Wergild In Beowulf

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Wergild, the killing of one’s own brother (or fellow tribe member) was considered the most heinous crime to the Anglo Saxons. Committing wergild would lead to a lifetime of shame and often required a sort of vengeance. Several characters in Beowulf are exiled, shamed, or otherwise punished for killing. Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, was banished from his kingdom after he murdered another man. Hrtohgar described Edgetho’s exile: “Edgetho had begun a bitter feud, killing Hathlaf, a Wulfing warrior: your father’s countrymen were afraid of war, if he returned to his home, and they turned him away.” The bitter feud continued until Hrothgar avenged Hathlaf’s death when he “sent ancient treasures through the ocean’s furrows to the Wulfings” The most notorious perpetrator of wergild was Unferth, who is told by Beowulf that he will “suffer hell’s fires.” The Anglo Saxons also strongly believed in the idea of comitatus, or loyalty to the king. This idea was so …show more content…

Because they did not believe in an afterlife, the Anglo Saxons felt that immortality was achieved by fame and positive reputation, and that achieving fame was the most important task in one’s life. Beowulf clearly defines this idea in his speech to Hrothgar before attacking Grendel’s mother: “he who can earn it should fight for the glory of his name; fame after death is the noblest of goals.” The Anglo Saxons remembered their heroes’ fame through the telling of their epic tales and the passing down of their mementos. Beowulf embodies memento mori in nearly every aspect; the epic itself is a prime example of oral tradition. Within the story, there are several instances of scops recounting the stories of past heroes, such as the tale of Siegmund. Mementos are also abundant in Beowulf. The mail shirt that Beowulf wears was passed down to him from his grandfather, Hrethel, and upon his own death, Beowulf passes it on to

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