I’m not alone in the belief that “Beowulf” is among the greatest legends ever written in the English language. Many are the giants of English literature who have dissected it to unravel its secrets, not least among them being J.R.R. Tolkien whose works are heavily inspired by the Beowulf saga. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and an expert on the topic of Beowulf, and he is largely credited with popularizing the legend, which had previously been regarded as unworthy of study. This article will be the first part of a series which will give an overview of the narrative, the plot and some important background information. We will also delve deeper into the intimidating mere of the myth that many consider to be England’s National Epic, by interpreting the themes and devices that make this thousand-year-old myth relevant to modern man.Continue reading
None know for certain from whence the island of Èrin was sprung, though I like the symbolism of Frank Mill’s modern account which says she was birthed from a song which the winds sung to the seas. Regardless, she was born and eventually she sprouted life. Great murky forests of oak and ash and birch and rowan covered the island, interspersed with wide open grassy plains on which horses rode like traveling kings, and dank misty bogs of ancient peat which would swallow up any careless creature who wandered too deep into its mire. Back then there were giants on these lands; literal Giants like the Irish Elk with his murderous horns spread out from horizon to horizon. This is how it was for a long time in Èrin, longer than any human mind could fathom, and for all this time the island was devoid of human life. But eventually that changed and the history of Èrin as we know it was begun.
The word Kern is an anglicized version of the Gaelic word “Ceithern” which translates roughly as “a warlike group”. Woodkern can thus be described as “bands of warlike men who dwell in the woods”. Though the phrase Woodkern refers to men who lived during a specific period of time, they belonged to a very old tradition that dates back throughout the ages of recorded history into times of legend and myth. These men were often described as outcast or outlaws, but in reality they were usually men of good social standing and wealth. They would have needed the funds to supply their own arms and equipment and they would also have needed more skill in the arts of warfare than the average peasant or farmer would have had. Warbands such as these were common throughout history and those who operated in this manner have been known by many names at different periods of time.Continue reading