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the Weapons of Beowulf


Ben Potter

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I was doing some research for a blade and came across a reference to the seax of Beowulf, but couldn't find it in the transation I read (abridged, you know. :angry: ) I was wondering if any of you know of references to it or any information that would help piece somthing together, Anglo-Saxon seaxs seem to deteriorate faster than thier Norse brothers, alas. I found that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote something on the subject, but haven't had time to track down a copy.

Thanks,

Ben

Ben Potter Bladesmith

 

 

It's not that I would trade my lot

Or any other man's,

Nor that I will be ashamed

Of my work torn hands-

 

For I have chosen the path I tread

Knowing it would be steep,

And I will take the joys thereof

And the consequences reap.

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ben....i have no answer to your question.....but i was just reading your post and watching tv and the trailer for beowulf came on tv.....i actually got a chill.....this is the first time i ever saw the trailer too....it's not like it was on all night.....i hope you find your answer....i'm getting off this post befor osmething else happens......ryan

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ben....i have no answer to your question.....but i was just reading your post and watching tv and the trailer for beowulf came on tv.....i actually got a chill.....this is the first time i ever saw the trailer too....it's not like it was on all night.....i hope you find your answer....i'm getting off this post befor osmething else happens......ryan

 

I didn't know about the movie untill this afternoon when I was looking for seax information, my family came home and told me they had seen a poster for it. It showed up on my email account as well. :ph34r: Weird.

 

 

Ben,

Ben Potter Bladesmith

 

 

It's not that I would trade my lot

Or any other man's,

Nor that I will be ashamed

Of my work torn hands-

 

For I have chosen the path I tread

Knowing it would be steep,

And I will take the joys thereof

And the consequences reap.

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Having just re-re-re-read the Burton Raffel translation of the Old English poem I can attest that, sadly, there are no descriptions of the weapons used. They do refer to a knife, I believe, in the (apocryphal?) section with the Dragon. But it lacks descriptions of design, geometry, ornamentation, etc. Maybe that's just Raffel.

Kristopher Skelton, M.A.

"There was never a good knife made from bad steel"

A quiet person will perish ~ Basotho Proverb

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I love Beowulf!...

 

I read it for the first time in the 7th grade because it interested me and it along with Tolkien and Lewis has been some of my best inspiration for work.

 

 

But most of the abridged versions of the story are terrible!!!....

 

 

 

I have read a lot of versions and I can testify that the translation by Frederick Rebsamen is the best and most true to the original manuscripts to the best of my knowledge.

 

here is a link to it on amazon: Beowulf

 

 

 

Although I don’t remember ever reading the word "Seax" or "Sax" in that translation, I might have missed it...

I do remember reading the words "bands of twisted steel" or something to that extent in reference to the Geats swords.

 

I imagined mostly broad double edged early Viking aged swords for most of the characters in the story. A lot like these historical ones: VikingSword.com though there’s no reason a seax is impossible.

 

 

On a different note... I hope that NO ONE takes this new stupid Holywood-ized version of the story seriously!!!...... It looks absolutely horrendous, immature and idiotic………

 

 

Stick to the real text!... no abridged versions.. No stupid Hollywood versions… the original text is where the real juice for inspirations is for me at least… :)

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness,

nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend"

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

www.CedarloreForge.com

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Hi Ben. Try Ewart Oakshott's "Archaeology of Weapons" for the references you might be looking for. He spends a great deal of time in the period in question and has some solid stuff to say, backed by both historical and archaeological evidence...Should that be your desire.

Cheers, Brice

Show me a blacksmith making a toilet, and I will show you a man forging ahead.

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I love Beowulf!...

 

 

Stick to the real text!... no abridged versions.. No stupid Hollywood versions… the original text is where the real juice for inspirations is for me at least… :)

 

Here, Here, stick to the real thing be it swords, writings, or life. Thanks for the link and info.

 

Try Ewart Oakshott's "Archaeology of Weapons" for the references you might be looking for.

 

I just had Oakshott's out from the library, but I may have missed it.

 

Thanks,

Ben

Ben Potter Bladesmith

 

 

It's not that I would trade my lot

Or any other man's,

Nor that I will be ashamed

Of my work torn hands-

 

For I have chosen the path I tread

Knowing it would be steep,

And I will take the joys thereof

And the consequences reap.

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Just found this.

http://www.beowulftranslations.net/

Not complete texts, but sizable portions. Raffel's must be a popular (read: cheap) choice for schools. The keeper of the page notes that most of his hits come from people Googling "Beowulf by Burton Raffel" looking for fodder for term papers :)

 

Rebsamen 2004: http://www.beowulftranslations.net/rebs.shtml

Raffel 1963: http://www.beowulftranslations.net/raff.shtml

Kristopher Skelton, M.A.

"There was never a good knife made from bad steel"

A quiet person will perish ~ Basotho Proverb

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First mention of a knife, Grendel’s mom tries to stab the B-man, then later he kills the dragon with one.

The swords in the tale get all the pattern-welding descriptions.

