Royal Holloway, University of London<white space>Department of English


Beowulf’s Return to the Estuary
By Martin Newell

A Kentish archaeologist says that the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf was not set in southern Scandinavia, as previously thought, but that it preserves a memory of 5th-century Germanic raids on south-east England, whose main action was centred near the Thames Estuary.


Thus spoke Beowulf son of Edgetheow:

So the Hwyfe and I and our three scyldren
took the hring hroad. Which was a mistæk:
Bumper-to-bumper through the Dartfeord Tunnel,
Fynally eonding up near Grays. An healfing nightmær!
The scyldren at each otheres hthroats and the Hwyfe
bewailing the loss of her Hrattner’s gold signum,
given to her by Hrothgar, eofter the Great Feast,
hwen he hyospitalised her brothere Hwayne.

On the hway back to Gyllinghjam, we stopped in
at a Harvestyr—which was packed—and then
into a Mead Hall, eofter I dropped off Hwyfe and scyldren.
Three flasks in and a mighty battle started. This was
because of some warriors just off a longship at Chatham.
One of these hwas well eout-of-ordur, adorned with gold,
tattooed around the hneck and sheouting the odds.

I mean, there hwas only me, Hygelac The Bald and Welnaf.
Welnaf, fearsome in his Scyell-suit, is a bit naughty in a hruc
and says to this doughnut: ‘Oi gæzer! Are you calling me
a Cnut?’ That hwas it. The hwole thinng went pear-scyaped.
Then came this Grendel. Took a Styanley Knife to Hygelac
and gleassed Welnaf in the fyace. In the absence of a shootyr,
I took a pollcyu to the beorstard and he hwent down.

Back at Hrothgar’s hall, Hrothgar said: ‘That won’t be the
eond of it, you mark my hwords.’ Scyure enuf, two
days later, I’m leaving the Mead Hall when Dærren says:
‘Oi Beowulf, there is a græt fyre in the Carpeork’.
I looked and The Grendel had torched my Feord Escyort.

Eofter that I leoft it. Since Welnaf’s brother put the hword
eout that He hwill deal with the Grendel. But quietly.
And the Hwyfe doesn’t hwant my two hyears suspended
being brought up agæn. So that hwas that.

From The Independent, 10 December 1998


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Last updated 6 July 1999