The Finn Episode in Beowulf: Line 108S(b) ac hig him gepingo budon

John Gray


This paper reconsiders that elusive section of the Finn Episode in Beowulf which concerns the offering of a treaty in lines 1080-961 after the slaughterous fighting at Finnsburh. The difficulties of the Episode are notorious. The identification of the pronouns in lines 1085-87 has proved as much a battlefield for editors as the mebelstede of line 1082 proved for Finn and Hengest. This section of the narrative is further complicated by a group called the 'Eotenas', whose identity is one of the longest standing debates in the study of Beowulf. This paper takes issue with one received method of examining the cruces in this section of the narrative and proposes a new reading of line 1085(b), the point at which the terms are first offered. l.e. Finn Episode is a narrative within a narrative. It is recounted by a Danish minstrel, Hrol'gar's scop, who, at a banquet to celebrate Beowulfs defeat of the monster Grendel, sings of the fighting between a certain Finn and a hero of the Half-Danes, Hnref Scyldinga. This long account is contained in ninety lines commencing from line 1068 and concluding at line 1169. What is the mode of narration of this episode? What occurs in the narrative? What features of the narrative are placed in the foreground by the mode in which it is recounted in Beowulf! A discussion of the difficulties in lines 1080-96 raises such questions, but, in the course of exploring these lines, one needs to remember also the mode in which the narrative was received by an audience of listeners. Since the narrative was orally delivered, I ask the reader to forgo one of the usual advantages of the printed page and to imagine that the narrative unfolds itself phrase by phrase, without that reassuring support given by a stretch of subsequent printed text which tacitly promises to explicate any immediate obscurity.

Full Text: