Thursday, March 19, 2015

Redefining the MOOC

#DDMss, 'Digging Deeper 1: Making Manuscripts', recently ended its six-week run with a very good level of success, according to Stanford Online's administrators.* We had a completion rate of 25% from around 4500 registered students--a high percentage for online learning. Of those who filled in our survey, we obtained a satisfaction rate of 98% ('Somewhat Satisfied, 15%; Very Satisfied, 47%; Extremely Satisfied 36%'). I'd be happy with those percentages in a campus course of, say, 12, 24, 45, or 68 students; but here, there were 830 respondents, so those figures suggest we've offered something that's been regarded as worthwhile.

Student Evaluations from 'Digging Deeper 1'

Now, Manuscript Studies is quite a specialised area of study and research, so we were never expecting 40,000 students to register, as sometimes happens in a 'Massive Online Open Course' (MOOC) like 'Computer Programming' or 'Become an Entrepreneur'. As we were preparing 'Digging Deeper' in the two years before it launched, I hoped we get 2,000 participants in the course's first iteration to help justify the time, effort, and money that went into making the films, the surrounding resources, and the platform's design. To get more than double that number is pleasing, and of these, while a surprising proportion was curators, graduate students, and academics, many more were complete novices, or had engaged in very little formal palaeographical or codicological training. 'Digging Deeper' had to try and meet the needs of this diverse community, which necessitated some rapid responses in weeks 1 and 2, as it became clear we'd taken some things too much for granted. These diverse communities resulted in different uses for the course and dramatically variable learning environments. I know of two institutions that used the course alongside an on-campus seminar, to augment what students were learning in class. I know of many other participants who worked on their own in remote locations, accessing our material through dodgy wi-fi connections, but pleased to be part of a broader community that extended across the world, from Aberystwyth (hello, Mum!) to Austin, Lima to Lisbon, St Petersburg to Sydney.

Imago mundi, c. 1190
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 66

There has been a tremendous amount of critical and apocalyptic commentary about MOOCs and their potential effect on Higher Education (outlined here and here, for example. Here's where online learning might be heading:, but I believe such modes of learning have genuine pedagogic and academic value.

While 'Digging Deeper 1' can hardly claim the 'Massive' status of a MOOC, we put it together to provide something that's not offered on every university campus; to show any interested participants some of the basics about medieval book history, using the resources of Cambridge University Library and Stanford Green Library's Special Collections. We wanted to offer an introduction to the richness and beauty of medieval books and documents, so many of which can now be seen in Open Access repositories. It has been my strong belief for the last decade or so that all of us who look at this material digitally can usefully benefit from a degree of training in what it is that we're seeing and how we might interpret the images we view. Online learning is one way to make Manuscript Studies more widely available, accompanying the increasing numbers of excellent resources to be accessed through the internet. It's also why there is a 'Digging Deeper 2: The Form and Function of Manuscripts' in April 2015, where we'll feature the work of conservators, digital specialists, and non-Western-manuscript scholars ( We hope you can join us!

[*The 'Digging Deeper' team is Dr Benjamin Albritton, Dr Orietta Da Rold, Dr Suzanne Paul, and Professor Elaine Treharne with Dr Kenneth Ligda, John Mustain, Jonathan Quick, Andy Saltarelli, Colin Reeves-Fortney, Adam Storek and the EdX Platform team at Stanford.]

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Teaching Medieval Manuscripts Online: Digging Deeper

In February 2013, planning began for an online medieval manuscripts' course, called Digging Deeper (hashtag #DDMss). With a grant of $25,000 from Stanford's division of Online Learning (VPOL), the course was designed by four medievalists: me, Benjamin Albritton (Stanford), Orietta Da Rold and Suzanne Paul (Cambridge). At its heart was the idea to show manuscripts in their natural habitat inside a Special Collections Repository. At the same time, we wanted to introduce some of the technicalities of medieval manuscripts, and the way they were made, to anyone anywhere who might be interested in this wonderful subject.

We initially envisaged we'd have a Graduate Assistant to help us who would hold the video camera and help put together a set of framing materials that we'd compose and launch on an open access site. What this course actually turned into was an amazing experience, with a Special Collections Librarian (John Mustain), a professional cameraman and photographer, and team of OpenEdX platform experts (from Stanford's Online Learning division), a Graduate Assistant, an Academic Technology Specialist--Dr Kenneth Ligda, and a Production Manager. We had the approval of two main libraries to film and use materials--Stanford and Cambridge University Library--and we were permitted access to Trinity College, Cambridge, where we talked with Sandy Paul.

