Hospitality, hostility, and peacemaking in Beowulf.
A basic tension exists between two fundamental understandings of hospitality: one, derived from mythico-religious beliefs, is that hospitality must be unconditional as it is placed under the auspices of the divinity. This idea that a benevolent reception ought to be extended to strangers is ubiquitous in Christian thought. As one of the Works of Mercy, the sheltering of the homeless is instrumental in achieving salvation. (17) Hospitality has deep biblical roots, from the episodes in Genesis in which Abraham first and then Lot entertain divine visitors (Gen. 18 and 19) to Christ's famous words: "hospes eram et collexistis me" [I was a stranger, and you took me in, Matt. 25.35]. (18) The generous treatment of visitors is a hagiographic staple: Cuthbert, while in charge of receiving guests at Ripon, one winter morning welcomes a young man who turns out to be an angel in disguise; Alban dies in place of his Christian guest fleeing persecutions; Gallicanus devotes himself to the reception of strangers. (19) The first part of Homily 16 ("Alius sermo de die paschae") in AElfric's second series of Catholic Homilies, on Christs appearance to his disciples on the road to Emmaus, is an exhortation to practice good works, specifically hospitality, without complaining and, AElfric adds, without boasting. (20) The care with which one receives an outsider is equated with how one should prepare for God.
But hospitality is also a social and political practice that orchestrates interactions with foreigners. (21) As such, it is a delicate maneuver, often dangerously close to hostility. (22) Prescriptive writings such as early legal and monastic documents reflect these tensions between various understandings of what the generous reception of an outsider entails on the one hand, and between hospitality and hostility on the other. Hospitality is an essential component of monastic life. (23) Chapter 53 of the Benedictine Rule, for instance, which deals with the reception of strangers, duly starts with an instruction to extend an unconditional welcome to foreigners, as it is Christ who is received in the poor and the foreigners whose destitution he shared. (24) Yet despite this all-encompassing request, chapter 53 distinguishes between various kinds of visitors and suggests that not all guests are equally welcome. It insists on the necessity to extend a special reception to the needy, since the rich always command proper respect. (25) The closing paragraphs of chapter 53 however show concern not only for the welfare of visitors (it specifies that the kitchen is to be staffed with two brothers who are good cooks), but also for the welfare of monks, acknowledging that visitors disturb monastic life. (26) Chapter 53 thus distinguishes between charity as an altruistic impulse toward the needy, and hospitality as the harboring of travelers. (27) Outsiders may be in need of shelter and sustenance, but they are to be kept separate--not to be visited or spoken to by members of the community.
Similarly ambivalent responses to outsiders can be seen in early English law codes, from the laws of Hlothhere and Eadric in the seventh century to those of Cnut in the eleventh. At one end of the spectrum, some provisions suggest that the outsider may need special protection; 2 Cnut 35.1 for instance warns against unfair treatment of foreigners, thus suggesting that being without friends or family is dangerous. (28) Conversely, law codes also acknowledge the potential troubles isolated individuals may cause, and they include control mechanisms forcing those who come from afar to comply with local rules. Hlothhere and Eadric 15 places the onus on the host, indicating that after three nights he becomes liable for the actions of his guest: "Gif man cuman feormaep III niht an his agenum hame (cepeman oppe oderne pe sio ofer mearce cuman) 7 hine ponne his mete fede, 7 he ponne aenigum maen yfel gedo, se man pane oderne aet rihte gebrenge oppe riht forewyrce" [If anyone entertains in his own home a visitor (or a merchant or another man who has come from over the border) for three nights and then gives him food, and he then commits a crime against anyone, let the man bring the other to justice, or do justice for him]. (29) This provision specifies who these guests might be: visitors, merchants, or men who have come from over the border. (30) Furthermore, several legal clauses warn against the harboring of fugitives. (31) Criminals are especially challenging, as their isolation makes it difficult to track them down and punish them. (32) Concerns for social order and for population management are clearly visible here: isolated foreigners or merchants are kept in check by their temporary inclusion into their host's household and kin group, while fugitives should not be provided with shelter as this seriously undermines the king's territorial authority.
The localization of foreigners is another recurrent concern. A clause in Ine 20, echoed in Wihtred 28, dated 695, (33) illustrates this urge to monitor outsiders; it says: "Gif feorcund mon odde fremde butan wege geond wudu gonge 7 ne hrieme ne horn blawe, for deof he bid to profianne: odde to sleanne odde to aliesanne" [If a man from afar or a foreigner goes off the track through the wood, and he neither calls out nor blows a horn, he is to be regarded as a thief, to be either slain or put to ransom]. (34) This clause singles out for regulation a "feorcund mon" [a man come from afar] or a "fremde" [foreigner, stranger] and requires of him a specific behavior, namely, that he announces his presence if he is to go "buton wege" and leave the track. Even though the isolated stranger may be vulnerable, it is nevertheless essential for the peaceful traveler to signal his presence. Lisi Oliver notes that this injunction is "a legal precept that seems common in primitive societies ... Certainly the concept of a stranger's loudly announcing his friendly intentions is quasi-universal, transcending both place and time." (35) Crucially here, behavior and localization are linked, and outsiders are not to roam free in the space of a community to which they do not belong. Their presence in space must be monitored, and those who advance surreptitiously are suspect. Caution is called for when reading early law codes, especially when trying to infer actual practices from them. Law making may have had a symbolic function, yet, as Lisi Oliver remarks, "royal laws ... set the tone for societal regulation" and thus offer an idealized vision of society. (36) In any case, these legal provisions suggest that outsiders posed particular challenges to social order and were indeed a source of misgivings for kings anxious to assert control over their lands and people.
Rather than establishing historically specific parameters for the exercise of hospitality, this rapid overview of legal and monastic texts has brought to light the varied (and sometimes contradictory) ideas about guests and hospitality current in Anglo-Saxon England. It reveals ongoing concerns linked to the presence of strangers, an ambivalent attitude toward guests that is also manifest in works of imagination. In Beowulf for instance, hospitality looms large, and the poem reflects the tensions inherent in the reception of foreigners: isolated outsiders may need shelter and protection, their visit may bring material and symbolic benefits to the host, but their presence also risks causing disruption. The following discussion of Beowulf builds on the injunction that strangers signal their presence and always remain visible. It understands host/guest relations as public performances that may either strengthen or undermine social order.
Reflections on hospitality in Beowulf tend focus on the first part of the poem, the spotlight placed on Heorot and its representation of festive life in the hall, (37) including speeches, (38) ceremonial drinking, (39) the hosting duties of female characters, (40) and proper behavior on the mead-bench (with a special mention for Unferths exchange with Beowulf). (41) Similarly, the various visitors to Heorot (Grendel, his mother, Beowulf, and to a lesser extent his father Ecgtheow) have been a topic of discussion, in particular their blurring of boundaries, both in space and across species. (42) The numerous parallels uniting Beowulf and the monsters have long been recognized and explored; (43) Joyce Tally Lionarons notably analyzes these parallels in terms of host/guest relations. She points out that "the host/guest relationship resembles the hero/monster bond in that it is also bidirectional and interdependent" and that in Beowulf, "the roles of guest and host tend to reverse themselves, making guest into host, host into guest, and conceivably even monster into hero and vice versa." (44) Yet although Beowulf, Grendel, and his mother are all visitors to the Danish hall, these foreigners/guests differ both in their characterization and narrative function. Grendel and his mother for instance are repeatedly linked with obscurity; their existence is known but they themselves remain hidden and cannot be localized. (45) They enter Heorot uninvited and under the cover of darkness. By contrast, as we shall see below, Beowulf is always visible and limits his movements to the places that Hrothgars hospitality offers him. Again contrasting with Grendel and his mother, Beowulf never forces his way into a hall. Even though he travels in search of the monstrous avenger, it is Grendel's mother herself who carries him into her hall. (46) The reception that she offers Beowulf is obviously hostile: the codes of hospitality do not operate to transform the two antagonists into a host and a guest respectively. The host/guest boundaries collapse, laying bare the dangers of mutual destruction that lie at the heart of hospitality. As for Beowulf's encounter with the dragon, neither opponent enters the other's dwelling. Beowulf's hall is surrounded and destroyed by flames spewed forth by the flying dragon. (47) Beowulf similarly does not go into the barrow, which is in any case made impenetrable by the monster's fiery breath, but he summons his enemy to combat with a war cry. (48) Beowulf fights the dragon and falls outside the barrow. The reversibility of the hero/ monster relationship, and even more of the host/guest bond, should thus be qualified. Reflecting on how to define humanity in Old English poetry, Jennifer Neville argues that monsters are characterized by the threat that they pose to human society, and that "human status is conferred on the basis of conformance to social rules." (49) In that respect, Beowulf differs from Grendel, his mother, and the dragon in that he complies with the social obligations that identify him as a human being and as a guest. Because monsters do not, by definition, abide by socially acceptable rules, they in fact do not engage in relations of hospitality, but offer only "parodic echoes of normal hospitality." (50)
Hrothgar's early mention of Ecgtheow, and especially of the feud that he settled on behalf of Beowulf's father, is relevant in this context. The reference to Ecgtheow is often assigned a dual purpose: to establish a previous link between Beowulf and Hrothgar and to commend the Danish king for the help he provided Ecgtheow. (51) Michael Kightley points out that it also redefines the interaction between Hrothgar and Beowulf: Beowulf's spontaneous offer of help becomes the payment of a debt Ecgtheow contracted when Hrothgar "pa faehde feo pingode" [settled the enmity with money] (Beowulf, 470). (52) The verb "pingian" appears twice more in the poem: once in the phrase "fea pingian" used to specify that Grendel refuses to "feorhbealo feorran, fea pingian" [take away the deadly evil, settle with money] (Beowulf, 156) and compensate the Danes for his depredations, (53) and once in Hrothgar's answer to Beowulf's promise of future support and friendship: "ne hyrde ic snotorlicor / on swa geongum feore guman pingian" [I have never heard a man so young in age make arrangements more wisely] (Beowulf, 1842b-3). This variation on the terms "(fea/feo) pingian" brings together not only Beowulf's and Ecgtheow's visits to Hrothgar, but also Grendel's attacks on Heorot. Beowulf's peaceful negotiation of Hrothgar's hospitality is thus juxtaposed both with the violence of monsters who pervert and negate the mutual benefits of host/guest relations, and with the threats of human violence manifest in the figure of Ecgtheow, whom a mighty feud made a fugitive. The latent hostility which relations of hospitality aim to keep in check is revealed both by the monstrous reversal of host/ guest relations, but also by the poem's repeated mention of kin violence in its "historical" material. The rest of this essay will focus on the social aspects of human hospitality, contrasting Beowulf's remarkable achievement as a guest of Hrothgar's to the irrepressible hostility sparked by other host/guest relations in the poem.
