Alliteration in Beowulf

In stories such as Beowulf that have a strong, oral-storytelling tradition, alliteration is often very prevalent. The repetition of sounds not only creates an effect that is pleasing to the ear, but it also serves a key function when relating story events orally: hearing similar sounds in succession helps listeners better remember the information they hear.

"felled the fiend; that foe of man fled forlorn..."   (Chapter XIX)

The repetition of all the initial f sounds is a good example of alliteration. A commonly used device in Old English and other poetry, some believe that techniques like this help both the poet and the audience remember the words.

"grim and greedy goblin..."   (Chapter XXII)

This line demonstrates another good example of alliteration, an expected poetic technique in Old English poetry. Repeating the initial consonant sounds can help the audience to remember lines and important images, particularly if the story is shared out loud.