The book that goes into a lot of Beowulf references in relation to swords is Davidson’s “Sword in Anglo-Saxon England,” it has a whole section on literature.

Since they think the tale is describing 5-6th century activities, a Merovingian seax would not be out of line.

From the wiki article on Beowulf:

“When Eadgils' mound…was excavated in 1874, the finds supported Beowulf and the sagas. They showed that a powerful man was buried in a large barrow, c 575, on a bear skin with two dogs and rich grave offerings. These remains include a Frankish sword adorned with gold and garnets and a tafl game with Roman pawns of ivory. He was dressed in a costly suit made of Frankish cloth with golden threads, and he wore a belt with a costly buckle.”

 

So be Frank. :DB)

 

Translations quoted below are by Seamus Heaney, his version published in 2000 is worth checking out – the alliterations have a very natural flow in his translation.

 

First one:

 

1545

Ofsæt þa þone selegyst ond hyre seax geteah,

brad ond brunecg, wolde hire bearn wrecan,

angan eaferan. Him on eaxle læg

breostnet broden; þæt gebearh feore,

wið ord ond wið ecge ingang forstod.

 

or in other words:

So she pounced upon him and pulled out

a broad, whetted knife: now she would avenge

her only child. But the mesh of chain-mail

on Beowulf’s shoulder shielded his life,

turned the edge and tip of the blade.

 

And then:

 

Ne hedde he þæs heafolan, ac sio hand gebarn

modiges mannes, þær he his mæges healp,

þæt he þone niðgæst nioðor hwene sloh,

2700

secg on searwum, þæt ðæt sweord gedeaf,

fah ond fæted, þæt ðæt fyr ongon

sweðrian syððan. þa gen sylf cyning

geweold his gewitte, wællseaxe gebræd

biter ond beaduscearp, þæt he on byrnan wæg;

 

or you could say:

 

He left the head alone, but his fighting hand

was burned when he came to his kinsman’s aid.

He lunged at the enemy lower down

so that his decorated sword sank into its belly

and the flames grew weaker.

Once again the king

gathered his strength and drew a stabbing knife

he carried on his belt, sharpened for battle.

 

More or less...

;)

Jomsvikingar Raða Ja!

http://vikingswordsmith.com

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Another thing to remember is that Seax does mean knife. So the translations no matter how week in other places are correct here. As Jeff sugested go with the place and period and you should be good.

As far as movies go Beowulf & Grendal that came out last year with Gerard Buttler is pretty darned good. They definately took some liberties but they stuck to the heart of the story and came out on the other side with a good flick.

Adlai

Klatu Baratta Necktie!

 

Macabee Knives

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  • 2 months later...

Who'd have thunk that so many of my interests could have tickled here?

 

New guy here just touching base. Last couple years I've taken up playing

with metal. Cast some silver crosses. Made some steel crosses with temper

coloring, etc. After a couple years of frustration using an acetylene torch and

a Harbor Freight ASO, last winter I acquired a coal forge and a Trenton anvil.

Been a pretty happy camper since, taking my first stumbling steps at knife

making, having make a couple of knives letter openers from RR spikes

and a couple blades from a skillsaw blade.

 

Anyway, back to my original point, I just love the forge work AND Beowulf

/ Anglo-Saxon language and culture (what a rare find this thread was!).

It'd be great to be able to read Beo in its original form. 'Course that would

mean I'd need to err.. study and all that... :wacko:

Oh well. Some day maybe; I pick up a little here and there...

 

Anyway, great board and interesting thread. I'll just sit back & enjoy

while keeping my cut finger immobilized for a bit (don't ask -- new

power tool :o ).

 

-Jon

ionaþan

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Oakeshott makes a few mentions of the seax (sax) in "Archiology of Weapons" but doesn't have a section on them as such. Two illustrations that I remember are a migration era seax in it's wooden scabbard and a single edged, sword hilted Norweagan one which were also sometimes refered to as seaxs. I know that he referes to a story about an old Norse hero who digs a seax out of his host's father's grave that he had to do some dashing deed to get ownership of. Our hero, it is said, used it often in preference to his sword which had a b**chy personality and often gave him trouble in battle (likely excuse to stray with other cutting edge weapons, if you ask me). That would lead me to believe that said seax was a substancial weapon but no physical description was given of it in the story or Oakeshott didn't relay the details.

 

Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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I was doing some research for a blade and came across a reference to the seax of Beowulf, but couldn't find it in the transation I read (abridged, you know. :angry: ) I was wondering if any of you know of references to it or any information that would help piece somthing together, Anglo-Saxon seaxs seem to deteriorate faster than thier Norse brothers, alas. I found that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote something on the subject, but haven't had time to track down a copy.

Thanks,

Ben

 

Ben,

I'm reading a book on the Sutton Hoo find and it talks about how acidic the soil is on the East Anglican coast. They found all these great artifacts some of the wood survived barley and yet no bones. I think this also may figure into not finding any bone or antler grips on seaxs. The wood doesn't decay as fast as the bone.

Adlai

Klatu Baratta Necktie!

 

Macabee Knives

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