BEOWULF AND THE DINOSAURS


But first, we must dispel one particular and erroneous notion that has bedevilled studies in this field for years. Since the poem's "rediscovery" in the early 18th century (although it was brought to the more general attention of scholars in the year 1815 when it was first printed), scholars have insisted on depicting the creatures in their translations of the poems as 'trolls'. 29 The monster Grendel was a troll, and the older female who was assumed by the Danes to have been his mother, is likewise called a troll-wife.

The word 'troll' is of Nordic origin and in the fairy-tales of Northern Europe it is supposed to have been a human-like, mischievous and hairy dwarf who swaps troll children for human children in the middle of the night. For good measure, trolls are sometimes depicted as equally mischievous and hairy giants, some of whom lived under bridges or in caves.

Now, this would be all well and good but for the singular observation that the word 'troll' is entirely absent from the original Anglo-Saxon text of Beowulf! The poem is full of expressions that we would call zoological terms, and these relate to all kinds of creatures (see Table 4.) But none of them have anything to do with dwarves, giants, trolls or fairies, mischievous or otherwise. And whilst we are on the subject, the monster Grendel preyed on the Danes for twelve long years (AD 503 - 515.) Are we seriously to believe that these Danish Vikings, whose berserker-warriors struck such fear into the hearts of their neighbours, were for twelve years rendered helpless with terror by a hairy dwarf, even a 'giant' one? For that is what certain of today's mistranslations of the poem would have us believe.

By the time of his slaying the monster Grendel in AD 515, Beowulf himself had already become something of a seasoned dinosaur hunter. He was renowned amongst the Danes at Hrothgar's court for having cleared the local sea lanes of monstrous animals whose predatory natures had been making life hazardous for the open boats of the Vikings. Fortunately, the Anglo-Saxon poem, written in pure celebration of his heroism, has preserved for us not just the physical descriptions of some of the monsters that Beowulf encountered, but even the names under which certain species of dinosaur were known to the Saxons and Danes.

However, in order to understand exactly what it is that we are reading when we examine these names, we must appreciate the nature of the Anglo-Saxon language. The Anglo-Saxons (like the modern Germans and Dutch) had a very simple method of word construction, and their names for everyday objects can sometimes sound amusing to our modern ears. A body, for example, was simply a bone-house (banhus,) and a joint a bone-lock (banloca). When Beowulf speaks to his Danish interrogator, he is said quite literally to have unlocked his word-hoard (wordhord onleoc.) Beowulf's own name means bear, and it is constructed in the following way. The Beoelement is the Saxon word for bee, and his name means literally a bee-wolf. The bear has a dog-like face and was seen by those who wisely kept their distance to apparently be eating bees when it raided their hives for honey. So they simply called the bear a bee-wolf. Likewise, the sun was called woruldcandel, literally the world-candle. It was thus an intensely literal but at the same time highly poetic language, possessing great and unambiguous powers of description.

The slaying of Grendel is the most famous of Beowulf's encounters with monsters, of course, and we shall come to look closely at this animal's physical description as it is given in the Beowulf epic. But in Grendel's lair, a large swampy lake, there lived other reptilian species that were collectively known by the Saxons as wyrmcynnes (literally wormkind, a race of monsters and serpents.) Beowulf and his men came across them as they were tracking the female of Grendel's species back to her lair after she had killed and eaten King Hrothgar's minister, Asshere. (The unfortunate man's half-eaten head was found on the cliff-top overlooking the lake.)

Amongst them were creatures that were known to the Saxons and Danes as giant saedracan (sea-drakes and sea-dragons,) and these were seen from the cliff-top suddenly swerving through the deep waters of the lake. Perhaps they were aware of the arrival of humans. Other creatures were lying in the sun when Beowulf's men first saw them, but at the sound of the battle-horn they scurried back to the water and slithered beneath the waves.

These other creatures included one species known to the Saxons as a nicor (plural niceras,) and the word has important connotations for our present study inasmuch as it later developed into knucker, a Middle English word for a water-dwelling monster or dragon. The monster at Lyminster in Sussex (see Table I) was a knucker, as were several of the other reported sightings of dinosaurs in that country. The pool where the Lyminster dragon lived is known to this day as the Knucker's Hole. The Orkney Isles, whose inhabitants, significantly, are Viking, not Scots, likewise have their Nuckelavee, as do also the Shetland Islanders. On the Isle of Man, they have a Nykir.

However, amongst the more generally named wyrmas (serpents) and wildeor (wild beasts) that were present at the lake on this occasion, there was one in particular that was called an ythgewinnes. 30 Intrigued by it, Beowulf shot an arrow into the creature, and the animal was then harpooned by Beowulf's men using eoferspreotum (modified boar-spears.) Once the monster was dead, Beowulf and his men then dragged the ythgowinnes out of the water and laid its body out for examination. They had, after all, a somewhat professional interest in the animals that they were up against. However, of the monstrous reptiles that they had encountered at the lake, it was said that they were such creatures as would sally out at mid-morning time to create havoc amongst the ships in the sea lanes, and one particular success of Beowulf's, as we have already seen, was clearing the sea lanes between Denmark and Sweden of certain sea-monsters which he called merefixa and niceras. Following that operation the carcases of nine such creatures (niceras nigne - Alexander mistakenly translates nigene as seven) were laid out on the beaches for display and further inspection, and it is these niceras that are the creatures so consistently portrayed on the figureheads of Viking ships (see figures 6 and 7.)

