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Beowulf: The Victory Feast and the Vengeance of Grendel's Mother

The Victory Feast in Heorot - from a painting by Alan Lee

with Dr Sam Newton

at Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 2nd July 2005

After a recap of the story so far, we begin with the account of the victory feast in the newly restored golden hall to celebrate the defeat of Grendel. We shall consider the use of literary devices and parallels (such as the Fight at Finnsburh) to counterpoint the bright harmony of the feast with notes of ironic discord, so revealing the tensions within the family. Central is the queen, Wealhtheow, who tries to weave a web of security for her boys, Hrethric and Hrothmund, who have been described as “unifying figures in an episode so fraught with pity and terror that even now … we read and are deeply moved” (Kemp Malone).

But the feast turns to nightmare sooner than Wealhtheow fears with the surprise attack later that night of another mother – Grendel’s - seeking vengeance for her son. The following morning Beowulf pursues her to her sub-aquatic lair and finally completes his heroic exorcism.

"The author of Beowulf showed forth the permanent value of that pietas which treasures the memory of man’s struggles in the dark past… part of the English temper in its strong sense of tradition, dependent doubtless on… noble houses, and their code of honour… that it should… preserve much from the northern past to blend with southern learning…” (Tolkien).

 

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Poetry and Politics  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.30 The Princes of Denmark  
  12.30 Lunch break  
  14:00 The Vengeance of Grendel’s Mother  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 The Final Defeat of the Grendels  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

S am Newton was awarded his Ph.D in 1991 and his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, was published in 1993. He is a Director of Wuffing Education as well as a media consultant in Early Medieval Studies and Time Team historian. His latest book, The Reckoning of King Rædwald, was published in 2003.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M. (tr.), The Earliest English Poems (Penguin Classics 1966)
-------------------- (tr.), Beowulf (Penguin Classics 1973)
Bjork, R.E., & J.D.Niles (eds), A Beowulf Handbook (Nebraska University 1997, 1998)
Fulk, R. (ed.), Interpretations of Beowulf: A Critical Anthology (Indiana University 1991)
Garmonsway, G., & J.Simpson, Beowulf and Its Analogues (Dent 1968, 1980)
Heaney, S. (tr.), Beowulf (Faber & Faber 1999)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Blackwell 1986)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson (eds), Beowulf (Blackwell 1998)
Orchard, A., Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf Manuscript (Brewer 1995)
Orchard, A., A Critical Companion to Beowulf (Brewer 2003)
Newton, S., The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993, 1994)
Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)
Swanton, M. (ed. & tr.), Beowulf (Manchester 1978)

Bookings

Please phone or email to check the availability of places and then send the application form and a cheque for £35, payable to Wuffing Education to:

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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