When in the Danish kingdom, Beowulf is a model guest. He does not overstay his welcome, limiting his visit to three days, thus never becoming the responsibility of his host. (54) Importantly, the Geatish visitor always remains visible and easy to locate. The scene of Beowulf's landing on the Danish shores and his arrival at Heorot extends over close to 200 lines (Beowulf, 229-404) and offers a rare description of how an outsider enters a host community. Scholars have analyzed the steps through which the hero goes before he meets the king, the roles that both the coastguard and Wulfgar play, and the ritualized speeches that are exchanged. (55) I would like to revisit this passage, focusing here on what is being seen.
Beowulf and his men disembark openly when their ship first reaches the Danish shores. The coastguard posted on the cliff sees them carry their shields ashore and, after asking them who they are, comments on the manner of their arrival:
No her cudlicor cuman ongunnon lindh aebbende, ne ge leafnesword gudfremmendra gearwe ne wisson, maga gemedu. (Beowulf, 244-47a)
[No shield-bearers have come here more openly, nor did you know for certain the word of leave of the warriors, the consent of the kinsmen.]
The notes to Klaeber 4 suggest that the emphasis is on the visitors having entered the country without permission, and the coastguard indeed declares that the Geats come uninvited, not having "word of leave" ("leafnesword") to enter the kingdom. As Tolkien points out in his commentary on the poem, the sight of strange men landing fully armed may well have alarmed the coastguard, (56) who requests to know the newcomers' origins. They should comply, he says, "aer ge fyr heonan / leassceaweras on land Dena / furpur feran" [rather than you travel further from here in the land of the Danes as spies] (Beowulf, 252b-54a). "Leassceaweras" is a hapax legomenon translated as "vagabonds, watchers," hence "deceitful observers," "spies." (57) Uninvited and unknown men are, according to the coastguard, potentially duplicitous and menacing visitors. Yet despite the mistrust they betray, the sentinel's words stress that Beowulf's landing is clearly visible. The coastguard says that he has never seen people come "cudlicor." The Dictionary of Old English, in this very instance, translates the word as "openly," but it tellingly suggests that the meaning "in a friendly manner" could also come into play here. "Cudlicor" thus brings together visibility and openness on the one hand, and friendliness on the other. Though unexpected and ominous, Beowulf's arrival is visible and therefore presumably amicable.
The coastguard also remarks: "Naefre ic maran geseah / eorla ofer eorpan donne is eower sum" [I have never seen a greater nobleman on earth than one of you is] (Beowulf, 247b-48), cautiously adding "naefne him his white leoge, / aenlic ansyn" [unless his countenance belies him, his incomparable appearance] (Beowulf, 250b-51a). The sight that strikes him is Beowulf himself. Here, "aenlic ansyn" is often taken to vary "wlite" and thus to mean something like "peerless" or "beautiful appearance." (58) "Ansyn" is common in Old English. (59) It occurs four times in Beowulf where it always refers to an exceptional sight: Beowulf here, but also Grendel's arm, and twice the dead dragon. (60) So Beowulf, landing in Denmark, is a man unlike any the coastguard has seen before and is as striking and conspicuous a spectacle as monstrous bodies will be later in the poem.
The coastguard's words to the Geats form the opening movement of a process of hospitality through which the visitors' intentions are assessed: their landing clearly visible in plain daylight defuses the potentially hostile nature of their arrival. The verbal negotiations initiated by the coastguard, and then continued by Wulfgar, are "rites of incorporation" through which the newcomer is transformed: his former status--stranger--is abandoned and a new one--guest--is acquired. (61)
Beowulf's answer to the Danish guard continues the theme of what is visible and what is hidden. The hero reveals that he has travelled to Heorot to fight Grendel, adding "Ne sceal paer dyrne sum / wesan, paes ic wene" [there nothing shall be hidden, as I think] (Beowulf, 271b-72a). (62) Beowulf also mentions Grendel's mysterious nature, calling the attacker a "deogol deedhata" [stealthy persecutor] (Beowulf, 275a) who inflicts an "uncudne nid" [unknown hostility] (Beowulf, 276b) on the Danes. When Beowulf promises that nothing shall be "hidden," he may therefore be referring to his own presence--broadly visible--in Denmark, but also to Grendel's unknown terror. (63) This hostility will be brought into the open and eradicated, as illustrated by Grendel's arm on display in Heorot on the morning after the fight.
Beowulf next meets Wulfgar at the doors of Heorot. Wulfgar once more stresses the visibility of the approaching Geats. He says: "Ne seah ic elpeodige / pus manige men modiglicran" [I have never seen so many braver-looking foreign men] (Beowulf, 336b-37). Wulfgar expresses admiration for the sight that Beowulf and his companions present in words that echo the coastguard's. (64) But like the coastguard, he also assesses their intentions and he takes the extraordinary spectacle offered by the approaching Geats to be an indication of their noble purpose. He observes: "Wen' ic paet ge for wlenco, nalles for wraecsidum / ac for higejarymmum, Hordgar sohton" [I think that you have sought Hrothgar for high spirit, not at all because of exile but for greatness of heart] (Beowulf 338-39). Wulfgar is not merely praising the newcomers; he is (correctly) assessing their motivations.
Hospitality may indeed prove dangerous for both parties involved if the tacit pact of nonaggression it implies is broken. Moreover, welcoming foreigners can be perilous for the reckless host, not simply because he may be attacked by his guests, but also because he may become entangled in his guests' feuds and enmities. Heardred for instance dies for having received at his court Eanmund and Eadgils, exiled following their rebellion against Onela, their uncle and king of the Swedes. The poet says
Him paet to mearce weard: he paer for feorme feorhwunde hleat, sweordes swengum, sunu Hygelaces (Beowulf, 2384b-86)
[that was his life's end: there Hygelac's son obtained a mortal wound, the strokes of a sword, because of his hospitality]
The poet unambiguously links Heardred's death to his hospitality: he dies "for feorme." (65) He calls Onelas nephews "wraecmaecgas" [outcasts] (Beowulf, 2379b), a term that both resonates and contrasts with Wulfgar's observation that Beowulf and his companions do not land on the Danish shores "for wraecsidum" [because of exile] (Beowulf, 338b). In the present case, Heardred is killed specifically because by welcoming Eadgils and Eanmund, he extends his hospitality to fugitives: he thus challenges Onelas authority, and Onela retaliates.
Beowulf remains visible during his entire stay in Denmark. When the coastguard first allows the Geatish warriors to proceed from the seashore to Heorot, he monitors their position in space. He says that he will guide them toward the hall ("ic eow wisige", Beowulf, 292b), and he does so until they can see Heorot. (66) He then turns back and the newcomers follow the road leading to the hall: "Street waes stanfah, stig wisode / gumum eetgaedere" [the road was paved, the path guided the men together] (Beowulf, 320-21a). The coastguard is both helping the visitors find their way and keeping an eye on their movements. The repetition of the verb "wisian," "to guide," is significant: first the coastguard, and then the path, lead the visitors. The Geats remain on the road, which is where they are supposed to be, visibly making their way toward the hall.
