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Beowulf: Prince of the Geats, Nazis, and Odinists

Richard Scott Nokes, Troy University

Old English Newsletter, 2008

Beowulf, a poem written in a language identified with the Anglo-Saxons but without mention of England or a single English character, has always been entangled with the complexities of issues of nationalism. The tribes and peoples mentioned in the story are little more than names to us, but the original audience may well have had strong feelings about them. There may be strong ethnic or nationalist themes running through the poem to which we are blind in the dim light of historical distance. These issues of national identity are more than minor details; Anglo-Saxon England had, of course, a complicated relationship with the Scandinavian peoples, and as Dorothy Whitelock pointed out, the matter of how the Danes would be perceived by the audience of Beowulf is a central question in the debate over the dating of the poem.

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