We filmed for eight hours a day for a week in each repository, which was an exceptional privilege. It is probably this more than anything else that makes our course special. We had a real team spirit by the end of this process, too, and a team song, which I'm happy to share with you, if you don't tell anyone else (it was Meatloaf's 'I'd Do Anything for Love [of Manuscripts]').

Filming at CUL with the team, July 2014

And I think we imagined once we'd spent two weeks filming that we'd got it pretty much sewn up: that once we had the manuscripts gloriously photographed, and our own filmed conversations in the can, we were done. We could not have been more wrong, though. That was just the beginning.

And filming at Stanford's Green Library, Special Collections

More on the course-design process to come next time!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Medieval Text Technologies in China and Europe

Stanford’s Text Technologies’ major new project bringing together scholars who work on the Eastern and Western textual traditions kicked off with a three-day conference at the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing, principally organized by Professor Ronald Egan. From September 11-14 2014, colleagues gathered to hear papers in both Chinese and English (with simultaneous interpretation) that focused almost exclusively on significant trends in manuscript technologies from the beginning of the first millennium CE to the thirteenth century. The China scholars learned about texts and methodologies in the study of European manuscripts of which they had little idea and the Western scholars, similarly, learned a very great deal about China and its early textual heritage.

Some of the participants at 'Medieval Text Technologies in China and Europe'

Western scholars were introduced to fundamentally important elements of Chinese manuscript production: the use of colophons and seals inscribed or stamped onto hand-scrolls containing calligraphic art; the variance illustrated by early Lao-Tzu manuscripts; the uses and interpretation of writing Chinese characters in the air; new models of textual production in early Chinese poetry; the amazing new find of 21,000 Tang poems (to add to the 43,000 already known); what makes Chinese manuscripts significant in and of themselves; the form and function of very early Chinese epistolary literature; how Chinese manuscripts were disseminated and adapted in Japan; and the importance of information retrieval tools in medieval Chinese encyclopedic texts. 

The Stanford Center at Peking University: a text in its own right!
Numerous themes emerged that are common to both traditions: in the West, textual mouvance in Carolingian manuscripts was discussed, and it was made apparent why minutiae matter in tracing adaptability. The ways in which medieval manuscripts are fragmented, reconstituted, and then ‘restored’ was a central concern; the absolute necessity of paying attention to calligraphic effect and how we describe graphs and assign value to particular scripts; the manipulability of text in apotropaic and ritualistic contexts; the representation of exoticised culture and objects in art, sculpture and literature; and the untapped evidence for the uses of paper in the medieval period were all significant areas of investigation. ‘Big’ themes of authority, ownership, permanence, editorial intervention, and social contexts of textual production emerged persistently throughout the conference and seem like useful organizational categories for future exploration.

Attendance was boosted by a great audience of local students and scholars; question and answer sessions generated exciting and challenging discussion; round-the-edges dynamic intellectual exchange happened in coffee-breaks and lunches. For those of us travelling to China for the first time, we all agreed this conference was a life-changing experience. The country’s textual legacy is only partially well-known: the very early use of print is acknowledged, but not as much as it should be; the invention of paper is fleetingly discussed in traditional Book History accounts. But there is much more to be learned: the astonishing degree of literacy and the cultural embeddedness of writing; the prolific survival of early poetry, and administrative texts; the evidence for multimedia textual production from monumental mountain inscription to bamboo books, silk scrolls, and traced inscriptions. This is exciting stuff and will be the subject of other conferences to come, that will deal with script to print, as well as the emergence of the digital environment.

Participants: Lothar Ledderhose, University of Heidelberg; Siân Echard, University of British Columbia; Elaine Treharne, Stanford University; Matthias Richter, University of Colorado at Boulder; Daniel Wakelin, University of Oxford; Jeanie Abbott, Stanford University; Ronald Egan, Stanford University; Aidan Conti, University of Bergen; Rebecca Shuang Fu, University of Pennsylvania; Chen Shangjun, Fudan University; Antje Richter, University of Colorado at Boulder; Fu Gang, Peking University; Liu Yucai, Peking University; Marisa Galvez, Stanford University; Orietta Da Rold, University of Cambridge; Christopher Nugent, Willliams College.

