Talk:Beowulf (hero)

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Bödvar Bjarki[edit]

"His story overlaps the saga of Hrólf Kraki where he corresponds to a certain extent to the Scandinavian hero Bödvar Bjarki."

Beowulf and Bjarki only corresponds by the first letter, nothing else.

In the Scandinavian original of "Beowulf", the Beowulf figure was Fróði. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Haabet (talkcontribs) 08:37, 23 September 2004

Please, Haabet, do some reading before you make statements like that. A polite word of advice.--Wiglaf 15:04, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Wiglaf, you appear to be obsessed with the Beowulf/Hrolfs saga parallels. You are in a minority. See e.g. Bjork&Niles, A Beowulf Handbook, pp. 131-2, which quotes a withering assault by Larry Benson on the theory and concludes, "Hrólfs saga kraka has vanished from the docket. ... [This is] the result of the intrinsic inconclusiveness of the comparison." In other words, the theory exists and should be mentioned in an encyclopedia - but it is not proven, it is not even generally accepted, and it should not be given special prominence in the first sentence of an article for a general audience. I have edited accordingly.
—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 23:10, 9 April 2005
Wow, it's really no big deal. You're free to work on every single article to check for POV phrases. BTW, if these two traditions are based on the same original traditions, how on earth can anybody expect 100% alignment? The traditions would be separated by hundreds of years and transmitted orally. If you expect conclusive alignment why bother studying legends?--Wiglaf 23:31, 9 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I am quite suprised that this alignment is so infected. For someone who approaches the issue from the perspective of Norse mythology, it seems like a straightforward alignment. There are many alignments within Norse mythology that are undisputed. However, if treated with the extreme demands for conclusive alignment that some demand in this matter, it would lead to the complete desintegration of most knowledge of Norse mythology. The Beowulf and Hrolf Kraki alignments do not only concern events, but also a host of personal names. There were 100s of Germanic names in circulation (this linguistic analysis of Proto-Norse personal names in Beowulf and Swedish rune stones[[1].] is in Swedish but anyone can read the list of names), so the probability that the personal names (and their relationships) would be a matter of coincidence is so low so as to be insignificant. If anyone would like to compare this particular aligment with the variations within uncontested alignments, see Heoroweard, any POV is based on the scholarly works cited.--Wiglaf 07:31, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)

English / Modern Spellings[edit]

Would it be worthwhile to include the English spellings of the proper names along with the ones that are now there? Something could also be done on how the names have changed from the original to today. Just a thought...

I've tried to look up something about it, but apparently I couldn't find any consistencies in modern English

We could add "modern" spellings, but it could cause a "soup of names" in they eye of the reader. I think Anglo-Saxon spelling is preferable since is much more explicit and tells the read how to pronounce the name. The TH in Heatholaf (the phoneme Ð) is different from that in Ohthere (the two phonemes T and H).--Berig 14:18, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Mythological King[edit]

About category selection: I don't understand why he can't be both a legendary king and mythological king at the same time? I think he is also a mythological king of the dark ages as he went beyond legend of an ordinary man to become the allegory of 'kingship' who faught with monsters and dragons. I just read a chapter on Beowulf in the book "Storytelling & Mythmaking: Images from Film & Literature" by Frank McConnell: McConnell who gives Beowulf as the example of the epic King and mythological king because of the allegorical performed to the people making the world safe from chaos. I put this on the talk page for people to discuss. Goldenrowley 19:25, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Sure, if you insist on categorizing him as mythological, you can do that. I am not impossible. My reasons for objecting to it is the fact that Scandinavian kings from the 6th century and onwards enter the realm of semi-historicity. Hygelac is widely accepted as based on a historic figure, and the contemporary Swedish king Ohthere is often called the "first historic king of Sweden". You can find older scholarship where Beowulf is held to have been a historic figure as well. Moreover, AFAIK, legend is distinguished from myth due to the fact that legend takes place in real world settings, and was at the time it was composed held to be almost historical if not outright historical, like Beowulf.--Berig 19:36, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I added a short section on Beowulf as a mythological figure. The myth is that he faught a dragon. After research, historical and legendary men can become mythological men, in the oral traditions a lot of myth may start to build out of their life story. In this sense King Arthur is the best example I can think of another man who became a mythological king. Hopefully with the citation it is a good addition. Goldenrowley 05:26, 16 December 2006 (UTC)


There seems to be a current debate of successor (Sigelac or Wiglaf). I reverted to Succeeded by: Wiglaf??. In the epic itself, not any reproductions or fictionalizations, Wiglaf stood beside him in his final battle. The epic suggests the kingship would pass to Wiglaf. Goldenrowley 19:12, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, who would succeed Beowulf would have been decided by the Thing of all Geats, where the freemen would decide whom among the candidates had the most noble origins and was best fit for the job. Beowulf himself was elected because his mother had belonged to the Geatish royal family (compare Sweyn Estridsson). Wiglaf could not claim such origins, as he was only a relative of Beowulf's.--Berig 19:18, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
It is a question, true, but seems stronger than Sigelac...& isn't it possible Wiglaf as a relative of Beowulf is just as noble and "best fit for the job"?. Well, my humble opinion comes from my college professor and McConnel. The Sigelac opinion seems to come from "Beyond Beowulf" but that "is a modern sequel"...fictional, right? If a historical reference discussing the claims to successor can be located and then a sentence added to the article discussing the possible heirship, it would make the article stronger. Goldenrowley 23:31, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
Sigelac is totally out of the question. Sure, Wiglaf may be as fictive as Sigelac, but genuine legend should take precedence over modern novels. In order to become elected a Germanic king, you needed royal blood, or at least to be married to the daughter of the former king (e.g. Stenkil). In one case, a king got elected because the former king was married to his sister, but that was a case of religious desperation (Blot-Sweyn). As I see it, the only way Wiglaf could become king would be to assemble a warband and kill anyone who opposed him as king. Harald Fairhair did just that when Viken preferred the Swedish king instead of him, and Norse legends tell of a few tough guys who became kings of Sweden that way (Haki and Sölve). However, they were killed very soon. AFAIK, Wiglaf's chances to become king should have been very slim.--Berig 23:42, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Move by CyberGhostface[edit]

CyberGhostface moved this page from "Beowulf (hero)" to "Beowulf (fictional character)". He may have moved the page due to the new and less heroic image that has been given to Beowulf in the new movie. However, I object to the use of "fictional character" in the name, since IMHO, there is a difference between fictional characters and legendary characters. Superman is fictional since he appears in works of fiction with identifiable authors. Legendary characters, OTOH, like King Arthur and Beowulf have no identifiable original authors and there is scholarship which discusses their possible historic origins.--Berig (talk) 16:18, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

I haven't even seen the movie, and even before then I didn't consider Beowulf to be a hero. (My sympathies lie more with Grendel) But that's beside the point. I think this is the only article I've seen with a POV term added in the parentheses. 90% of the time its either "fictional character" or the work that the character appeared in. If 'fictional character' doesn't suit your purposes then I suggest 'legend' instead. I won't revert your edits yet but I'll bring it up at a noticeboard.--CyberGhostface (talk) 17:41, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Alright, I made a discussion about this at the Administrator's noticeboard.--CyberGhostface (talk) 17:51, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Don't you think discussing the name here first would be more reasonable? Notifying the ANI looks a bit excessive.--Berig (talk) 17:55, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
I suppose, but the ANI might get more perspective from people who aren't as involved in this article and know more about the fiction guidelines.--CyberGhostface (talk) 18:05, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
An admin has left a note that this discussion is off-topic on ANI[2]. I think "Beowulf (legend)" is a bit too ambiguous as a name since it looks like it could refer to the epic as well. Do you have any other suggestions?--Berig (talk) 18:22, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
How about Beowulf (king). Character seems to make him fictional. King covers both fictional and historical without the possible POV of hero. (John User:Jwy talk) 18:35, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Well, there were two king Beowulf in the poem. One of them was a Danish king, a predecessor of Hrothgar. That king Beowulf is mentioned in lines 18-19. How about "Beowulf, king of the Geats"?--Berig (talk) 18:51, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
But is the other King Beowulf notable enough for inclusion if he's only on two lines? Does he have an article?--CyberGhostface (talk) 19:54, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
The other king Beowulf is notable enough for inclusion, and one of the reasons is that there is an academic debate on whether he was originally Beow or Beowulf. According to one theory the addition of -ulf was a scribal error. Here's an online article which follows the Beow theory. However, the problem is not whether the other one is worthy of an article but the fact that "Beowulf (king)" is ambiguous given that there were two king Beowulf who are both treated in scholarly literature.--Berig (talk) 20:02, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
"Fictional character" is of course correct. The character is only known from one literary work. /Pieter Kuiper (talk) 20:41, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
I am with Berig on this one. There's enough fact in this fiction to stay away from the "fictional character" tag unless the article was only about controversy surrounding was may or may not be fictional about the poem. The "King of the Gaets" sounds better. :bloodofox: (talk) 22:04, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
So far this article is mostly about his role in Beowulf. Even if there was some factual information doesn't change the fact that he's primarily a fictional character.--CyberGhostface (talk) 22:53, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
I have added additional information specific to the figure of Beowulf to reinstate the logic of having this page separate from the main page. It should focus entirely on the figure and the numerous studies surrounding it. :bloodofox: (talk) 00:55, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
Oh, don't worry, my argument has nothing to do with merging the article, just changing the title. :) --CyberGhostface (talk) 01:07, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
Woops, sorry! Looks like I became confused.. too many windows! :bloodofox: (talk) 01:16, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

