The beasts of battle: associative connections of the wolf, raven and eagle in Old English poetry
AuthorBritt, Hugo Edward
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2014 Dr. Hugo Edward Britt
The term ‘Beasts of Battle’ refers to the scavenging wolf, raven and eagle that appear after or in anticipation of armed conflict in Old English poetry. This thesis argues that the beasts carry with them a body of associations that would have been strongly apparent to an Anglo-Saxon audience, with echoes of these associative connections still discernible by the contemporary reader. Various and often conflicting usages of the Beasts of Battle are examined, investigating sources, analogues and attitudes towards these three beasts both in Anglo-Saxon literature and that of associated cultures including Scandinavian, Celtic and the imported Judeo-Christian tradition. This includes a thorough analysis of the fourteen surviving Beasts of Battle passages which are then examined through the differing lenses of multiple associative connections. The analysis not only draws together but reinvigorates the ongoing debate on this topic, opening the theme up to multiple interpretations rather than seeking a single explanation for its usage, as has frequently been the case in past scholarship. A better understanding of the many possible Anglo-Saxon responses to the Beasts of Battle will lead to an improved comprehension of the significance and intended purpose of the theme’s inclusion in so many of the surviving Old English poems.
KeywordsOld English; Anglo Saxon; Anglo-Saxon; wolf; raven; eagle; Beasts of Battle; beasts; Old English poetry; Anglo-Saxon poetry; oral-formulaic theory; English literature; English poetry
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