A Comparison of Beowulf and Icelandic Sagas Essay

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Beowulf and Icelandic Sagas

There are many similarities between the hero of the poem Beowulf and the heroes of the two Icelandic sagas, The Saga of The Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. The former saga is an Icelandic saga representing oral traditions dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun was fighting on the northern fringes of the Roman Empire; the latter is an Icelandic saga representing 1000 years of oral traditions prior to the 1300’s when it was written.

An unknown author wrote The Saga of The Volsungs in the thirteenth century, basing his story on far older Norse poetry. Iceland was settled by the Vikings about 870-930, who took to that land the famous lay of
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Concerning Sigurd, “none was his match in conduct and size” (55); concerning Beowulf, he was “noble and huge” (198), and had “the strength of thirty in his mighty hand-grip (380-81). Sigurd “was raised there with King Hjalprek” (5); Beowulf was raised with King Hrethel. “And when all the most renowned men and kings in the ancient sagas are named, Sigurd must be counted the foremost in strength and accomplishments, in zeal and valor” (55); King Hrothgar said to Beowulf, “Your glorious name is raised on high over every nation, Beowulf my friend, your fame spreads far” (1703).

Sigurd had contact with runes; Beowulf experienced runes on the sword hilt after the death of Grendel’s mother. Sigurd experienced magic from an old man living in the woods; Beowulf experienced magic in a sword which melted. Sigurd was taunted by Regin (57); Beowulf was taunted by Unferth before facing Grendel. Sigurd had made a sword for himself whose “equal has never been made” (59); Beowulf had more than one famous sword. Sigurd was so strong that he broke swords; likewise Beowulf. Sigurd went by ship to avenge his family members who had fallen in battle; Beowulf went by ship to avenge his family (Heardred and Daghrefin) who had fallen in battle. Sigurd was feared by other tribes; Beowulf was feared by other tribes. Sigurd killed King Lyngvi

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