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Cover, Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition
Image credit: John D. Niles

Helmet from Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. The hero Beowulf is never described in physical detail and remains fairly inscrutable. Since 1939, though, when the treasures buried at Sutton Hoo were unearthed, many people have been tempted to associate the poem with objects found at that site. This helmet, for some present-day readers, may be as close to the man "Beowulf" as one can get.
Image credit: Trustees of the British Museum, London; Copyright ©

Replica of lyre from Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. Lyres have occasionally been found in high-status pagan graves of the late Germanic Iron Age. People of this era clearly enjoyed music and song, as they are shown doing at the beginning of "Beowulf" when a court singer celebrates the Creation. This lyre had six strings and was made of beech wood.
Image credit: Trustees of the British Museum, London; Copyright ©

Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, was once exiled from his homeland for having killed a man of very high rank. King Hrothgar settled the feud by paying compensation for the dead man. This gold hoard from Broholm, on the island of Funen, would have sufficed to pay off even the greatest of feuds. It is the largest collection of gold objects from the Migration Age in Denmark.
Image credit: National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen; Copyright ©

With its portrayal of two warriors fighting a dragon - an older man fighting from above and a younger man from below - this illustration from a 13th-century French manuscript reminds one of the action of "Beowulf." Collage by Benjamin Slade, juxtaposing an image from Dijon Municipal Library MS 168, fol. 4b, against the first page of the "Beowulf" manuscript.
Image credit: Benjamin Slade; Copyright ©

Beowulf proves his credentials for the Grendel fight by recounting the details of an earlier exploit when he and a prince named Breca vied with one another in a contest on the high seas. This stylized head of a sea-beast, recovered from the River Schelde in Belgium, suggests the nature of the monsters that harried him, in his account of the events.
Image credit: Trustees of the British Museum, London; Copyright ©
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