The conference organizers gratefully acknowledge funding support from the following Stanford University sponsors: Confucius Institute; Dean of Research; China Fund, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital Potential: Access, Display, Training

Recently, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences held their meeting on the Digital Humanities here at Stanford, and I was given ten minutes to speak about this topic, which I did with reference to Medieval Manuscripts. Professor Andrew Prescott was as generous as ever and a huge help to me in thinking through the issues. This was the result:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Variations on the Theme of Grendel's Mere

In our 'Beowulf from Then 'til Now' course here at Stanford, we're having a super time looking at multiple manifestations of the poem/text/concept called 'Beowulf'. We're looking closely at the description of Grendel's Mere at lines 1357b-1372, and shall (we hope) film this scene at the San Andreas Fault near here. Students quickly reworked the description of Grendel's Mere, 'after' the Old English.

Here's the Old English plus translation:

Hie dygel lond                                                  They inhabit a secret land,
warigeað wulfhleoþu, windige næssas,             wolf-riddled slopes, windy crags,
frecne fengelad, ðær fyrgenstream                    perilous fen-ways, where mountain streams
under næssa genipu niþer gewiteð,                   under the cliffs’ clouds depart down,
flod under foldan. Nis þæt feor heonon            a flood under earth. It isn’t far from here,
milgemearces þæt se mere standeð;                 measured in miles, that the mere stands;
ofer þæm hongiað hrinde bearwas,                  over it hang rime-covered copses;        
wudu wyrtum fæst wæter oferhelmað             wood with firm roots overshadow water
þær mæg nihta gehwæm niðwundor seon,      where one may nightly see an evil portent,
fyr on flode. No þæs frod leofað                      fire on the water. There is none alive so wise
gumena bearna, þæt þone grund wite.            of the children of men that knows the bottom.
Ðeah þe hæðstapa hundum geswenced,           Though the heath-stepper beset by hounds,
heorot hornum trum holtwudu sece,               a strong-antlered hart, might seek a wood—
feorran geflymed, ær he feorh seleð,               chased from afar—he’d first give up his spirit,
aldor on ofre, ær he in wille                             his life on the shore, before he would go in
hafelan beorgan. Nis þæt heoru stow.              to save his head. That is not a pleasant place.

Los Trancos Preserve
Here are six students' modern variations on the theme.

Knuckled tree roots grope
Mud and sea stones, slope to mire,
Will-o-wisps; dead things. 
(By Kat Joplin)
There lies a few miles from here
A terrible fiery mere
Wolf slopes all around
It flows underground
And threatens even the deer.  
(By Jeanie Abbott)


Grendel’s Mere



First of all, this place was nearly impossible to find. I had to search over wolf-infested hills and nearly tipped on the dangerous footpath next to the mountain stream. I followed the stream next to mountain cliffs until it took me under the earth, where I finally found the mirror. It was overhung with old groves whose roots were so old and knotted I almost tripped again. And the mere itself was on fire! (Thought I couldn't tell if the fire was on the water or in the water. But I digress!) And I couldn’t even see to the bottom—some mere. I swear, if a deer were in these woods being chased by dogs, it would be eaten by them than come here.
And to cap it all, I was barely there two minutes before some crazy lady came out of the water and grabbed me and pulled me under. Not. Cool.
(By Halle Edwards)


Under the cliff lies,
Not even the hart will go,
Lake of frost and fire.
(By Matt Aiello)



This land seals secrets under the wolf mountain, beneath the wind-wracked waveboulder. Do not dare that dangerous downpath where the cliffstream cowers under the crags. 
(By Rukma Sen)

There is a place, close to here,
Where water bubbles up in pools before it
Falls and crashes -
A moving landscape -
And cold.

There are noises everywhere of unknown sources
But a silent wind moves through the tops of trees
Which hold the water in their roots
And weave down into a neverending maze below.

There is no footing anywhere fit for men and
There are no paths for walking.
To move is to climb and fall and be
Submerged and to enter is to ask for death.
(By Bill Loundy)


Monday, February 17, 2014

#Beow200: The Passion of St Christopher and The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle

After completing #Beow100, I set about tweeting #Beow200--the prose texts in London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. xv, the Beowulf-manuscript. #Beow100, when transliterated into this Blog, has had almost 15,000 readers, which is mind-boggling. #Beow200 can't expect a tenth of that, I suspect, and these numbers show the already-existing impact of the respective Old English texts on their readership.