Beowulf's next movement in the Danish kingdom takes him from Heorot to Grendel's mere. As Hrothgar mourns the recent attack by Grendel's mother, Beowulf tells him to get up and follow the tracks that she has left behind so that they can all go the monsters' lake.67 Beowulf will fight Grendel's mother, but it is Hrothgar who leads the way in this expedition. (68) This scene underscores an important aspect of hospitality, that is, the spatial constraints that it imposes on both host and guest. Pitt-Rivers observes that "the roles of host and guest have territorial limitations. A host is host only on the territory over which on a particular occasion he claims authority. Outside it he cannot maintain the role." (69) Hrothgar thus accompanies Beowulf to the limits of his dominion; he stops on the shore of the lake where Grendel and his mother start to wield spatial power. From there on, Beowulf, diving into the mere, disappears from sight and travels alone.
By the time Beowulf swims back to the surface, the Danes have left, despairing of the outcome of the battle. The hero and his Geatish companions thus travel back to Heorot unsupervised, but here again, they do not go astray but progress along visible and clearly marked roads:
Ferdon ford ponon fepelastum ferhpum faegne, foldweg maeton, cupe straete (Beowulf, 1632-34a)
[Rejoicing in their hearts they went forth from there along the walking tracks, they traversed the path, the familiar street]
Finally, when Beowulf and his companions decide to sail back home, they go from Heorot to the seashore, once more under the scrutiny of the coastguard: "Landweard onfand / eftsid eorla, swa he aer dyde" [the land guard became aware of the noblemen's return journey, just as he had done previously] (Beowulf, 1890b-91). These lines explicitly evoke Beowulf's arrival. Significantly, in his first encounter with the Geats, the coastguard says that he is an "endesaeta" [one positioned at the extremity of a territory] (Beowulf, 241a) who has been keeping "aegwearde" [watch over the sea] (Beowulf, 241b). (70) For his second appearance however, he is called a "landweard" [guard of a country] (Beowulf, 1890b). The Danish sentry, it seems, has turned his surveillance from sea to land to follow Beowulf and his companions while they travel between the shore and the hall. The same scrutiny monitors the visitors' movements in the land of the Danes when they first arrive, their motivations unknown, as when they leave, their benevolent intentions now clearly demonstrated. Their exploits against the monsters are therefore not enough to suppress the need to know precisely where the visitors are.
I do not wish here extensively to comment on the time Beowulf spends inside Heorot, but it is worth mentioning that when Beowulf asks Hrothgar for the fight against Grendel, he specifies what will become of his body should he fall against the monster. He says that if Grendel defeats him, Grendel would devour him, and that consequently Hrothgar would not have to worry about his remains. Beowulf's words are emphasized through a parallel syntactical construction just five lines apart ("na/no [m minne/ minnes pearft"): "Na pu minne pearft / hafalan hydan" [you will not need to cover my head] (Beowulf, 445b-46a) and "no du ymb mines ne pearft / lices feorme leng sorgian" [you will no longer need to care for the sustenance of my body] (Beowulf, 450b-51). The first utterance about Hrothgar covering Beowulf's head is taken to refer to funeral rites. (71) As for the second remark, the precise meaning of the phrase "lices feorme" has raised some controversy, both because "feorm" is a polysemous term ("food, provision," "meal, feast," "hospitality, entertainment," and "use, benefit"), and because Beowulf's concern with food when facing death has puzzled critics. Many have detected some irony here. (72) Without contesting the fact that the hero may well here be exhibiting "stoic humour," (73) it should be noted that Beowulf is also assuring his host that his dead body will not be left behind to become a burden. If Beowulf is defeated, Hrothgar will no longer need to feed his guest and to extend hospitality to him, nor will he need to supervise his funerals. In his reflections on hospitality, and more specifically on hospitality breached by death, Jacques Derrida observes that birth is usually the deciding criterion on who is a foreigner. Placing the focus on death and on the significance of a foreigner's burial place, he then observes that for those who are displaced, for exiles and outsiders:
the last resting place of family here situates the ethos, the key habitation for defining home, the city or country where relatives, father, mother, grandparents are at rest in a rest that is the place of immobility from which to measure all the journeys and all the distancings. (74)
Derrida stresses how important a person's grave might be and how it can become a focal point for those who survive, and these comments resonate with our poem. Beowulf insists that, whatever the outcome of the battle, nothing of his corpse will remain behind; in so doing, he might be graciously relieving his host of an everlasting hospitality duty. He assures Hrothgar that defeat against Grendel would not entail the emergence of a burial site somewhere in the Danish kingdom extolling Beowulf's memory. It is worth remembering here the preeminence of Beowulf's barrow at the end of the poem: built on a headland, seen from afar by those sailing over the deep ocean, it commemorates Beowulf's fame. (75) When he asks for the fight against Grendel, Beowulf in fact says that if Grendel kills him, his corpse would not become a dead and permanent "guest" of Hrothgar's; whatever the outcome of the battle, the visitor will leave the dominion of his host.
Beowulf's visit to Denmark is a success in that the hero puts an end to the depredations of Grendel and his mother, all the while respecting Hrothgar's rule. Beowulf accepts his host's hospitality and the limitations it places upon him. Hospitality can in fact be understood as "le don temporel d'un espace," (76) a space that the host temporarily makes available for the stranger--now a guest--to occupy. Thus, while the host welcomes the outsider/ guest, he also contains him by assigning him to his proper place. Hospitality therefore does not assimilate the outsider; paradoxically, it preserves his alterity. It entails both the outsider's inclusion--he is briefly part of the community--and exclusion--he is symbolically fenced in the space made available for him. Beowulf accepts these spatial constraints and plays his part in the public ceremonial of hospitality. In so doing, this mighty visitor diffuses the threats that his presence at Hrothgar's court might pose both to the king's authority and to the Danish social order.
Though hospitality is meant to ensure a peaceful cohabitation of host and guest, it often acts as a catalyst revealing the hostility--latent or actual--that it was meant to suppress. For the host society, the public reception of a foreigner lays bare a number of social relationships and serves to shape a group's sense of self. (77) It should thus come as no surprise that hostility or tensions should surface when hospitality tests communal belonging. One need only think of the second feast in Heorot during which Wealhtheow mentions Hrothgar's "adoption" of Beowulf and Hrothulf's loyalty. Though the Beowulf-poet leaves Hrothulf's precise role in the future Danish succession unspecified, Wealhtheow reminds Hrothgar, Hrothulf, and Beowulf of their obligations. She impresses upon Hrothgar that he should leave his kingdom to his sons and she tells Beowulf to be kind to them. (78) She also enjoins Hrothulf to be loyal in view of the kindness that she and Hrothgar have shown him in his youth. (79) Saying it publicly reinforces her message, in that Hrothulf in particular should also remember the kindness that he is shown at that very moment, with the whole court as a witness. Moreover, as Haruko Momma points out, it suggests that "the real threat to Hrothgar is not the nightly marauder but his own nephew, who has partaken of his mead and received gifts from his hand." (80) Lethal threats, therefore, sit on the mead-benches.
Repeatedly in Beowulf, the presence of strangers leads to outbursts of violence, as for instance during the visit of the Danes at Finn's court in the Finnsburh episode, or with the presence of Danish warriors at the court of the Heathobards in the account of Freawaru and Ingeld's marriage. The Finnsburh episode as recounted in Beowulf opens after the Frisian hosts have attacked their Danish visitors. The reasons for the Danes' visit to Finn's court, as well as the motivations for the first outbreak of violence, are left unspecified. (81) Rather, the poet focuses on the aftermath of the attack, which results in a moment of "forced hospitality," for the Danes spend a winter at Finn's court before weather allows them to travel back home. (82) The poet specifies what measures are taken to ensure that this unwanted cohabitation remains peaceful. The terms of the compact are detailed over twenty lines (Beowulf, 1085b-1106), which suggests that the poet was interested more in the enemies' living arrangements than in the specific causes which triggered the fight in the first place. (83) There is first a mention of the space that is made available for the surviving Danes: the Frisians offer
paet hie him oder flet eal gerymdon, healle ond heahsetl, paet hie healfre geweald wid Eotena beam agan moston (Beowulf, 1086-88)
[that they would clear another hall for them [the Danes] entirely, a hall and a high seat, so that they might possess control over half of it with the sons of the Jutes]
Exactly what is meant by "oder flet" has been debated: does it mean that the Danes and the Frisians share a hall, or that the Danes are in fact to dwell in another building entirely? Arguing in favor of the first interpretation, the note in Klaeber 4 pointedly observes that
we may take the living arrangement to be a sign of the desperateness of both sides' circumstances, and surely the poet's purpose in detailing the terms of the agreement at length, which is otherwise unnecessary, is to suggest the tension between the opposing hosts, housed in the same hall all winter. (84)
If the Danes and the Frisians do indeed share a hall, then unwilling hosts and resentful guests are stuck together. The second element in the agreement states that despite the hostile climate, equal honor should be shown to both sides:
ond aet feohgyftum Folcwaldan sunu dogra gehwylce Dene weorpode, Hengestes heap hringum wenede efne swa swide sincgestreonum faettan goldes swa he Fresena cyn on beorsele byldan wolde. (Beowulf; 1089-94)
[and each day at gift-giving Folcwalda's son should honor the Danes, present Hengest's troop with rings, just as much as with treasures of plated gold he would cheer the people of the Frisians in the beer-hall.]