INTRODUCTION TO TABLES 2 AND 3.

Virtually every edition of the Beowulf epic and virtually every commentary on the poem, will take pains to assure the reader that what he is reading is NOT an historically accurate account of events or personages. Beowulf is described as a moral tale composed several centuries after the times of which it treats, a good yarn, and so on and so forth. What it does not do is embody real history. However the best test for historicity that can be applied to any document from the past, be it chronicle, epic poem or prose narrative, is the test of its genealogies and personal names. Are the men and women mentioned in the work characters who are known to us from other contemporary sources? Can the genealogies be verified? If they can, then we are dealing with an account that we can rely on as history. If their information is demonstrably wrong or fictitious, and if it is seen to contradict other accepted historical sources, then clearly the rest of the matter can be dismissed as mere fiction. Thus, and in the light of the persistent modernist assertion that Beowulf is merely fiction, we shall examine the complex genealogies that are embodied within the poem in the sure knowledge no compiler of fairy-stories ever went to such enormous lengths to add circumstantial verisimilitude to his tale as we find in the Beowulf. The following evidence will speak for itself.
I have relied on Klaeber (third edition, reference 20) for much of the information contained in the notes, and for the dates which, as he points out, are estimated as closely as the poem and its external corroborative sources will allow. The pivtotal date on which most of the others depend and are calculated, is AD 521, the year in which King Hygelac was slain by the Franks as depicted in Gregory of Tour's Historiae Francorum. However, having verified Beowulf's extraordinary historical accuracy on almost all points of the narrative, even those minor insignificant and insubstantial points only an authentic historical narrative can yield, Klaeber still denies the essential authenticity of the narrative. It is a peculiar position in which many a modernist scholar has found himself...

             *(1) Swerting
                     |
        *(2) Hrethel===Daughter (3)                *(4) Waymunding
                     |                                       |
       -------------|-------------------          ------------------
       |             |     |            |          |                |
*(5)Herebeald *(6)Haethcyn |    (7) Daughter===Ecgtheow*(8)  *(9)Weoxstan
                           |                 |                      |
                           |        *(10) BEOWULF           *(11) Wiglaf
                           |
                           |     *(12) Heareth
                           |              |
                           |       -------------------
                                   |                 |
*(13)Wonred (14) Wife===Hygelac===Hygd(16)    *(17)Hereric
  ------------        |  *(15)  |
  |          |        |         ----------
 Wulf      Eofar===Daughter      *(21)Heardred             *Male
*(18)      *(19)     (20)   

Table 2. THE GEATISH ROYAL HOUSE.

Notes to Table 2.
(1) Swerting: This is Hrethel's father-in-law's surname, not his fore-name. Swerting would have flourished from about AD 425 onwards. He was defeated by Frotho, whom we met earlier killing a dragon. His daughter, unnamed, married Hrethel. Swerting planned to put Frotho to death but in the ensuing battle both men slew each other.
(2) Hrethel: AD445 - 503. Having reigned over the Geats of southern Sweden, Hrethel died of grief a year after his eldest son's tragic death. (See 5 and 6.)
(3) Swerting's daughter, name unknown.
(4) Waymunding: This is the surname of Beowulf's grandfather. He would have lived during the latter half of the 5th century.
(5) Herebeald: AD 470 - 502. He was killed by his younger brother of Haethcyn in a hunting accident.
(6) Haethcyn: AD 472 - 510. Haethcyn came to the throne in AD 503. From that time war broke out between the Geats and the neighbouring Swedes culminating in the famous Battle of Ravenswood (Hrefnawudu) in the year AD 510. Just before this battle, Haethcyn was killed by Ongentheow (see Table 3, person 1) after having captured the Swedish queen.
(7) Daughter: name unknown.
(8) Ecgtheow: Beowilf's father, otherwise unknown.
(9) Weoxstan: Paternal uncle to Beowulf, he surprisingly helped Onela gain the throne of Sweden (see Table 3, person 4.) He and his son, Wiglaf (11) are henceforth known as Scylfingas, or Swedes, to denote their treacherously aiding the Swedish king.
(10) BEOWULF: AD 495 - 583. The subject of the epic that bears his name.
(11) Wiglat: Beowulf's cousin. Otherwise unknown from external sources, Beowulf adopted him as his heir. (See also Weoxstan [9]).
(12) Heareth: Father of Queen Hygd (16).
(13) Wonred: Father of Eofor and Wulf.
(14) Wife: name unknown.
(15) Hygelac: AD 475 - 521. The pivotal date, AD 521, and from which all other dates are here calculated, is provided by Gregory of Tour's Historiae Francorum, where he mentions Hygelac's raid on the Franks. During this raid, Hygelac was slain by Theodebert, the son of Theodoric, the Merovingian king of the Franks.
(16) Hygd: Hygelac's queen.
(17) Hereric: Queen Hygd's brother, he was uncle to prince Heardred.
(18) Wulf: Eofor's elder brother.
(19) Eofor: In the year AD 510, Eofor slew Ongentheow king of the Swedes (see Table 3, person 1).
(20) Daughter name unknown.
(21) Heardred: AD 511 - 533. In AD 532, diplomatic relations between the Geats and the Swedes were ruptured by Heardred's granting asylum to Onela of Sweden's rebellious nephews. Heardred was killed the following year by Onela's forces.

