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Verbal traditions[edit]

I felt something was needed about the verbal tradition Deor was coming out of. -MadMaxBeyondThunderDome

I agree with you. The problem is that we only ever have implications of those oral traditions. An article by Franks at U. Toronto makes an argument that there is an ongoing, fluid interchange of "scops" and "skalds" in the 10th century, but the evidence is circumstantial. It's best to be vague about that for which there is only vague evidence. Geogre (talk) 11:27, 24 August 2008 (UTC)


Doesn't Deor mean "animal" in Old English? 惑乱 分からん * \)/ (\ (< \) (2 /) /)/ * 12:31, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Why, yes it does (it's cognate with German Tier), but used as an adjective, it means "brave." Deor 12:54, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Ahh, thank you, Deor. I guess you know what you're talking about. ;) I just conjectured that the poet would consider himself low and beast-like, but I might have interpreted it wrongly. 惑乱 分からん * \)/ (\ (< \) (2 /) /)/ * 13:08, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
"Deor" is any wild animal. It survives into Modern English in "deer." The author could have the actual proper name of Deor, or, yes, he could be using a by-name. Additionally, just to muddy the waters a bit more, the poem doesn't have to be a genuine first person. Given how allusive the verse is, we can't be sure that the "confession" at the end isn't an impersonation. Geogre (talk) 11:25, 24 August 2008 (UTC)


In the standard edition of the Exeter Book, we can see that stanza three, line one, is an unusual "mæð hilde." Kemp Malone offered an emendation that it had to be a reference to a Norwegian ballad, and so he had to not only change "friðe" but also turn these two words into one proper name. There have been numerous articles about what is called "the mæð hilde crux." To put the two words together is an editorial emendation and requires doing violence to the Exeter scribe's words.

Thomas Tuggle argues that the two words are separate and neither is a proper noun. Norman Eliason argues a proper noun but disagrees with Malone's brutal emendations and admits that they can be two words. The most recent work on the crux treats them as one word, but rejects Malone's identifications. (Interestingly, Eliason was one of the reviewers for Tuggle's article.)

The point is that this is a major problem in the text, and scholars recognize that it is an intractable one. To have a "text" that not only changes the appearance of the text, but forces an interpretive change and makes substantives is quite something. If we're going to be anything like fair to our readers, we need to let them know that this is not the original, but an emended version. (The presence of exclamation marks alone should make us cringe. That is a very, very obnoxious editorial view of what the refrain means, and there are plenty of people (a majority, I would say) that view the refrain as quietist, not shouting.)

Do not accuse my insertion of an explanation for the external link of being "editorializing." That external link is untrustworthy. Geogre (talk) 11:23, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