Peter Baker recently raised the question of whether the treasures that Finn gives to the Danes are passing from lord to thane (from Finn to Hengest) or whether they are payments for peace (and thus a tribute). (85) However that may be, this passage indicates that Finn is to give treasure every day both to the Danes and to the Frisians: he is to treat his guests as he would his own men. This recommendation ensures that hosts and guests receive identical treatment, and consequently that the status of both is publicly preserved. Finally, past grievances and the indignity of the Danes--forced to become guests of their leaders killer--are to be silenced. Finn swears oaths that
paet daer aenig mon wordum ne worcum waere ne braece, ne purh inwitsearo aefre gemaenden, deah hie hira beaggyfan banan folgedon deodenlease, pa him swa gepearfod waes (Beowulf, 1099b-1103)
[that no man there would break the treaty by words or deeds, nor because of enmity ever mention [it], though they, lordless, followed their ring-givers slayer, as they thus had to]
These various stipulations are meant to curb violence and to reestablish host/guest relationships. The Frisians and the Danes attempt peaceful cohabitation by regulating control over space: the host regains authority over his dominion and the guests are offered a safe dwelling place where they need not fear sudden attacks. Similarly, the guests' honor is preserved: equal respect is to be shown to them through the bestowing of treasure, and their misfortune and the source of their hostility against their hosts are never to be mentioned. A fragile peace is built on spatial distribution and willful oblivion.
Of course, these fragile arrangements fail. Conspicuous signs of the hostility opposing the two sides are everywhere: there is first the sight of the corpses and of the bloody weapons after the initial violence. Interestingly this is mentioned right after the detailed exposition of the measures that the two enemies take to maintain the peace. The poet narrates the cremation of Hneef and his nephew, saying:
AEt paem ade waes epgesyne swatfah syrce, swyn eal gylden, eofer irenheard, aepeling manig wundum awyrded; sume on waele crungon. (Beowulf 1110-13)
[On the funeral pyre it was easy to see bloodstained mail shirts, all golden boar images, iron-hard boars, many princes destroyed by wounds; a good many died in the slaughter.]
The bloody weapons and dead warriors are "epgesyne," they are visible reminders of the first attack. So, despite the dispositions that the Danes and the Frisians have taken to silence their enmity, manifest evidence of the bloodshed and its outcome persist.
Hostility simmers for a whole winter. Hengest broods and contemplates how to bring about vengeance. The catalyst occurs when the Dane Hunlafing (86) places a sword on the lap of his new leader Hengest. This is a sword "paes waeron mid Eotenum ecge cude" [whose edges were well known to the Jutes] (Beowulf, 1145). (87) The poet continues thus:
Swylce ferhdfrecan Fin eft begeat sweordbealo sliden aet his selfes ham, sipdan grimne gripe Gudlaf ond Oslaf setter saeside sorge maendon (Beowulf, 1146-49)
[Also cruel death by the sword came upon Finn, bold in spirit, in his own home, after Guthlaf and Oslaf lamented the fierce attack, their grief after the sea-journey]
The account of Finns death immediately follows Hunlafings gesture, thus correlating the two events. The poet then mentions that two Danish warriors, Oslaf and Guthlaf, had actually spoken of their grief and had thus already broken the terms of their agreement with the Frisians. The two groups' attempts to restore nonviolent cohabitation, in which both hosts and guests have their place in the hall and are honored with generous gifts, are thwarted by what this moment of forced hospitality reveals: hostility is recalled by words, by gestures, and by signs of the previous carnage. Jean-Claude Schmitt observes that because very few people could write in medieval society, "commitment had to be made through ritual gestures, formal words, and symbolic objects ... Gestures transmitted political and religious power; they made such transmission public," adding that "gestures bound together human wills and human bodies." (88) Oslaf and Guthlaf's words, as well as Hunlafings gesture, redraw lines of allegiance and modify social relationships: the Danes refuse Frisian hospitality and reposition themselves as the injured party thirsting for revenge. The conflict between the Danes and the Frisians as recounted in Beowulf is an exploration of a host/guest relationship turned sour and not, as recently made clear by John Niles, an instance exemplifying the existence of a feud culture in Anglo-Saxon England. (89) But even though both parties try willfully to ignore their enmity and to erase all traces of their fighting, violence remains inexorable. Hunlafings gesture, by reviving group allegiances, manifests the impossible peaceful cohabitation of former foes; as Pitt-Rivers observes of an outsider and the one who receives him, "once they are no longer host and guest they are enemies, not strangers." (90)
Another instance of failed hospitality occurs in Beowulf's account of Hrothgar's attempt to secure peace with the Heathobards by marrying his daughter Freawaru to their prince Ingeld. Beowulf anticipates the breakdown of the alliance: visible signs of past hostilities will reignite violence, and the peace settlement will collapse because a Danish warrior walks across the hall carrying treasures formerly taken from defeated Heathobards:
Maeg paes ponne of pyncan deoden Heado-Beardna ond pegna gehwam para leoda ponne he mid faemnan on flett gaed, dryhtbearn Dena, duguda biwenede. On him gladiad gomelra lafe, heard ond hringmael Heada-Beardna gestreon (Beowulf, 2032-37)
[It may then displease the prince of the Heathobards and each retainer of his people when he, the noble son of Danes, advances on the floor with the woman, splendidly attended. On him shines the heirlooms of ancestors, hard and ring-adorned, a treasure of the Heathobards]
The young Danish warrior on whom old weapons "gladiad" ("gleam," possibly with a faint echo of "rejoice") (91) is an intolerable sight for the Heathobards. It pushes an old retainer to speak out against the unsatisfactory peace. Unable to contain his anger, he goads Ingeld into taking revenge against the Danish man parading in the hall, saying:
Nu her jrara banena byre nathwylces fraetwum hremig on flet gred, mordres gylped, ond pone madpum byred (Beowulf 2053-55)
[Now here the son of a certain slayer, exulting in ornaments, advances on the floor, boasts in the assault and carries a precious thing]
The recurrence of the phrase "on flet gaed" only twenty lines apart emphasizes that the old warrior's grievance is caused by the sight of a descendant of his former enemies exhibiting tokens of victory in the hall, tokens which for him are reminders of defeat. Moreover, the echoing syntax of lines 2041b and 2042b links this sight with the memory of past conflicts: the old retainer who speaks out is "se de beah gesyhd" [he who sees a precious object] (Beowulf, 2041b) and "se de eall geman" [he who remembers all] (Beowulf, 2042b). It is the vision of the treasure exhibited by an enemy that pushes the old retainer to remember and to speak out. Feasts have complex temporalities and do not operate merely in the present. In her study of etiquette in Old English literature, Gabriele Muller-Oberhauser analyzes how feasts conjure up a collective self-image that is instrumental in binding together individuals who partake in it. This self-image relies on the shared memory of a common past, a past which feasts make manifest in the present. (92) Heathobard hospitality collapses because by flaunting in the hall booty won against his hosts, the Danish retainer taunts them; in the old retainer's words, he "mordres gylped" [boasts in the assault] (Beowulf, 2055a). (93) In so doing, the Dane evokes past warfare; for his hosts, this entails a mental picture of Heathobard comrades fallen in battle and of themselves failing to avenge their dead--an intolerable self-image. The hostility that the practice of hospitality is meant to suppress is here on display, for all to see and remember. The Heathobard warriors, or Hnaef's survivors in the Finn episode, can accept neither the new social order that they see summoned up in front of them nor their place in it.
Reading Beowulf as a bildungsroman, Haruko Momma sees the first part of the poem as tracing the development of its young hero from formidable monster fighter to peaceable old king, a transformation that occurs in large part during his visit to Hrothgar. Beowulf's Danish adventures chronicle his rise to greatness, which he does by securing peace for the Danish kingdom. The poem in fact juxtaposes two ways in which Beowulf achieves this goal; through the eradication of murderous visitors who refuse to enter in a host/ guest relation (Grendel and his mother), and through the successful negotiation of Hrothgar's hospitality. Beowulf contrasts not only with Hrothgar's monstrous enemies, but also with the various unruly guests whose stories are recounted in Heorot and in Hygelac's hall.