Anyway, below, are the #Beow200 pair of texts that I tweeted. Of course, they read backwards, since I simply lifted them from Twitter: so begin reading upwards from the end. Courtney Barajas, a doctoral student in Austin, Texas, is in the middle of tweeting the Marvels of the East (as The Wonders of the East #WOTE), the other prose text in the manuscript. The Old English Judith is next and will be #BeowJ.

London, BL, Cotton Vitellius A. xv, f. 107r: the opening of Alexander to Aristotle

The End of The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle

#Beow200 "My friends cried, so we left & I write to you, Aristotle, as you'll feel joy at all I've done: the greatest king that ever lived."
"The Tree revealed no more of me, except that I'd be poisoned. It said my mother would die shamefully & my sisters would live long #Beow200
"I fasted after this news. I returned at sunrise to ask the Sun Tree what of my mother & sisters? I woke up the 300-year old bishop #Beow200
"It replied: 'Your life is done. You'll die in Babylon next year in a way you least expect.' I felt heart-sick, as did my friends. #Beow200
"A 10-ft bishop greeted us. He had pierced ears & was clothed in skins. Only naked, virginal thanes could approach the oracle trees #Beow200
 "The Sun Tree replied in Indian that I'd rule the world, but never see home. When the moon rose, I asked the Moon Tree when I'd die #Beow200
"No sacrifices were allowed: no blood & no rain fell, but the Trees wept if eclipses came. I asked if I'd rule the world & get home #Beow200
#Beow200 "We stripped naked to approach. The Sun Tree would answer the most secret question when the sun rose & set; the Moon Tree similarly.
#Beow200 "I feared the men joked, but with 3000 men left to find these oracle trees. There, people wearing animal skins lived in a paradise.
"The men never came back. I sought the gods' favor. 2 old men told me of a Sun tree & Moon tree that prophesied in Indian & Greek. #Beow200
"We went into a plain & saw 9ft-tall hairy, naked women & men (Ictifafonas). We saw Cynocephali, who attacked us, so we shot them #Beow200
#Beow200 "We went through India. A moon-headed beast killed 2 thanes; we hammered it to death. Elephants attacked, so we set pigs on them.
#Beow200 "Then Porus befriended us, bringing gold idols; I tested them to ensure their worth. We sought more marvels so I thought to go west.
#Beow200 "And we marched, burdened by gold we'd plundered, tormented by thirst. I was given water, but I wouldn't drink if my men couldn't.
#Beow200 "We went inland, warned about snakes & beasts. We took 250 guides to the region of Patriacen, & they led us to where snakes were.
#Beow200 "King Porus had 16000 men; 400 turreted archers on elephants; a palace of gold, ivory, & gems. I, Alexander, now control all this.
"I should thank my Greek army, who've been with me all along. We beat the Persians in May; by July, we beat Porus, king of India. #Beow200
"Anyway, Aristotle, the world's astonishing. I already told you about lunar & solar eclipses, so here I'll reveal new true things. #Beow200
Today, #Beow200 will begin The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, a rather strange travel narrative: a veritable Medieval @TripAdvisor

The End of the Life of St Christopher; Beginning of The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle

#Beow200 Dagnus visited Christopher's body, put soil & blood in blinded eyes, & was healed. Lauding God, he ordered all to convert. The End.
Christopher pleaded that those who named or prayed to him be saved. God said 'I hear you'. The saint died, having saved 48115 souls #Beow200
"Dagnus, you bloodthirsty fool, I'll die & be buried tomorrow. To re-see, believe in God, & put grave-soil & my blood in your eyes" #Beow200
#Beow200 St Christopher, declining to worship heathen gods, was tree-tied, shot by arrows for hours. None harmed him, but two blinded Dagnus
Amidst the fiery grill, Christopher stood, his face rosily abloom, & said: 'Ha! Your tortures cannot harm me!' Dagnus was floored #Beow200
King Dagnus ordered men to torture Christopher. 3 were to attack his head, but they saw his holiness & met their deaths for that. #Beow200

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beowulf in a Hundred Tweets : #Beow100

As the Christmas break started, I began preparing my course for the Winter Quarter, "Beowulf from Then 'til Now", which looks at all existing and imagined manifestations of Beowulf, from the oral fantasy to the Heaney translation, Zemeckis film and, particularly, R. D. Fulk's wonderful Dumbarton Oaks edition of the Beowulf-manuscript ( The underlying theoretical question for this course is "What is (the) Text?" What constitutes Beowulf? What is its core and what do we understand by "Beowulf"? In some senses, this seeks to address, for Beowulf, F. W. Bateson's question, "If the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre, where then are Hamlet and Lycidas?"

