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Name: _____________________________________ Period: ____________________ Beowulf Study Guide One of the most important remains of Anglo-Saxon literature is the epic poem Beowulf. Its age is unknown; but it comes from a very distant and hoar antiquity... It is like a piece of ancient armor; rusty and battered, and yet strong - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow BACKGROUND It is a curious fact that some of the world's greatest literature has come to us from an unknown hand. Beowulf, the first epic poem in the English language, ranks high among such literature. While we do not know the identity of the author, and we are unsure of its precise date of composition, most scholars believe it was composed by a single Christian author for a Christian audience in Anglo-Saxon England anywhere from the eighth to eleventh century. Beowulf was composed in the oral poetic tradition. Whether it was originally written or oral is not known. The poem, filled with biblical allusions to the Old Testament, is also influenced by Germanic oral tradition and Old Norse myth and legend. Beowulf is an epic poem (a long, narrative poem written in an elevated style which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero or god) and contains an epic hero (superhumanhero or god of an epic). Little more can be said about the author with certainty, except that he was highly skilled in poetic technique and was thoroughly familiar with the traditional themes and legends of early Germanic culture. What is it about Beowulf that moved the American poet Longfellow to compare it to "a piece of

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