Beowulf does not merely kill monsters; he secures peace. In his parting words to Beowulf, Hrothgar acknowledges that his visitor established peace for and with the Danes: "Hafast pu gefered paet pam folcum sceal, / Geata leodum ond Gar-Denum / sib gemaenu, ond sacu restan" [You have brought it about that between these nations, the people of the Geats and the Spear-Danes, peace shall be shared, and fighting shall rest] (Beowulf, 1855-57). Similarly, Beowulf offers his own people protection against foreign attacks; when reflecting on his life, the dying hero says that he ruled his people for fifty winters and that: "naes se folccyning, / ymbesittendra aenig dara / pe mec gudwinum gretan dorste, / egesan deon" [there was no king of the people, none of the neighboring peoples who dared to attack me with comrades-in-arms, to oppress me with terror] (Beowulf, 2733b-36a). One might hear in these words--especially in the juxtaposition of "ymbsittend" with a form of the word "egesa"--a faint echo of the very first visitor to Denmark, Scyld, who establishes his rule by terryfing noblemen ("egsode eorlas," Beowulf, 6a) until every neighboring people ("aeghwylc jaara ymbsittendra," Beowulf, 9) has to obey him. (94) Scyld's coming has long been understood to prefigure Beowulf's expedition to Heorot, (95) and these two passages from the poem's opening lines from the end of Beowulf's career emphasize the importance for the "god cyning" (Beowulf, lib)--of whom Scyld is an early epitome (96)--of successfully withstanding and controlling outsiders. Maintaining peace both at home and with one's neighbors is an essential royal duty. It was indeed the first of the threefold "commands" or "promises" part of the coronation ceremonies of Anglo-Saxon kings. In the Promissio Regis, for instance, the king first vows to keep the peace, before forbidding robbery and promising to be just and merciful in his judgements. (97) Readers of the poem have long put forward the idea that Beowulf might have served as a "mirror for princes" meant to instruct in royal behavior. (98) It is not my intention here to revive such specific attributions, but it is to suggest that with its eponymous hero, Beowulf does indeed offer an idealized model of behavior. Beowulf is admirable not only because of his extraordinary strength in battle, but also because of his ability to interact with foreigners and thus to establish lasting peace. He does so both as a ruler when he protects his people and keeps unwanted and hostile strangers out, and as a visitor when he successfully enters a relation of hospitality by placing his fighting power at the disposal of his host, accepting his status as guest and the obligations thus placed upon him. (99)
University of Toronto
I would like to thank the anonymous readers for PQ for their helpful feedback and stimulating comments on this piece.
(1) Alain Montandon, "Les miroirs de l'hospitalite," in Le livre de l'hospitalite, ed. Alain Montandon (Paris: Bayard, 2004), 6-14; Conrad Lashley, "Towards a Theoretical Understanding," in In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, ed. Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000), 3-17.
(2) Immanuel Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden. Mit Texten zur Rezeption 1796-1800 (Leipzig: Reclam, 1984); Jacques Derrida, with Anne Dufourmantelle, De l'hospitalite (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1997). See also Paul Ricoeur, "La condition d' etranger," Esprit (March/ April 2006): 264-65 and 268; and Georg Simmel, "Exkurs uber den Fremden," in Soziologie. Untersuchungen uber die Formen der Vergesellschaftung (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1908), 509-12.
(3) Julie Kerr, Monastic Hospitality. The Benedictines in England, c. 1070-c. 1250 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007).
(4) Katharine Simms, "Guesting and Feasting in Gaelic Ireland," Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 108 (1978): 67-100; Llinos Beverly Smith, "On the Hospitality of the Welsh: A Comparative View," in Power and Identity in the Middle Ages: Essays in Memory of Rees Davies, ed, Huw Pryce and John Watts (Oxford U. Press, 2007), 181-94.
(5) Levi Roach, "Hosting the King: Hospitality and the Royal Iter in Tenth-Century England," Journal of Medieval History 37 (2011): 34-46.
(6) Carlos Fonseca Clamote Carreto, "Le Don an anamorphose ou la reecriture du monde: Configurations et enjeux de l'hospitalite dans le recit medieval (XIIe-XIIIe siecles)," COnTEXTES: Revue de Sociologie de la Litterature 5 (2009), doi: 10.4000/contextes.4250; Siegfried Richard Christoph, "Hospitality and Status: Social Intercourse in Middle High German Arthurian Romance and Courtly Narrative," Arthuriana 20.3 (2010): 45-64.
(7) Simms, "Guesting and Feasting in Gaelic Ireland."
(8) Smith, "On the Hospitality of the Welsh"; T. M. Charles-Edwards, Early Irish and Welsh Kinship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 364-95.
(9) Julie Kerr, "'Welcome the Coming and Speed the Parting Guest': Hospitality in Twelfth-Century England," Journal of Medieval History 33.2 (2007): 130-46; Felicity Heal, Hospitality in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).
(10) Leopold Hellmuth, Gastfreundschaft und Gastrecht bei den Germanen, Oesterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 440 (Vienna: Verlag der osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1984); Hans Conrad Peyer, Von der Gastfreundschaft zum Gasthaus. Studien zur Gastlichkeit im Mittelatler, MGH Schriften 31 (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1987).
(11) Alban Gautier, "Hospitality in Pre-Viking Anglo-Saxon England," Early Medieval Europe 17 (2009): 23-44; Hiizu Moriyama, "Synonyms and Synonymous Expressions in the Old English Semantic Field 'Hospitality, Harbouring, and Entertaining'" Waseda Global Forum 7 (2010): 172-81; and James A. W. Heffernan, Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature (Yale U. Press, 2014). See also the recent special issue of the Journal of Medieval History 37 (2011), "Feasts and Gifts of Food in Medieval Europe: Ritualised Constructions of Hierarchy, Identity and Community."
(12) Julian Pitt-Rivers, "The Law of Hospitality," in The Fate of Shechem or the Politics of Sex: Essays in the Anthropology of the Mediterranean (Cambridge U. Press, 1977), 94.
(13) See Gabriele Muller-Oberhauser, "Cynna gemyndig: Sitte und Etiquette in der altenglische Literatur," Fruhmittelalterliche Studien 30 (1996): 19-59.
(14) Jean-Claude Schmitt, "The Rationale of Gestures in the West: Third to Thirteenth Centuries," in A Cultural History of Gesture: From Antiquity to the Present Day, ed. Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), 61.
(15) For recent reflections on Beowulf and peacemaking, see Peter S. Baker, Honour, Exchange and Violence in Beowulf (Cambridge: Brewer, 2013), esp. chap. 6.
(16) As Roy Liuzza observes, the disagreements that surround the date of Beowulf discourage "any close interpretation of the poem that depends on a specific period of Anglo-Saxon history." Roy Michael Liuzza, "On the Dating of Beowulf," in Beowulf: Basic Readings, ed. Peter B. Baker (New York: Garland, 1995), 295. My reflections here do not depend on a precise date or audience for the poem; rather, they try to highlight issues that might have appealed to various Anglo-Saxon audiences, and that might still appeal to contemporary readers of the poem.
(17) Hellmuth, Gastfreundschaft und Gastrecht, 24; Tom Selwyn, "An Anthropology of Hospitality," in In Search of Hospitality, 34; Michel Mollat, Les pauvres au moyen age: etude sociale (Paris: Hachette, 1978), 53.
(18) See also Ps. 48(47):10; Matt. 10:40; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9; Rom. 12:13.
(19) Anonymous Life of Saint Cuthhert, 2.2, in Two Lives of St. Cuthbert: A Life by an Anonymous Monk of Lindisfarne and Bede's Prose Life, ed. Bertram Colgrave (Cambridge U. Press, 1985), 76-79; AElfric, Catholic Homilies 2.10 "Depositio Sancti Cuthberti Episcopi," 83, lines 61-73, in AElfric, Catholic Homilies: The Second Series Text, ed. Malcolm Godden, EETS s. s. 5 (London: Oxford U. Press, 1979); Bede, Ecclesiastical History 1.7, 28-29, in Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. and trans. Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969); AElfric, Lives of Saints 1.7 "Saint Agnes, Virgin" 192, lines 386-90, in AElfric, Lives of Saints, Vol. 1, ed. and trans. W. W. Skeat, EETS o.s. 76 and 82 (London: Oxford U. Press, 1881 and 1885; 1966). On Bede's account of St. Alban, see also the illuminating reflections of Lynn Staley who links conversion with hospitality to the foreign. Lynn Staley, The Island Garden: England's Language of Nation from Gildas to Marvell (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2012), 67. See also AElfric, Lives of Saints 1.3, "Saint Basilius, bishop" (the priest Anastasius sheltering a leper), 74, lines 480-89; AElfric, Lives of Saints 2.30, "Passion of St. Eustache and his Companions," 204-6, 247-65 in AElfric, Lives of Saints. Vol. 2, ed. and trans. W. W. Skeat, EETS o.s. 94 and 114 (London: Oxford U. Press, 1890 and 1900; 1966); Christine Rauer, ed. and trans., "15 September: Mamilian," The Old English Martyrology: Edition, Translation and Commentary (Cambridge: Brewer, 2013).
(20) AElfric, Catholic Homilies. The Second Series Text, 163-64. See also in the same volume "Feria Secunda Letania Maiore," 2.19,181, lines 36-45, and the homily for the fifth Sunday in Lent (Assmann 12, 147 lines 81-89) in Angelsachsische Homilien und Heiligenleben, ed. B. Assmann, Bibliothek der angelsachsischen Prosa 3 (Kassel: G. H. Wigand, 1889; repr. with supplementary introduction by P. Clemoes, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1954).