I wondered about what we'd do with a social media version of the poem and decided to tweet it in 100 tweets over a few weeks in my @etreharne account, using the hashtag #Beow100. The **very long** blog that follows is the Twitter Beowulf in its entirety. For me, it was a worthwhile exercise, forcing me back to the Old English to try and capture, in the shortest possible length, what I thought were the essential components of the poem. I also used R. D. Fulk and other translations throughout the exercise. Fulk's translation is brilliant, though, because it is often lexically emulative of the Old English. I compressed speeches, but always tried to represent the direct speech as such; it's a major component. I only tangentially referred to the most complex of the digressions; they were too difficult to telescope. I had a lot of trouble with representing genealogical naming, which is frequent. I quickly understood, too, how much this is a poem of two halves: after Beowulf's return to Hygelac, the poem really does shift stylistically. Anyway, my students--whether or not they currently deal with Twitter--will have to engage with this effort (even if it proves to be unsatisfactory), because it is as valid as any. What is clear is how many people are interested in Old English and this poem, especially. Over the course of about three days, I gained some 700 new followers (thank you to all of them), which was a shock and turned the endeavour into much more of a performance. I now expect they'll swiftly abandon me when they realise how boring my usual tweeting is. I enjoyed the experience so much, though, that I'm tweeting everything else in Cotton Vitellius A. xv as #Beow200; that is, the WHOLE codex, which includes post-Conquest material seldom discussed in any context, let alone a public forum like Twitter.


The Twitter Beowulf

December 10th
1. Hey, you know those awesome Danish kings of old? Scyld was the best, though he came from nothing. And his son, Beow, did him proud. #Beow100

2. Scyld shuffled off, but not before ring-giving. Out on the sea in a gold-laden vessel, he bore love & praise, hope for hereafter #Beow100

December 11th

3. Noble Hrothgar, Scyld's successor, won war-glory, warriors' loyalty; built the towering horn-topped Heorot, firedoomed from day one #Beow100

4. Creation lays sung in hall called to the moor-dwelling monster, he of Cain’s kind, foul offspring of flood-sundered demons, God’s antagonist #Beow100

5. Supper-sated by song, warriors slumbered, ‘til Grendel’s first frenzy saw thirty succumb. Continued attack and the hall stood quite empty #Beow100

December 12th

6. Danes’ crumpled spirits suffered Grendel’s grasp 12 long years. He couldn’t near the ruler’s throne; their pagan ways led nowhere #Beow100

7. The great Geat, Beowulf, heard of Grendel’s greatness, Hrothgar’s horror. With fourteen men our hero embarked seaward to fly to the Dane’s aid #Beow100

8. The coastguard was curious as the Geat-troop climbed cliffward: "Hey! Where’d you come from? And who’s that well-armed one there?" #Beow100

December 13th

9. “D’you recall my dad—Ecgtheow? A most famous warrior (I know I take after him). We’ve heard of your monster and we’ve come to help Hrothgar.” #Beow100

10. "Easy to say” said the watchman. “This way!” They hurried to Heorot, heroes’ hall. Well-wishing, their guide left to guard the boat #Beow100

11. The Geats stashed their gear & were asked their intentions. Beowulf said he'd tell all to the king. Heralded, hope met with valor #Beow100

December 14th

12. Hrothgar’s spirit rose: “I knew little Beowulf; I hear he’s worth 30 men. I'll richly reward him to rid me of Grendel. Let him in!” #Beow100

13. "I AM BEOWULF, Hygelac's kinsman, killer of sea-nicor. I will purge Heorot, take on this Grendel, fight knuckle-bare, live or die!" #Beow100

14. “Happy you're here.” Hrothgar welcomed the warrior. “Your fearless father was friend to me. Grendel harrassed us; now we can hope!” #Beow100

December 15th

15. All sat feasting. Unferð riled: “You? The Beowulf who swam a week in open sea against Breca, who outdid you? Is it Grendel's turn?" #Beow100

