Allusion in Beowulf

Allusion Examples in Beowulf:

II 2

"The kindred of Cain..."   (II)

The poet alludes to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which the wicked Cain kills his brother and is thus expelled by God from human society. The story states that all of Cain’s descendants also became outcasts and eventually monsters. The poet establishes Grendel as a kinsman of Cain, supporting the idea that he is partly human. This allusion thus applies a Christian lens to pagan lore by viewing such monsters and “ill-favored creatures” as products of Cain’s sin.

"winsome wold..."   (II)

Derived from the Old English “wald,” the noun “wold” refers to forest or wooded upland. The “winsome wold” refers to all the land of the earth, “encircled” as it is by water. This duality between land and sea directly resembles the Christian creation story laid out in the opening passages of the biblical book of Genesis.

"Weird hath offcast them to the clutches of Grendel...."   (VIII)

Recall that “Weird” (or Wyrd) refers to personal destiny, or fate. Here, Hrothgar personifies Weird by making it perform the action in the sentence. This personification implicitly draws on Norse mythology, in which Weird was often conceptualized as a goddess. The people that Grendel has killed died because of the forces of destiny, not because of individual choice. By personifying Weird, Hrothgar (and the poet) create a dichotomy between God and Weird, or Christian faith and Pagan destiny. While Weird sent the men to “the clutches of Grendel,” God has the power to stop Grendel from killing Hrothgar.