(21) Marie-Claire Grassi, "Passer le seuil," Le livre de l'hospitalite, 22 and 32.
(22) On the language of hostility and hospitality, see Emile Benveniste, "Hospitalite," Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-europeennes. 1. Economie, parente, societe (Editions de Minuit, 1969), 87-101; and Hellmuth, Gastfreundschaft und Gastrecht, 23.
(23) See for instance the Libellus Responsium that Bede integrates in chap. 27 of Book 1 of the Ecclesiastical History. It specifies that a fourth of the goods given to a monastery should be devoted to hospitality: "Mos autem sedis apostolicae est ordinatis episcopis praecepta tradere, ut omni stipendio quod accedit quattuor debeant fieri portiones: una uidelicet episcopo et familiae propter hospitalitatem atque susceptionem ..." [It is a custom of the apostolic see to give instruction to those who have been consecrated bishops that all money received should be divided into four portions: that is, one for the bishop and his household for purposes of hospitality and entertainment]. Bede, Ecclesiastical History, 80-81.
(24) "Omnes superuenientes hospites tamquam Christus suscipiantur, quia ipse dicturus est: Hospis fui et suscepistis me" [All arriving guests should be welcomed like Christ, for he himself will say, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me"]. On this point, see Adalbert de Vogue, Reading Saint Benedict: Reflections on the Rule, trans. Colette Friedlander (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1994), 255-56. Benedicti Regula, ed. Rudolph Hanslik, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 75 (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1960), 123. The translation is from The Rule of Saint Benedict, ed. and trans. Bruce L. Venarde (Harvard U. Press, 2011), 173. Various rules were known and used in Anglo-Saxon England, and it is difficult to assess precisely which rule was observed in a particular monastery. The Benedictine Rule however was known throughout the period, as testified by Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 48, the oldest surviving manuscript of Benedict's Rule. It was produced in England and is dated to the eighth century. See Michael Lapidge, "The School of Theodore and Hadrian," Anglo-Saxon England 15 (2008): 54-58 and 62-63. On the Rule of Benedict and other monastic rules, see Sarah Foot, Monastic Life in Anglo-Saxon England, c. 600-900 (Cambridge U. Press, 2006), 48-69; Patrick Sims-Williams, Religion and Literature in Western England, 600-800 (Cambridge U. Press, 1990), 117-18.
(25) 53.15: "Pauperum et peregrinorum maxime susceptioni cura sollicite exhibeatur, quia in ipsis magis Christus suscipitur; nam diuitum terror ipse sibi exigit honorem" [The greatest care should be shown in the reception of the poor and pilgrims because in them especially Christ is welcomed (for awe of the rich itself secures honorable treatment)]. Benedicti Regula, ed. Hanslik, 124-25. Venarde, The Rule of Saint Benedict, 175. See Vogue, Reading Saint Benedict, 132, for observations on the much more circumspect reception of guests in the Regula magistri.
(26) 53.16: "Coquina abbatis et hospitum super se sit, ut incertis horis superuenientes hospites, qui numquam desunt monasterio, non inquietentur fratres" [The kitchens of the abbot and the guests should be separate so that guests, who are never absent from a monastery and appear at unpredictable times, do not disturb the brothers] .53.23: "Hospitibus autem, cui non praecipitur, ullatenus societur neque conloquatur" [No one should associate or speak with guests at all unless permission is granted], Benedicti Regula, ed. Hanslik, 125 and 126. Venarde, The Rule of Saint Benedict, 175. See Vogue, Reading Saint Benedict, 258-59.
(27) On this distinction, see Christopher A. Jones, Aelfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 213n296. Both AEthelwolds Regularis Concordia and AElfric's adaptation of it in the Letter to the Monks of Eynsham betray an interest in welcoming the poor. They abridge the concluding part of chap. 53 of the Benedictine Rule, the former briefly mentioning that departing wayfarers should be provided with a supply of victuals, the latter simply referring to the Rule concerning the treatment of guests.
(28) 2 Cnut 35.1: "Witodlice, se de freondleasan 7 feorran cumenan wyrsan dom demed pronne his geferan, he dered him sylfum" [Indeed he who passes a worse judgment on a friendless and foreign man than on his associate living nearby, he injures himself]. Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, ed. F. Liebermann, vol. 1 (Halle: Niemeyer, 1898), 338. See also 8 AEthelred 33 and Edward and Guthrum 12. See also Alfred's prologue to his law-code and his exhortation to be kind to strangers "fordon de ge waeron giu eldeodige on Egipta londe" [for once you were strangers in the land of Egypt], This passage repeats Exod. 22.21. Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 38. See also Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, ed. and trans. B. Thorpe (s.l: s. n, 1840), 24. Unless specified otherwise, all translations from the Old English are my own.
(29) Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 11. See also Gautier, "Hospitality," 28-29. The host is however not held responsible for the behavior of guests he welcomes only for a short time: see for instance Hlothhere and Eadric 11,13, and 14. Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 10-11. For Lisi Olivers comments on "legal responsibility in hospitality," see Lisi Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law (U. of Toronto Press, 2002), 138.
(30) About this guest coming "from over the border," Oliver says that he "may be an Anglo-Saxon from a different region of England, but Welshmen and foreigners from across the sea are not necessarily excluded." Oliver, Beginnings of English Law, 138.
(31) For instance, Ine 30: "Gif mon cierliscne monnan fliemanfeorme teo, be his agnum were geladige he hine; gif he ne maege, gielde hine his agne were; 7 se gesidmon swa be his were" [If anyone accuses a commoner of harbouring a fugitive he shall clear himself by (an oath) equal in value to his own wergeld. If he cannot do so he shall pay for (harbouring) him (the fugitive), (a sum equal to) his own wergeld. A nobleman also shall pay according to the amount of his own wergeld]. Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 102. The translation is from The Laws of the Earliest English Kings, ed. and trans. F. L. Attenborough (New York: Russel and Russel, 1963), 47. See also Alfred 4; 2 Athelstan 8; 20.8, 4 Athelstan 6.3; 2 Edmund 1.2; 3 Edgar 7.3; 3 Ethelred 13, Cnut's letter to the people of England (1019-1020), 12.
(32) On this point, see John Hudson, The Oxford History of the Laws of England, Volume II: 871-1216 (Oxford U. Press, 2012), 167-68.
(33) Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 14.
(34) Die Gesetze, ed. Liebermann, 98.
(35) Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law, 179-80.
(36) Lisi Oliver, "Legal Documentation and the Practice of English Law," in The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature, ed. Clare A. Lees (Cambridge U. Press, 2013), 528. See also Carole Hough, "Legal and Documentary Writing," in A Companion to Anglo-Saxon Literature, ed. Phillip Pulsiano and Elaine Treharne (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 170. Patrick Wormald, The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, vol. 1: Legislation and Its Limits (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999; repr. 2001), 264 and 248, notes that "law-codes were preserved before 1066 for reasons other than the strictly utilitarian" and are perhaps best considered as an "index of governing mentalities." See also Patrick Wormald, "Lex Scripta and Verbum Regis: Legislation and Germanic Kingship, from Euric to Cnut," in Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image and Experience, ed. Patrick Wormald (London: Hambledon Press, 1999; first publ. 1977), 1-43.
(37) Stephen Pollington, "The Mead-Hall Community," Journal of Medieval History 37 (2011): 19-33; Eileen A. Joy, '"In His Eyes Stood a Light, Not Beautiful': Levinas, Hospitality, Beowulf' in Levinas and Medieval Literature: The 'Difficult Reading' of English and Rabbinic Texts, ed. Ann Asted and J. A. Jackson (Pittsburg: Duquesne U. Press, 2009), 57-84; Alban Gautier, Le festin dans l'Angleterre anglo-saxonne (Ve-Xie siecle) (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2006); Hugh Magennis, Images of Community in Old English Poetry (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), 60-81; Kathryn Hume, "The Concept of the Hall in Old English Poetry," Anglo-Saxon England 3 (1974): 63-74; James L. Rosier, "The Uses of Association: Hands and Feasts in Beowulf," PMLA 78 (1963): 8-14.
(38) Robert E. Bjork, "Speech as Gift in Beowulf,' Speculum 69 (1994): 993-1022; T. A. Shippey, "Principles of Conversation in Beowulfian Speech," in Techniques of Description: Spoken and Written Discourse, ed. John M. Sinclair, Michael Hoey, and Gwyneth Fox (London: Routledge, 1993), 109-26; Eric Jager, "Speech and the Chest in Old English Poetry: Orality or Pectorality," Speculum 65 (1990): 845-59; Peter S. Baker, "Beowulf the Orator," Journal of English Linguistics 21 (1988): 3-23.
(39) David Rollason, "Protection and the Mead-Hall," in Peace and Protection in the Middle Ages, ed. T. B. Lambert and David Rollason (Durham: Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2009), 19-35; Hugh Magennis, Anglo-Saxon Appetites: Food and Drink and their Consumption in Old English and Related Literatures (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999), 51-58 and 78-84; Fred C. Robinson, Beowulf and the Appositive Style (U. of Tennessee Press, 1985), 75-77.