16. “Boozy Unferð!” said Beowulf, “You're wrong. I swam best, killing beast after beast. Effort & fate saved me. You've done sod all.” #Beow100 

December 16th

17. “Fratricidal, fearful Unferð! Grendel gripped the Danes ‘til we Geats arrived to restore feasting.” Beowulf’s boast brightened all. #Beow100

18. Wealhþeo, Hrothgar’s wise wife, gave a hall-cup to warriors in turn, thanking God for Beowulf. He promised to fight to the death. #Beow100

19. "You guard my hall, Beowulf," said Hrothgar, stumbling to bed. Our hero disarmed: "Hand-to-hand we fight. God let win who he will." #Beow100

20. Warriors imagined the last of days, unknowing God's watching. Still they slept (bar the one) while the shadow-stalker sought solace #Beow100

17th December

21. Grendel came, carrier of God's ire, to catch a hero. This time'd be harder. Furious, fiery-eyed, he broke into the hall & laughed #Beow100

22. Beowulf eyed his foe, who wasted no time seizing & slitting sleeping prey: a warrior bitten, savored, swallowed whole. Beowulf next!#Beow100 

23. As he groped, our hero gripped so strongly that shock, fear & flight came to mind. Violent wrestling ensued & a horrorful howling #Beow100 

December 18th
24. The hall guardian's grasp firm; the fiend’s fingers burst. God’s foe wished to flee; Hygelac’s warrior advanced. Din filled Heorot #Beow100

25. In hard hold, Beowulf yanked shredded flesh, sundering arm from shrieking body. Grendel sloped off to die; his arm hung as trophy. #Beow100

26. Beowulf’s battle-boast done, he delivered the Danes from evil. Morning light led victors to a bloody mere; heathen soul led to hell #Beow100

27. Hrothgar’s scop shaped varied songs of Beowulf’s deeds—akin to Sigemund, whose noble sword melted a dragon & unlike warlike Heremod #Beow100

December 20th

28. Comitatus, king & consort came to gaze at battle booty. “Thank God for Beowulf,” said Hrothgar. “Never thought I’d see this day.” #Beow100

29. “So happy to help” replied Beowulf boldly, “though all I could hang onto is hanging right there. No doubt God’ll sort Grendel out.” #Beow100

December 21st

30. The hand hung from unharmed roof. They hastened to ready Heorot for feast. All came & were happy. Healfdane’s sword was war-reward. #Beow100

31. Hrothgar piled up treasure for Beowulf’s victory: wired helmet, shield, mailcoat, jeweled horses, king's saddle. Such rich gifting. #Beow100

December 22nd

32. More treasure followed for Beowulf’s thanes & wergild for the one Grendel ate whole. So providence oversees all: perseverance pays. #Beow100

33. Healgamen plucked the gameful lyre, sang of Hildeburh’s lament—brotherless sister, sonless mother—sad at the feud's fateful outcome #Beow100

34. Hildeburh gazed. Pyre’s fire melted son & brother's blood, bones & booty. Spring brought Finn’s death; she, now, a husbandless wife #Beow100

35. She was carted off. Strum! The song was done. Joy resumed. Wealhþeo said: “Be cheery, generous, & mindful of our boys, Hrothgar.” #Beow100

December 23rd

36. The cup was sent round, many treasures were given—Brosings' neckring, the finest  of all time, was presented & passed on to Hygelac #Beow100

37. Wealhþeo spoke (none responded): “Bless you Beowulf; your glory's won. Be just to my sons.” Hall festivities flowed into nighttime #Beow100 

38. Warriors made ready for sleep on the hall-floor, surrounded by spears, shields and helmets. #Beow100

December 24th

39. No one was prepared for what was to happen #Beow100

40. She’s just a devil-woman, with vengeance on her mind. Beware the devil woman; she’s gonna get you #Beow100 (with thanks to Cliff Richard)

41. Grendel’s mother arrived, eager to avenge her loved son’s death. She hurriedly snatched Hrothgar’s hero and her son’s hand. Uproar! #Beow100

December 25th

42. “Sleep well?” said Beowulf in morning. “No joy here!" said Hroþgar. "Another grim enemy took dearest Aeschere. It was the mother.” #Beow100

43. “We know these fen-demons live in a mere that's like hell with its frost and fire. None enters there even if life depends on it.” #Beow100

