“Beowulf” and the Haunting of Heorot

Harper 130

Although it is composed in Old English, Beowulf is nevertheless about Danes and Geats, inhabitants of South Sweden as well as modern Denmark. There are eerie parallels between this poem and a late saga, that of Grettir the Strong, who operated in Iceland and Norway. Both authors dealt with the same cultural problem: ghosts and alien species hostile to humans. The two authors presented them essentially in the same way, and they bear little resemblance to ghosts as we understand them. While the lecture will summarize all relevant information, those interested could read Beowulf in the translation by Seamus Heaney, lines 99-1686. Those with still more time might look at the following in the Saga of Grettir: chapters 32-35 and 64-66. There are two translations available, one from the University of Toronto Press and the other from Penguin.