"a liegeman then showed them,
20 A sea-crafty man, the bounds of the country...."
See in text (IV)
Medieval Scandinavians did most of their sea travel by following coastlines. Although they were capable of open-ocean sailing, they preferred the more reliable navigation offered by coastlines.
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See in text (XVII)
One of the more advanced societies in the time period known as the “Dark Ages," the Frisians were an early medieval tribe of people who occupied parts of what are the modern-day nations of Denmark, the Netherlands, and northern Germany. They traded with silver coins instead of bartering and engaged in maritime trade from the Baltic region to England. They were often rivals of the Franks, who lived to the southwest of their lands.
"Its blade was of iron, blotted with poison,
Hardened with gore..."
See in text (XXII)
The poet describing Hrunting in such a way to emphasize the power of the blade. Chieftains at the time had highly-prized types of steel that incorporates many patterned layers of iron. The pattern on the sword edge looks like waves, and the result of such smithing is a flexible, rather than brittle, blade.
See in text (XXIII)
Beowulf's armor is likely covered by chainmail, a style of armor that extended through the Middle Ages. The interlocked rings of the chainmail are supposed to catch the tips of arrows, swords, and spears before they can pierce the underlying armor. Chain mail had the advantage of being less expensive to produce than plate armor.
See in text (XXVIII)
Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon ships were clinker-built, which means their boards overlapped each other, were fastened by pegs, and as the ship moved on the water, the ship actually flexed constantly, which created a creaking noise, here written as “resounded.”
See in text (XL)
The name of a tribe of the Franks that eventually came to found the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings that began to rule in the early fifth century. Clovis, a Merovingian king who came to power around 486 CE, united the Frankish tribes and made them subject to his leadership through conquest. He also converted to Catholicism and worked to establish it as the primary religion within his lands.
See in text (XL)
This is the name given to an aggregation of tribes that once inhabited the region of the Roman province of Gaul, an area containing roughly the modern nations of France, Belgium, and parts of western Germany. Much of what we know of the Franks comes from The History of the Franks (Historia Francorum), written by Gregory of Tours, the Bishop of Tours, who lived between 538 and 594 CE.