44. ““Only you can help us if you dare to. I'll pay you.” "It's best to avenge your thane & gain glory!” said Beowulf. “Come with me.” #Beow100

December 26th

45. They rode past moor, rocky cliffs, following the she-fiend’s step, ‘til they saw gory water - bubbling, bloodied - & Æschere's head #Beow100

46. Monsters, serpents, cruised the mere. With protective mail-coat, boar-jeweled helmet & sword Hrunting, Beowulf prepared for battle #Beow100

47. Beowulf told Hroþgar: “If I die, protect my men; send Hygelac my gold so he can share my glory. Unferð gets my sword”. He dived in. #Beow100

December 27th

48. At mere’s bottom, grim & greedy, she gripped Beowulf, mail-coat-aided; benthic beasts struck as she hauled him to her fire-lit hall #Beow100

49. With sword, the hero struck her head, but to no avail. Grabbing her hair, he fought hand-to-hand. She threw him down & drew a knife #Beow100

50. Woven war-mail (& God) saved him. He spotted an old giant sword. Through her bone he cut. Light shone. He hacked off Grendel’s head #Beow100

December 28th

51. Above, Danes gave up at the ninth hour & left the Geats to stare at a blood-muddied mere. In the under-hall, the giant sword melted #Beow100

52. Our hero swam up with head & sword-hilt, rejoicing in his victory. Loyal thanes thanked God; rode to Heorot to present the booty. #Beow100 

53. Beowulf spoke: “It wasn’t an easy fight, but divine intervention showed me a sword. Here, have the hilt. Now you’re free of fear.” #Beow100

December 29th

54. Hrothgar read the hilt’s runes, narrating the flood & giants’ destruction. He spoke. All listened. “Your glory's assured, Beowulf:” #Beow100

55. “you’re not like that tyrant, Heremod: learn by his example. Don’t succumb to pride, carelessness, grimness, since God sees all.” #Beow100

56. “Be wise through life, for all is fleeting. 50 years I’ve been king & never knew the horror that could befall. Thank God for you.” #Beow100

57. Beowulf took his seat, as asked, & feasting began again in earnest. At bedtime, the hero accepted well-earned rest until sunrise. #Beow100

December 30th

58. Eager to leave, Beowulf gave Hrunting to Unferð with thanks. To Hroþgar: “I’d help again, as would Hygelac. We'll keep an ear out.” #Beow100

59. The king replied: "You're dear, wise & worldly beyond your years, well-suited to be a peace-making king, should your own lord die." #Beow100

60. Twelve more treasures were given. Hroþgar knew he wouldn't see Beowulf again; he clasped him close before the hero left for home. #Beow100

61. The ship-guard was rewarded with a sword. The foamy-prowed boat sailed to the Geatish cliffs; a joyful watchman moored the warriors #Beow100

December 31st

62. They entered court. Queen Hygd was highly virtuous, unlike Thryð, who, ‘til tamed by Offa, fettered & executed men gazing upon her #Beow100 

63. Offa established order, unity. Beowulf's return created joy, richness, delight for his king, Hygelac, who requested the whole story #Beow100

64. Hygd offered a mead-cup to heroes as Hygelac asked how things had gone. His kinsman replied: “I was glorious, lord; they loved me.” #Beow100

65. “I fought Grendel, but first we feasted, when Wealhþeo & her daughter (doomed to fail at peaceweaving) passed the cup in the hall.” #Beow100

66. “Freawaru, the girl, won't bring a truce for the Danes; old wounds will open instead. But anyway, where was I? Ah, Grendel, yes.” #Beow100

January 1st

67. “The demon came & swallowed Hondscio whole. He wanted me as take-away—to put me in his dragonskin glove. I thwarted that ambition.” #Beow100

68. “Anyway, I beat him & got gold & a harp’s glory. Then his mother came & avenged her son. So I went & killed her. See how it goes?” #Beow100

69. “For this heroism, I had many treasures from Healfdene’s son that I’ll present you, since I rely on you, Hygelac. Here! War-gear.” #Beow100 

70. Beowulf gave gifts to his uncle; to Hygd, the neck-ring. He showed loyalty, truth, heroism. He wasn't the slacker the Geats assumed #Beow100

71. Hygelac gave Beowulf his father’s jeweled sword, made him a lord with land, with hall. Hygelac & his son died in battle. Now what? #Beow100

