Friday, 17 February 2012

Beowulf’s Burial Place? (NZ749195)

Beowulf, that shady mythical figure from Dark Age Scandinavia, has found himself transformed, almost, into a great British hero thanks to that famous Old English poem. Thing is, he wasn’t from these shores – it being likely that the yarn was re-spun by early Anglo-Saxon immigrants to suit their own tastes (and surroundings) in the early days of their ‘invasion’ of our shores.

The original is most firmly set in modern-day Denmark and Sweden, yet old historians and antiquarians have persisted in giving the story an English twist. The most stubborn myth concerns the great man’s burial – which followed his death in battle with a dragon. It is said that he was laid to rest by his people, the Geats, in a prominent tumulus on high ground overlooking the sea.

Now there is no real reason to suppose that this would have occurred anywhere else other than in the land of the Geats themselves, i.e. southern Sweden. However, more than one ‘expert’ this side of the North Sea has ventured to suggest (principally by fiddling about unconvincingly with place-names) that the spot in question is Boulby Cliff on the Redcar and Cleveland coast.

So we’re talking about a mythical hero from Scandinavia being buried several hundred miles away from his homeland on a cliff top in North-East England.  Mmm.  Mind you, Boulby Cliff certainly measures up at 660ft (the highest sea-cliff on the eastern seaboard), is within spitting distance of the recent Anglo-Saxon Street House Treasure find and is, as it happens, capped by an ancient tumulus.

I wonder… - New, Secondhand, Rare Books

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