Beowulf and danish mythology


Beowulf’s poet adapts certain motifs found in Danish mythology to relay a directed moral to his audience. The poet expects his audience to possess a general knowledge of these myths and he uses them to contrast the actions and choices of the mythical characters with the characters in his own poem. There are two important myths that he incorporates into his poem: those of Freyja’s Brísingamen, and Thor and the World Serpent.

The first of the myths is that of the Brísingamen, a necklace owned by the goddess Freyja. In the poem, there is a brief mention of Brosinga Mene, wherein the poet alludes to a decision made by Hama to forego earthly treasure for eternal reward (Beo 1195-1201). This allusion “ the pursuit of treasure with damnation.”

Finally, and arguably most importantly, there is the connection between Beowulf and the Dragon and Thor and the World Serpent. It is suggested by some scholars that the poet uses Beowulf’s character as an analogy to Thor. Numerous similarities may be found: their battles with giants, the loss of hope experienced by their people after their deaths and their final battles with serpents. The use of these Danish myths, although Christianized, adds an interesting perspective on the poet and his own views on the salvation of “heathens.”