Great insertion! I have always wondered who that Mathilde could be, and now I understand that her identity is problematic.--Berig (talk) 11:29, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. I'm researching Deor just now and assembling notes. Essentially, stanza three means... whatever. A great deal of it depends upon, believe it or not, what one believes the structure and theme of the poem are. If you think that st. 3 belongs to the material of st. 2 and the Weland/revenge story, then you need it to be, essentially, Beodahild, and you need for it to be a tale of antagonism. Therefore, you need a "Maethhild" that will work, even though that name is seen nowhere in Old English. If you decide that this is a "Boethian" poem, then you need for it to be about sadness, and so you want to find another twist to get a different Maethhild. I like Tuggle's argument that there is only one proper noun in play, "the Geat," and that it's a talk about sorrow from the death of children and therefore represents a new section. For him, there can't be a proper noun there, but he, too, has trouble with a feminine accusative at the end of the stanza that he needs to be masculine.
Another has come forward, poorly, to argue an Icelandic identification.
The point is, every translator I have seen has had to "fix" the Exeter book's scribe. I like Tuggle only because he satisfies the sort of Occam's razor of translation: he only has to change one word, where Malone has to change four. Geogre (talk) 11:38, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
The only one I can identify with any Geat is Gautr, i.e. Woden. Maybe there are scholarly suggestions in that respect.--Berig (talk) 11:58, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Tuggle's reading is that "the Geat" is ... let me get my notes...a king in S. Sweden who therefore was a neighbor of Beowulf's and therefore sharing the tribal name of "Geat." However, which Geat, a Geat, and the Geat are open questions, too. If we decide who we want to answer the allusions, we choose the translation, and that's what makes st. 3 a mess. Geogre (talk) 12:08, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
I see! There is a Norse tradition that a son of Odin named king Geat (Gautr/Gauti) ruled southern Sweden and eponymously gave his name to the Geats. However, AFAIK, the only attestations of such a king of the Geats appear in stories about his son king Gautrek and so they belong to the most spurious part of the Norse legendarium. Gautr also appears as a name of Odin, which I guess is where the figure ultimately originates.--Berig (talk) 12:18, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
PS, as a case in point as to how problematic it is to analyse the name Geat, there is a scholarly discussion on the meaning of numerous place names in southern Sweden named Götevi, Götlunda, etc. all meaning "Geat's shrine". One view holds them to mean "shrine of Odin", while a minority view sees them as "Geatish shrine".--Berig (talk) 12:46, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Ooooh! That mess! I hate to be gleeful over anything like that, but I'm afraid that might be a "Geatish Society" hangover. Nationalism and regionalism did a number on medieval studies. When I'm at my office, I'll give this cool quote I found in Franks, but we have befuddled folks in funny costumes in the 19th century wanting to be The Inheritors of True Nordicism, and some of their work is laughable, some not. Then Hitler picks up this nonsense, and we get an influx of "everything is Teutonic" stuff, some good some laughable. And the Swedes got the "who are the Geats" thing. Eek! The Anglo-Saxonists either say, "We haven't the faintest idea who they were" or they say "Jutland" or they say "southern Sweden." It's so much wishing and guessing that nightmares are made flesh. I personally suspect, on no basis but "it solves the problems without introducing new ones," that the people are correct who say that there are several "Geats" who may never have met.
I mean, it's possible that there was a Jutland Geat tribe that stays Geat to Sweden and splits. It's possible that these are all cognates of Odin. It's possible that the word might even have a non-surviving meaning. It's just that solving this without more artifacts gets us right back, as you say, to "I want it to be, so I will find a way for it to be." Geogre (talk) 14:32, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Oh, I just stuck to the cognates. What is ēa in Old English is au in Old Norse, and that is why the personal name Geat corresponds to Old Norse Gautr, and that is probably why Tuggle identifies Geat as a king in southern Sweden. The linguistic correspondence between gēat- and gaut- is uncontested, and not even the Jutish hypothesis disputes it. In fact, the Jutish hypothesis suggests that the Jutes were Gautar like those in southern Sweden, and it only argues that Beowulf lived among the "Gautar of Jutland", i.e. the Jutes. What has this to do with ideology?--Berig (talk) 14:54, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
What does it have to do with ideology? Well, saying that a diphthong goes one way does not mean that the things referred to are a) accurately referred to, b) necessarily going to take the transition, c) that the objects referred to by the terms are the same. In other words, we can follow the word change, and we can say that this is a likely hypothesis, but to say that the reference is solved is methodologically suspect.
What it has to do with ideology is that the later 19th century saw a major influx of ... I don't want to call it "Nationalism," because that's not what it is at that point ... an effort at discovering the "genius of the place." The English do their own. After all, the Ossian and Chatterton forgeries are popular because they promise to show the "real Englishness" of English. Many of these experiments look hilarious from our point of view, but we owe them a large cultural debt, because it is thanks to these proto-Nationalist attitudes that we have the ballad collections and the preservation of old texts. However, all of the Norse material suffers a secondary tragedy in that Hitler's version of Wagnerism wanted to recover a True Germanic culture. The people sympathetic with this desire, whether Nazi or not, began doing things like trying to remove "Christian interpolations" to Beowulf.
All of these things cast shadows through the 20th century. I do not mean to say that people who build on their work are in any way guilty of the same problems, but we should be aware of the nationalist and regionalist impulses and be sure that we are free to find the Geats in Jutland, if that's where they were, or Uppsala, if that's where they were, or the Hebrides, if that's where they were. If we are ever investing our idea of what it means to be X or Y in the search, we're just prejudiced. Geogre (talk) 16:11, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Who has said that the Geats lived in Uppsala? I am not familiar with any scholar who tries to claim that the Geats were Swedes. Are you? The most common localisation of Beowulf's Geats is Västergötland (not Swedish at the time), followed by Jutland (not Danish at the time), and there are also a few who talk of Gotland (not Swedish at the time).--Berig (talk) 16:31, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
I was joking with my examples. My point was that, if someone found the Geatssaga tomorrow, where there is a Vinland style accounting of how they traveled from the Rhine to France and then came to the NE in 800, we'd have to be honest and not feel threatened. No, S. Sweden is most likely, although it's also likely that they migrated there from Jutland. This is at least what I think Beowulf's Geats were. I can't be sure that there was only one group by the name. We have to be free to be honest. If we're not, then there isn't much hope in getting clean results that will explain the literature. Geogre (talk) 21:39, 24 August 2008 (UTC)


Given the genitive is used in this and that, shouldn't the phrase Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg be translated as, "That one's was overcome, so might this one's". Rwflammang (talk) 01:48, 9 January 2012 (UTC)