How about this word for a compromise - protagonist. A protagonist can be fictional or based on fact, it implies that the figure is the central character (to avoid confusion with the other use of the name), and it is clearly NPOV. Beowulf (protagonist) would thus be my best suggestion. Regards, -Classicfilms (talk) 02:47, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Support. A good suggestion, I think we should go with it. :bloodofox: (talk) 03:15, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
So should we move it to (King of the Geats) or (protagonist)?--CyberGhostface (talk) 17:06, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
The NPOV choice would be (protagonist), but the difference with (hero) seems hardly worth the effort. /Pieter Kuiper (talk) 20:19, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Merge with Beowulf[edit]

A lot of this information about Beowulf and his story is also listed under Beowulf the epic poem. It's been my experience in Wiki that editors try not to repeat information. Just something to think about and likely shoot down. 10/10/05 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 01:45, 11 October 2005

As the only primary source mentioned in this article is the poem Beowulf I do not see the reason for this article. Can someone explain to me what I am failing to understand and so giving a justification why this article should exist. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 20:44, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
It is not just the character of the protagonist. Every minor figure and object seems to have its own article - see List of characters and objects in Beowulf. Following the exempel of the Harry Potter afficionados? /Pieter Kuiper (talk) 21:05, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Beowulf's certainly not the only character article with only one source to back him up. There a number of articles on Shakespearian characters (like Iago) who have only one appearence, and Grendel has one as well. Considering that Beowulf is a fairly significant character in literature I don't see why he shouldn't have his own article.--CyberGhostface (talk) 21:09, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Oppose. The figure is the source of much study. This material would not be appropriate for the article for the manuscript and is best discussed here. :bloodofox: (talk) 22:00, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Please could you identify the specific material in this article are you think "would not be appropriate for the article" Beowulf? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 22:42, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
As it stands, the article basically replicates the plot line from the article it is from. What it does need is historical parallels and an etymology section discussing the controversy around the name. These things, for example, would not be appropriate for the manuscript's article outside of a brief summary and a "main" tag and should be placed here. :bloodofox: (talk) 22:51, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
I have since worked to improve this issue. :bloodofox: (talk) 00:56, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
I do not understand the value of speculative etymologies. The name itself has no importance in the work. /Pieter Kuiper (talk) 15:13, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Oppose The figure of Beowulf has also appeared in several modern books and movies. This is the major protaganist for several works, and deserves a page. --lk (talk) 08:45, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

See also Talk:Beowulf#Merge proposal for a formal request -- {{mergeto}} -- for a merger. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 07:23, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

merge pending the presentation of enough material to warrant a separate article. So far, everything in this article properly belongs in the main one. The burden of establishing the need for a dedicated article lies with those wishing to keep it separate. dab (𒁳) 10:52, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

As mentioned by Philip, the proper place for the merge discussion is at Talk:Beowulf#Merge proposal. Be sure your options are listed there if you want your opinion counted in the proposal. THanks. - BillCJ (talk) 06:51, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Beowulf in Popular Culture?[edit]

I think the article needs a section about Beowulf in more modern works. There have now been several modern books and movies in which Beowulf appears. Any objections to starting such a section? --lk (talk) 08:47, 19 November 2007 (UTC)


From Philip Baird Shearer's talk page
Hello, would you please place fact tags precisely where you are requesting citations on the Beowulf (hero) article? :bloodofox: (talk) 11:51, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