(40) Nathan A. Breen, "The King's Closest Counselor: The Legal Basis of Wealhtheow's Comments to Hrothgar, Beowulf 1169-87," The Heroic Age 14 (2010): 29 paras; Dorothy Carr Porter, "The Social Centrality of Women in Beowulf: A New Context," The Heroic Age 5 (2001); Michael J. Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Age (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1996), esp. chap. 1, "Ritual, Group Cohesion and Hierarchy in the Germanic Warband," 1-37; Christopher Fee, "Beag and Beaghroden: Women, Treasure and the Language of Social Structure in Beowulf,' Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 97 (1996): 285-94; Gillian R. Overing, "The Women of Beowulf: A Context for Interpretation," in Beowulf: Basic Readings, ed. Peter S. Baker (New York: Garland, 1995), 219-60; Helen Damico, Beowulf s Wealhtheow and the Valkyrie Tradition (U. of Wisconsin Press, 1984); Andre Crepin, "Queen Wealhtheow's Offering of the Cup to Beowulf," in Saints, Scholars and Heroes: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honour of Charles W. Jones, ed. Margot H. King and Wesley M. Stevens (Collegeville, MN: Hill Monastic Library, 1979), 45-58.
(41) Haruko Momma, "The Education of Beowulf and the Affair of the Leisure Class," in Verbal Encounters: Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank, ed. Antonina Harbus and Russell Poole (U. of Toronto Press, 2005), 163-82; Bob Barringer, "Adding Insult to the Inquiry: A Study of Rhetorical Jousting in Beowulf,' In Geardagum 19 (1998): 19-26; E. G. Stanley, "Courtliness and Courtesy in Beowulf and Elsewhere in English Medieval Literature," in Words and Works: Studies in Medieval English Language and Literature in Honour of Fred C. Robinson, ed. Peter Baker and Nicholas Howe (U. of Toronto Press, 1998), 67-103; Michael J. Enright, "The Warband Context of the Unferth Episode," Speculum 73 (1996): 297-337; Ward Parks, "Flyting and Fighting: Pathways in the Realization of the Epic Contest," Neophilologus 70 (1986): 292-306; Patricia Silber, "Rhetoric as Prowess in the Unferth Episode," Texas Studies in Literature and Language 23 (1981): 471-83; C. J. Clover, "The Germanic Context of the Unferth Episode," Speculum 55 (1980): 444-68; Jane Roberts, "Old English un- 'very' and Unferth," English Studies 61 (1980): 289-92.
(42) See especially the ambiguities surrounding the term geest (gdst "spirit, demon" or gist "stranger, visitor"): J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell, ed. Christopher Tolkien (London: Harper Collins, 2014), 159; Jana K. Schulman, "Monstrous Introductions: Ellengoest and Agloecwif," in Beowulf at Kalamazoo: Essays on Translation and Performance, ed. Jana K. Schulman and Paul E. Szarmach (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2012), 69-92; Carolyn Anderson, "Goest, Gender, and Kin in Beowulf. Consumption of Boundaries," The Heroic Age 5 (2001); Joyce Tally Lionarons, "Beowulf. Myth and Monsters," English Studies IT (1996): 1-14. See also Megan Cavell, "Constructing the Monstrous Body in Beowulf' Anglo-Saxon England 43 (2014): 155-81; Renee Trilling, "Beyond Abjection: The Problem with Grendel's Mother Again," Parergon 24 (2007): 1-20; Kathryn Powell, "Meditating on Men and Monsters: A Reconsideration of the Thematic Unity of the Beowulf Manuscript," RES 57 (2006): 1-15; Jennifer Neville, "Monsters and Criminals: Defining Humanity in Old English Poetry," in Monsters and the Monstrous in Medieval Northern Europe, ed. K. E. Olsen and L. A. J. R. Houwen (Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 103-22; Andre Crepin, "Beowulf: monstre ou modele," Etudes Anglaises 51 (1998): 387-98; Andy Orchard, Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript (Cambridge: Brewer, 1995); Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe, "Beowulf, lines 702b-836: Transformations and the Limits of the Human," Texas Studies in Literature and Language 23 (1981): 484-94.
(43) On this point, see in particular Orchard, Pride and Prodigies, 29-33.
(44) Lionarons, "Beowulf: Myth and Monsters," 5 and 7.
(45) Grendel is repeatedly linked with obscurity (Beowulf, 115b, 166b-67, 275b, 710b, 714a, 731b). The Danes do not know where the monsters live (Beowulf, 162b-63, 1331b-32, 1357b-58a, 1366b-67), and yet, the king surprisingly also says that Grendel's abode is not far from Heorot (Beowulf, 1361b-62) and that people have seen the two creatures from afar (Beowulf, 1347-49a). Klaeber's Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. R. D. Fulk, Robert E. Bjork, and John D. Niles, 4th ed. (U. of Toronto Press, 2008).
(46) When Beowulf plunges into the mere, Grendel's mother soon discovers his presence. She seizes him and "Baer pa seo brimwylf, pa heo to botme com, / hringa Jaengel to hofe sinum" [Then when she reached the bottom, the she-wolf of the sea carried the prince of rings to her house] (Beowulf, 1506-7).
(47) Beowulf, 2312-27a.
(48) On the motif of the hero calling the dragon to emerge from the cave in Beowulf and hagiographic tradition, see Christine Rauer, Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues (Cambridge: Brewer, 2000), 80-1.
(49) Neville, "Monsters and Criminals," 117.
(50) Lionarons, "Beowulf: Myth and Monsters," 8.
(51) Adrien Bonjour, The Digressions in Beowulf (Oxford: Blackwell, 1950, repr. 1965), 16. See also John M. Hill, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf: Arrivals and Departures (U. of Toronto Press, 2008), 31, and Frederick M. Biggs, "The Naming of Beowulf and Ecgtheow's Feud," PQ 80 (2001): 102.
(52) Michael R. Kightley, "Reinterpreting Threats to Face: The Use of Politeness in Beowulf, lines 407-472," Neophilologus 93 (2009): 517-18. On this point, see also Antje G. Frotscher, "Treasure and Violence: Mapping a Conceptual Metaphor in Medieval Heroic Literature," Neophilologus 97 (2013): 758-59; Hill, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf, 31.
(53) Biggs, "The Naming of Beowulf and Ecgtheow's Feud," 105.
(54) See Hlothhere and Eadric 15 quoted above; and the laws of Edward the Confessor, 23, esp. 23.1. Bruce R. O'Brien, ed., Gods Peace and Kings Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 182. See also Gautier, "Hospitality," 28-29; Kerr, '"Welcome the Coming and Speed the Parting Guest'," 142-44.
(55) Hill, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf 24-29; Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to Beowulf (Brewer, 2003), 208-13; Robert E. Kaske, "The Coastwarden's Maxim in Beowulf. A Clarification," N&Q 31.3 (1984): 16-18; Thomas Hamel, "Guests, Heroes and the Fall of Beowulf," Old English Newsletter 13.2 (1980): 37; Norman E. Eliason, "The Arrival at Heorot," in Studies in Language, Literature, and Culture of the Middle Ages and Later, ed. E. Bagby Atwood and Archibald A. Hill (U. of Texas Press, 1969), 235-42; John Halverson, "The World of Beowulf," Journal of English Literary History 36 (1969): 595; Margaret W. Pepperdene, "Beowulf and the Coast-Guard," English Studies 47 (1966): 409-19.
(56) Tolkien, Beowulf, 195-96.
(57) Fritz Mezger, "Two Notes on Beowulf,' Modern Language Notes 66 (1951): 36-38, adduces Old Norse parallels for a meaning "tramp, vagabond." See also Biggs, "The Naming of Beowulf and Ecgtheow's Feud," 97.
(58) Orchard, Critical Companion, 209 has "peerless face." Liuzza translates the phrase as "incomparable appearance"; Beowulf, trans. R. M. Liuzza, 2nd ed. (Peterborough: Broadview, 2013). Crossley-Holland has "his lordly bearing"; Beowulf, trans. Kevin Crossley-Holland (Oxford U. Press, 1999). Jack glosses the two words as "matchless appearance"; Beowulf: A Student Edition, ed. George Jack (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). Swanton translates it as "unique form"; Beowulf ed. and trans. Michael Swanton (Manchester U. Press, 1978). Chickering has "noble bearing"; Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition, ed. and trans. Howell. D. Chickering Jr. (New York: Anchor Press, 1977).
(59) The Dictionary of Old English records ca. 1400 occurrences, mostly in glosses. Dictionary of Old English: A to G online, ed. Angus Cameron, Ashley Crandell Amos, Antonette diPaolo Healey, et al. (Toronto: Dictionary of Old English Project, 2007).
(60) Beowulf, 251a, 928a, 2772a and 2834a.
(61) Pitt-Rivers, "The Law of Hospitality," 97.
