Beowulf Saves the Royal Pub

i-4a92a677ec618f8d0f3cbb4c850f77af-180px-Beowulf.firstpage.jpegI’m finishing writing a book and you guys will have the opportunity to review the manuscript some time towards late summer. The working title is Mead-halls of the Eastern Geats. Elite Settlements and Political Geography AD 375-1000 in Östergötland, Sweden.

The title alludes to the Old English epic poem about Beowulf. Set mainly in 6th century Denmark, it is all about the petty kings of the time whose political life was centred upon the feasting hall. That’s where raids were planned, guests entertained, loot from raids shared out, religious rituals performed, epic poetry about raids listened to. Without a mead-hall, an armed retinue, a high-born wife, a court poet and a big chest of gold, nobody could be a king. The conflict that drives the first two thirds of the long poem is centred upon certain problems King Hrothgar of the Danes has with his mead-hall “The Hart”. It is being haunted by a bloodthirsty marsh ghoul named Grendel, and while this goes on Hrothgar is unable to function as a king. Who ya gonna call? Hrothgar calls the ghostbusting superhero Beowulf from Götaland (land of the Geatas, in Old English) to take care of the situation.

Now, the other day I was sitting on the gold chest in my hall talking to my high-born wife while the retinue was drinking mead and listening to this long poem about me. My wife is a journalist, and I received her along with a serious haul of gold back when I swore fealty to the Chairman-Emperor of China. She is my main contact with the real world where people have 9-5 jobs, watch TV and follow the news. And when I mentioned the title of the manuscript to her, it turned out that the beowulfian references an Early Medieval scholar takes for granted are completely lost on people from the modern world. “Eastern Geats” she could guess meant something about Östergötland. That’s after all where I’ve done most of my fieldwork in recent years. But “mead-hall” she interpreted, in analogy with Sw. ölhall and Ge. Bierhalle, to mean “pub”. So, outside the book’s main audience of people who take an interest in 1st Millennium Scandinavia, I’m apparently completing a work named “Guide to the Pubs of the Linköping Area”.

Comments

  1. #1 Alex
    June 23, 2009

    God, I’ve been waiting all my life for a decent guide to the pubs of the Linkoping Area.

    For what it’s worth, I read Beowulf in college and I understood the title. And it sounds like an interesting book.

  2. #2 Johan A
    June 23, 2009

    I read a blogger who is doing overlapping work with you, perhaps you should coöperate?

    http://www.ofiltrerat.se/

  3. #3 Carla
    June 23, 2009

    The dates in the subtitle ought to be a clue. 1000 years ago would be a shade out of date even by pub guide standards :-)

  4. #4 bark
    June 23, 2009

    The pub-guide project sounds really interesting. I’m really looking forward to your reviews!

  5. #5 Martin R
    June 23, 2009

    Good to know that there’s another book I might write.

  6. #6 Jocke
    June 24, 2009

    Martin: I´m looking forward to the book.

  7. #7 owlfarmer
    July 7, 2009

    Next quarter, when I’ve got innocent students trying to illuminate a particularly gory segment of Beowulf as a final art & design history project, I’ll refer them to this post. These guys don’t seem to think that archaeologists (or at least lapsed archaeologists) have any sense of humor at all, so it might be helpful to prove them wrong. And I’ll put the book on my library wish list.

  8. #8 Martin R
    July 7, 2009

    Thank you! And don’t worry; I am far from lapsed, if by that you mean someone who has put down his trowel and gotten a real job.

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