  • I see you've added two tags. However, I am confused about the first one. Isn't it obvious a number of etymologies have been proposed? Is it the wording that you are questioning? If so, what would you prefer? "A number" rather than "numerous"?
I have reworded the terms for neutrality, though I think tagging the word "numerous" when three examples are given below (and I could dig up at least a few more) with a citation tag is a bit much. Is there somewhere else you'd like citations or rewording? :bloodofox: (talk) 12:08, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
exactly providing there are more than one a number is not WP:SYN. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 12:13, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
No I am requesting a citation for the claim "The most commonly accepted etymology" and "An oft repeated etymology for Beowulf" is not acceptable because who says it is often repeated? BTW You can not use Google searches because that is WP:OR. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 12:13, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
I have since rephrased the section, which should be more neutral now. :bloodofox: (talk) 12:19, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
 :-) --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 12:22, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
You might consider adding two more sources. Frederick Klaeber's introduction (in his translation) is important for its vast influence on Beowulf scholarship and the section, "The Historical Elements" has some useful information. Richard North's, 2006 text "The Origins of Beowulf" (which is discussed on the Beowulf talk page) has useful information on the character of Beowulf beyond etymology and is worth a look. -Classicfilms (talk) 14:58, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
Wrenn's edition of Beowulf has a note on the subject at the first occurence of the name (as the Danish king; he emends to Beow); I presume others do too. Such notes are some of the best references for the preponderance of scholarly opinion. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:36, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
I removed a lot of citations that seemed unneeded (I.e, the story itself does not need citations when explained). "Apparently" has been removed. I kept a few and undid one edit, as the burial site and Hrólf Kraki do need citations. Revert them if you wish, it just seems uneeded to put citations where a story/epic/book/etc are explained. IronCrow 06:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Earliest English literature?[edit]

The introduction states that Beowulf is "the oldest surviving piece of literature in the English language." This of course is not verifiable, and these days few Beowulf scholars would venture to defend this idea (at least, they wouldn't do so in print). The statement is a particular problem for this Wikipedia article because the Beowulf (poem) article states quite clearly that Beowulf "has variously been dated to between the 8th and the early 11th centuries," and that "Opinion differs as to whether the composition of the poem is contemporary with its transcription, or whether the poem was composed at an earlier time and orally transmitted for many years, and then transcribed at a later date." I suggest the statement be deleted. In any case, such a claim has no relevance to an article on the character of Beowulf.Eltheodigraeardgesece (talk) 03:42, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Parts of the article too "in universe"[edit]

Having just glanced through the debate (above) about whether this article should discuss Beowulf as an historical figure or a fictional one, it seems all the more unfortunate that parts of this article discuss the purely fictional aspects of the Beowulf persona as if they were fact. In this regard, the discussion of Beowulf's fights with the 3 monsters need to be recast: a disclaimer at the beginning of the Beowulf (poem)-narrative may be appropriate; also, putting the verbs in present tense will help un-factualize the account ("they ARE terrorized by the monstrous Grendel", "Beowulf finally SLAYS the dragon"). In fact, perhaps the best way to deal with the present article would be to preface it with a note on how the article seeks to explore the historical reality (if any) of Beowulf, but that a paucity of evidence forces the use of the poem as quasi-historical witness... Something like that anway, and get the problem out of the way up front. Eltheodigraeardgesece (talk) 04:04, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Historical parallels section problematic[edit]

As the discussions on identifying the meaning of Beowulf's name imply, the "[historical] figure of Beowulf" can't actually be identified, at least with any degree of precision. There is a problem, then, with saying that he "corresponds" to "other contemporary figures." Also, as I note in the previous thread-but-one, the poem is by no means proven to be as old as once thought; thus, the statement that "centuries of oral traditions have modified a number of events" is completely without base. The idea as expressed even goes on to assume that it once was, or ever could be, "possible to find 100% matches between Beowulf and Scandinavian sources." The entire sentence should be removed. I suppose a suitable replacement discussion could be culled from sentences in the Origins for Beowulf and Hrólf Kraki article. Eltheodigraeardgesece (talk) 04:14, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Grettir the Strong[edit]

Parallels between Beowulf and Grettir the Strong (Grettis Saga) would be especially relevant in this article. I'm thinking specifically of claims such as are dealt with in Magnus Fjalldal's book The Long Arm of Coincidence (though Fjalldal seeks to downplay many of these parallels). Eltheodigraeardgesece (talk) 04:20, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

White Wolf[edit]

Normally I would not make a "theory edit" but I think it is merited here because some of the official theories are somewhat harebrained. As long as we are listing hare-brained theories I also threw in the old Bosworth derivation from Beado-Wulf. John Chamberlain (talk) 23:42, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

Old Germanic sagas and proto-norse tend to attract many lunatic and amateuric theories. It seems your derivation has a source, and it is as good as any. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 07:05, 23 September 2010 (UTC)


Unless the locations given is carefully cited by some academical source, they're wild speculations presented as mere facts. That's unencyclopedic, to say the very least! I dislike the way the article presents the locations. We cannot even know that there was one guy who experienced heroic deeds even symbolically similar to Beowulf. ... said: Rursus (mbor) 22:16, 6 August 2009 (UTC)