(62) See also Hill, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf, 24-25.
(63) It may be worth mentioning here that Beowulf's first words to Hygelac are Hygelac is undyrne, dryhten Higelac / maeru gemeting monegum fira ..." [My lord Hygelac, the great encounter is revealed to many people ...] (Beowulf, 2000-1).
(64) On the echoes between the coastguards and Wulfgar's speeches, see Orchard, Critical Companion, 208.
(65) The manuscript reads "orfeorme", but the emendation "for feorme" is widely accepted. For a detailed discussion of this passage, and in particular of Beowulf's role in the struggle for the Swedish throne, see James W. Earl, "The Swedish Wars in Beowulf," JEGP 114 (2015): 43-48.
(66) "Guman onetton, / sigon aetsomne, op paet hy sael timbred / geatolic ond goldfah ongyton mihton" [the men hurried, they marched together until they could see the built hall, splendid and ornamented with gold] (Beowulf, 306b-8).
(67) "Aris, rices weard, uton hrape feran, / Grendles magan gang sceawigan" [Arise, guardian of the kingdom, let us go quickly look at the track of Grendel's kinswoman] (Beowulf, 1390-91).
(68) "Wisa fengel / geatolic gende; gumfepa stop / lindhaebbendra" [The wise king rode stately; the band of shield-bearers marched] (Beowulf, 1400b-2a).
(69) Pitt-Rivers, "The Law of Hospitality," 108.
(70) "Ic hwile waes / endesaeta, aegwearde heold" [I have long been a border resident, I kept watch by the sea, Beowulf] (240b-41).
(71) See notes to Klaeber's Beowulf, ed. Fulk, Bjork, and Niles, 143. J. Hoops, "Das Verhullen des Haupts bei Toten, ein angelsachsisch-nordischer Brauch (Zu Beowulf 446: hafelan hydan)," Englische Studien 54 (1920): 19-23, understands this line to refer to the custom of covering the head of a dead body. Mezger, "Two Notes on Beowulf,' 36-38, argues that Beowulf here means that Hrothgar will not be held responsible for avenging his death. For Arthur E. DuBois, '"Hafelan Hydan,' Beowulf, lines 446, 1372," Modern Language Notes 70.1 (1955): 3-5, the phrase simply means "to die." See also Roberta Frank, "Skaldic Verse and the Date of Beowulf in The Dating of Beowulf, ed. Colin Chase (U. of Toronto Press, 1981), 136.
(72) Dictionary of Old English, "feorm." See also Orchard, Critical Companion, 213; Kightley, "Reinterpreting Threats to Face," 515; Andreas Fischer, Engagement, Wedding and Marriage in Old English, Anglistische Forschungen 176 (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitatsverlag, 1986): 46-48. Tolkien, Beowulf, 241-42, detects both irony and folklore motifs. See the note to Klaeber's Beowulf, ed. Fulk, Bjork, and Niles, 144, for a mention of the various interpretations to which this phrase has given rise.
(73) For instance Orchard, Critical Companion, 213. See also Beowulf, trans. Liuzza, 81; Beowulf, ed. Jack, 54; and Martin Puhvel, "Lices feorm',' English Language Notes 1 (1964): 159-63.
(74) Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality, trans. Rachel Bowlby (Stanford U. Press, 2000), 87.
(75) Beowulf, lines 2802-8, is a good instance of the importance that the barrow will have in keeping Beowulf's memory alive among his people. See also Jennifer Neville, Representations of the Natural World in Old English Poetry (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 137-38; Orchard, Critical Companion, 36-39.
(76) Grassi, "Passer le seuil," 23.
(77) Hellmuth, Gastfreundschaft und Gastrecht, 24, points out that hospitality is useful for the host because it is "ein Instrument zur Aufrechterhaltung dessen, was in der entsprechenden Kultur als Ordnung im weitesten Sinn verstanden und empfunden wird."
(78) Beowulf, 1175-80a; Beowulf, 1225b-31.
(79) Beowulf, 1180b-87. For Shippey, Wealhtheow associates Beowulf and Hrothulf in the threat that they represent to her sons. Shippey, "Principles of Conversation", 113-14.
(80) Momma, "The Education of Beowulf," 172.
(81) Orchard, Critical Companion, 174.
(82) This reading is based on the widespread emendation adding "ne" to line 1130a. For a different interpretation of this passage, see Richard North, "Tribal Loyalties in the 'Finnsburh Fragment' and Episode," Leeds Studies in English 21 (1990): 26-27; and John F. Vickrey, "The Narrative Structure of Hengest's Revenge in Beowulf,' Anglo-Saxon England 6 (1977): 91-103.
(83) For a recent discussion of this passage, see Baker, Honour, Exchange and Violence in Beowulf, 187-96.
(84) Klaeber's Beowulf, ed. Fulk, Bjork, and Niles, 183.
(85) Baker, Honour, Exchange and Violence in Beowulf, 194-95.
(86) This reading assumes that Hunlafing designates a person and is not the name of the sword.
(87) This is again a passage that has been extensively discussed. For more details, see Klaeber's Beowulf ed. Fulk, Bjork, and Niles, 189-90, and Orchard, Critical Companion, 185.
(88) Schmitt, "The Rationale of Gestures," 61.
(89) When discussing the Finnsburh episode, John Niles observes that this passage demonstrates "just how heinous the Frisians' initial attack upon their guests was felt to be. The episode serves as a reminder of the crucial role played by guest friendship in early Germanic society ..." John D. Niles, "The Myth of the Feud in Anglo-Saxon England," JEGP 114 (2015): 189.
(90) Pitt-Rivers, "The Law of Hospitality," 111.
(91) "Gladian" appears only here in poetry, though it occurs in prose with the meaning "to gladden" or "to be glad, rejoice." This passage in Beowulf is the only instance for which the Dictionary of Old English records the meaning "gleam, be bright, shine."
(92) Muller-Oberhauser, "Cynna gemyndig" 38, quotes Jan Assman at this point: "Was einzelne Individuen zu einem solchen Wir zusammenbindet, ist die konnektive Struktur eines gemeinsamen Wissens und Selbstbilds, das sich ... auf die Erinnerungan eine gemeinsam bewohnte Vergangenheit stutzt." She adds: "Dem Fest kommt hier besondere Bedeutung zu, denn es dient als 'primare Organisationsform des kulturellen Gedachtnisses' der Vergegenwartigung der Vergangenheit." Jan Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedachtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identitat in fruhen Hochkulturen (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck, 1992), 16ff.
(93) For a different view, see Shippey, for whom "there is no sign the Dane with the sword has been insolently boastful at all, but since the whole situation is imaginary, that can hardly be tested." Shippey, "Principles of Conversation," 116.
(94) It is worth pointing out here that when leaving Hrothgar, Beowulf promises him help if he hears "paet pec ymbsittend egesan pywad" [that neighbors threaten you with terror] (Beowulf 1827).
(95) See for instance Bonjour, The Digressions in Beowulf, 3-11.
(96) On this point, and for arguments that the controlling theme of Beowulf is "threats to social order", see Kathryn Hume, "The Theme and Structure of Beowulf," SP 72 (1975): 1-27.
(97) The first promise of the Promissio Regis reads: "An aerest paet godes cyrice and eall cristen folc minra gewealda sode sibbe healde" [First, that God's church and all Christian people in my dominions preserve true peace]. Mary Clayton, "The Old English Promissio Regis" Anglo-Saxon England 37 (2008): 148; translation 149. For comparison, the Latin text of the Leofric Missal has "Inprimis, ut ecclesia dei, et omnis populus christianus, ueram pacem seruent, in omnipotenti deo" [First, that the Church of God and all Christian people preserve true peace]. The quotation and translation of the Leofric Missal are from Clayton, "The Old English Promissio Regis" 108. Janet Nelson has shown that the coronation rite in England was remarkably stable and persisted through most (possibly all) of the ninth century to most of the eleventh. Janet L. Nelson, "The Earliest Surviving Royal Ordo: Some Liturgical and Historical Aspects," in Authority and Power: Studies on Medieval Law and Government Presented to Walter Ullmann, ed. B. Tierney and P. Lineham (Cambridge U. Press, 1980), 48. See also Janet L. Nelson, "Inauguration Rituals," in Politics and Ritual in Early Medieval Europe (London: Hambledon Press, 1986), 283-307.
(98) Andre Crepin, "Beowulf: monstre ou modele"; Levin L. Schucking, "The Ideal of Kingship in Beowulf," in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, ed. Lewis E. Nicholson (Notre Dame U. Press, 1963; first publ. as "Das Konigsideal im Beowulf," MHRA Bulletin 3 (1929): 143-54), 35-49; Felix Liebermann, "Ort und Zeit der Beowulfdichtung," Nachrichten von der Koniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zur Gottingen, philosophisch-historische Klasse (1920): 255-75. For an opposing view, see J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, Early Germanic Kingship in England and on the Continent (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 122.
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|Author:||Michelet, Fabienne L.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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