Timelines to Visualize History

A Project by the Department of Medieval English Literature and Historical Linguistics, University of Düsseldorf

Begin End Event Description Keywords Related Events
975 1010


Beowulf is probably the most famous Old English heroic epic. It is set in southern Scandinavia during the migration period of the 5th and 6th centuries. In the poem, the hero Beowulf frees the Danish king Hrothgar and his people from the threats of the monster Grendel and Grendel's mother. Afterwards he returns to his native Geatland richly rewarded and becomes king, but eventually has to face a new threat.

After he returns to his native Geatland, Beowulf succeeds his king Hygelac as king of the Geats. He reigns peacefully for 50 years, but then eventually he dies killing a dragon which threatens his realm.

Beowulf is one of the best known Old English poems and it reflects loyalty, courage and treasure, the recurrent themes in secular heroic poetry.

Regarding the dates, it should be noted that the poem is thought to have originated sometime between the year 700 and 1000. It was later recorded in the Beowulf Manuscript, which is usually dated to sometime between 975 and 1010. It is one of the Four Poetic Codices.

The poem has several thousand lines; these are the first few of them:
Hwæt. We Gardena     in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,     þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas     ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing     sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum,     meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.     Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden,     he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum,     weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc     þara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade     hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan.     þæt wæs god cyning.
Literature, Old English Period, Poetry