January 2nd

72. Beowulf ruled the Geats’ kingdom, held & protected it wisely & well for fifty years—until a dragon reigned over the dark nights. #Beow100

73. Swollen with wrath at the loss of a precious vessel taken by a needy soul, the treasure-hoarding dragon flew in fiery fury through the night. #Beow100

74. Whose treasure the dragon guarded was unknown. Death seized them all, except one who remained, friendless, lamenting the lost past #Beow100

75. "There's no joy left," said the Last Survivor 'til he died. 300 years, the dragon hoarded heathen gold, until theft woke its wrath. #Beow100

76. Desiring night's activities, the dragon eagerly attacked the Geats (their king would get it worst) with baleful, wasteful flame #Beow100

January 3rd

77. Hardest heartache was Beowulf’s when his hall was turned to ash. Contrition preceded courage. He armed himself for single combat. #Beow100

78. The hero knew no troop could help—as with Grendel, indeed; as with Hygelac, when only Beowulf survived. Hygd offered him the throne #Beow100

79. When Hygd’s heir died at Onela’s hand, Beowulf acceded. He avenged Heardred then, as he avenged his people now against the dragon #Beow100

80. With eleven thanes & the reluctant cup-thief, Beowulf sought the treasure-barrow. His fate was near, his mind sorrowful. He spoke: #Beow100

81. “I know warfare. I was 7 when given to Hrethel as a warrior. I saw accidental death; saw an old man sorrow at his son’s hanging." #Beow100

82. “Loss is joyless. Hrethel gave up after his son’s death. Feud killed the other son. Vengeance followed. I always lead in battle. #Beow100

January 4th

83. “I beat Hygelac’s killer with bare hands; now, alone, with hand, sword & shield I fight the fiery poison dragon. I will not yield.” #Beow100

84. “Men! Wait on the barrow. I live or die here.” In thought, word & deed, Beowulf lived by bravery. He roared on entering the barrow. #Beow100

85. Hero’s roar enraged the drake; flames poured out. Beowulf defended with shield, pointlessly struck with sword. Thanes fled, afraid. #Beow100

86. Engulfed in flames, bereft of men, Beowulf was tested. Wiglaf, a warrior, kinsman, saw all this & was mindful of his lord’s favors. #Beow100

87. Wiglaf said boldly: "We owe loyalty. He needs us. I won't leave him—greatest of lords... I’m here Beowulf! Let’s do this together.” #Beow100

88. He stood strong in support, both under the shield as the fire-serpent bit into Beowulf’s neck. They avenged that with sword & knife #Beow100

January 5th

89. Beowulf slit the dragon, saw it off. He sat, exhausted, helped by Wiglaf: “My time has come. Show me this earthen-hall’s treasure.” #Beow100

90. By the light of a golden banner, Wiglaf saw heaps of olden gold. He hurriedly carried to his dying lord sufficient precious things. #Beow100

91. Beowulf gazed: “Thank God I got this for my people before dying. Build me a barrow so my name lives on & have my war-gear, Wiglaf.” #Beow100

92. His soul passed into the doom of the truth-fast. Wiglaf tried to wake him with water, watched now by the thanes who'd fled in fear. #Beow100

January 6th

93. Wiglaf said woefully: “Where the hell were you when your lord needed your loyalty? I tried my best, but you are disgraced forever.” #Beow100

94. Wiglaf told a man to break the news: “Our loved lord's dead; the dragon too. We’re in for it now. Ancient feuds will be renewed.” #Beow100

95. “To avenge Ongenðeo's death, Swedes will fight us & we’ll lose. The raven will tell an eagle it fought a wolf for our dead flesh.” #Beow100

96. The entire troop tearfully went to where their lifeless ring-giver lord lay, beside the fifty-foot dragon-corpse & rusty treasure. #Beow100

97. Wiglaf spoke: “The worthiest warrior in this world is gone. Such is his fate—this cursed hoard. Ready a pyre for our beloved lord.” #Beow100

98. 8 warriors got the barrow’s gold-heap. They threw the dragon over a cliff. They built a pyre, encircling their lord with war-gear. #Beow100

99. The finest funeral fire lit, smoke rose skyward. Flames created bone-ashes. Hearts broke. A woman wept. She knew what was coming. #Beow100

100. On a headland, a huge barrow was built, filled with useless gold. They mourned their worldly lord—hero, giver, kindest of all men. #Beow100