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‘The Grim Ones’
A Warrior Be #11: Impressions of Beowulf
Lines 286-319 of John McNamara’s translation
The balance of this telling section is dedicated to the high character and level-headed honor of the “coast guard,” “the guardian,” “a fearless captain,” and “battle-brave,” indicating that any such man, any leader of the “band of young thanes” guarding the King’s coast, had to have been proven. That such a fellow could not conceivably be appointed to a leadership position in a martial era before radios and standing orders, to lead warriors with heroic pretensions, must be battle-tested rings clearly in the bard’s treatment of him. He is as highly regarded as any of the kings and even the premier hero who he treats with here.
The sense that a tribal chieftain is only selected by his ruler and followed by the men placed under his guidance through dint of experience, is echoed all across North America in a later age, when war leaders were exclusively chosen on proven merits, not artificially assigned under artificially hierarchal conditions. For this reason, introductions that seem pointlessly ritualistic to the narrative-driven modern reader, yet might be clearly understood by a 70-IQ gangster rapper, must be, in conduct if not exact detail, a reflection of war-band behavior. For this is echoed in every single ancient epic and even in recent histories written by Latin and Hellenistic authors of Late Antiquity concerning the clashes of legions and phalanxes and barbarians.
The coast guard assigns his thanes to watch after Beowulf’s small ship, which is described in admiring detail:
“your sea-going vessel, the new-tarred ship”
“in the wound-wood prow”
“the broad-bosomed ship, at rest on its ropes”
The coast guard blesses Beowulf before the ship he should return in if fate grants that he pass “through the battle-storm” [1]
The 14 warriors and the bold chief are described as armored in fire-flashing armor, watched over by “the war-minded boar,” indicating possibly a standard, but that their helmets with metal cheek guards where possibly made of boars tusks as were helmets of Homeric heroes 2,000 years hence and that boar’s head crests may have adorned those helmets.[1]
Once the coast guard had taken them to the splendid hall of Hrothgar he returns to his task of guarding the sea roads and speaks in very pagan wise of God, as the Almighty Father, terminology which had bene borrowed from Aryan lore to describe the God of Hosts of Israel by European Christians.
Notes
-1. Invocations of fate and animistic totems, such as the lion, the boar and the stag are pre-Christian holdovers from the pagan age.
End Section 4
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