings.

The Brondings and Breca are believed to have lived on the island of Brännö outside of modern Gothenburg, a realistic location for a childhood friend of Beowulf.

Scholars have debated about whether Beowulf and Breca competed in a swimming match or a rowing match. Ambiguities in the translation of Beowulf have left scholars with multiple interpretations for the Beowulf-Breca "swimming" episode. Karl P. Wentersdorf of Xavier University writes, “An adventure in which two youths spend seven days and nights swimming at sea is more than extraordinary, particularly since they are carrying heavy iron swords and wearing cumbersome coats of chain mail.”[1] According to Wentersdorf, the trouble with translation “results from the ambiguity of the word sund in the lines ymb sund flite (507b) and he þeaet sunde oferflat (517b).”[2] Sund, though often translated by scholars as “swim” could, through evolution of language, be interpreted as “rowing.”[3] Beowulf and Breca could have been competing to see who was the more prodigious rower. The Old English term rowan, used in Beowulf, is not translated as “swim” in any other Anglo-Saxon poetry. The kennings earmum þehton (þeccean “to cover, conceal”) and mundum brugdon (bregdan “to pull, move quickly, swing, draw”) used by Unferth to describe Beowulf’s match against Breca are applicable to both swimming and rowing.[4] Unferth also uses the phrases wada cunnedon (508b), “made trial of the waters,” and glidon ofer garsecg (515a), “glided over the sea” during his description of Beowulf’s match against Breca.[5] Both terms are equally applicable to swimming and rowing. Rowing was an essential skill for warriors during the Anglo-Saxon era, thus a rowing competition between Beowulf and Breca would not have been out of the question.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Karl P. Wentersdorf, “Beowulf’s Adventure with Breca,” Studies in Philology 72, no. 2 (spring 1975): 141.
  2. ^ Karl P. Wentersdorf, “Beowulf’s Adventure with Breca,” Studies in Philology 72, no. 2 (spring 1975): 155.
  3. ^ Karl P. Wentersdorf, “Beowulf’s Adventure with Breca,” Studies in Philology 72, no. 2 (spring 1975): 159.
  4. ^ Karl P. Wentersdorf, “Beowulf’s Adventure with Breca,” Studies in Philology 72, no. 2 (spring 1975): 160.
  5. ^ Karl P. Wentersdorf, “Beowulf’s Adventure with Breca,” Studies in Philology 72, no. 2 (spring 1975): 161.