   SWEDISH ROYAL HOUSE                DANISH ROYAL HOUSE


      *(1)Ongentheow                     *(2)Healfdene
              |                                 |
   ------------------    ----------------------|---------------------
   |                |    |           |          |                    |
 Ohthere      Onela===Ursula      Heorogar  Hrothgar===Wealhtheow  Halga
  *(3)        *(4)      (5)         *(6)      *(7)   |    (8)       (9)
   |                                 |               |               |
   |                       *(10) Heoroweard          |     *(11) Hrothulf
   |                                                 |
   ------------                   --------------------
      ----------------            |                         * Male
*(12)Eanmund  *(13)Eadgils        |
                                  |
                 ----------------|------------- *(14)Froda
           *(15)Hrethric  *(16)Hrothmund   (17)Freawaru===*(18)Ingeld 

Table 3. THE SWEDISH AND DANISH ROYAL HOUSES.

Notes to Table 3.

(1) Ongentheow: AD 450 - 510. King of Sweden, he has been identified as Angeltheow of the early (pre-migration) Mercian genealogies (see CEN Tech. J., 5(1):21). In other early Nordic sources his name is also given as Angantyr and Egill. His queen was taken captive by Haethcyn and Hygaelac (see Table 2. person 6 and person 14) and he was killed in the ensuing battle of Ravenswood by Eofor and Wulf (see Table 2, person 18 and person 19 respectively.)
(2) Healfdene: AD 445 - 498. Otherwise known as Halfdan, he is celebrated in other sources as the father of Hrothgar (Hroarr) and Halga (Helgi). According to the Skjoldungasaga, his mother was the daughter of Jomundus, king of Sweden. His seat of power, which Beowulf tells us was called Heorot, is today marked by the village of Lejre on the island of Zealand.
(3) Ohthere: AD 478 - 532. His name is rendered Ottar in early West Nordic sources. His burial mound containing his ashes is still known as Ottarshogen.
(4) Onela: AD 480 - 535. Otherwise Ali in old West Nordic sources, namely the Skaldskaparmal; the Ynglingasaga; the Ynglingatal; and the Skjoldungasaga.
(5) Ursula: Originally Yrsa. In the Hrolfssaga and Skoldungasaga, she is depicted as Healfdene's eldest child, not his youngest as given in the Beowulf.
(6) Heorogar: AD 470 - 500. According to the Beowulf, he died within two years of inheriting his fathers crown at 28 years of age. His is one of only two names of the Danish Royal house that are not attested in other records (see also 16.)
(7) Hrothgar: AD 473 - 525. Otherwise Hroarr he was king of Denmark.
(8) Wealhtheow: She was a descendant of the Helmingas, and was renowned for her tactful and diplomatic ways. Intriguingly, her name means Celtic Servant.
(9) Halga: AD 475 - 503. He is known as Helgi in other Scandinavian sources and as Halgi Hundingsbani in the Eddic poems.
(10) Heoroweard: Born AD 490. Heoroweard did not inherit the crown on his father Heorogar's death. This may have been due to his minority (he was 10 when his father died), although other young lads have taken the crown at even earlier ages. Lines 2155 ff of the Beowulf may hold the clue to this. His father refused to pass on to him the royal standard, helmet, sword, and breastplate, an extraordinary act that normally denotes the son has lost his father's respect. How he lost it we are left to imagine.
(11) Hrothulf: AD 495 - 545. Renowned in other Scandinavian records as the son of Halga, he was, according to the Skjoldungasaga (cap. XII) and the Ynglingasaga (cap. XXIX), orphaned as a boy of 8. But he was adopted by Hrothgar and his queen at the Danish royal court. He was counted as one of the suhtergefaederan (close relatives of the king) and occupied the seat of honour next to Hrothgar. However, he later attempted (AD 525) to usurp the throne from his cousins Hrethric and Hrothmund (see 15 and 16.)
(12) Eanmund: AD 503 - 533. He was known as Eymundr in the Hyndluljoth (cap. XV) and as Aun in the Ynglingasaga. Saxo latinised his name as Homothus. He was slain by Weoxstan (see Table 2, person 9.)
(13) Eadgils: Born AD 510. He became king in AD 535, and was known as Athils in other Nordic sources.
(14) Froda: King of the Heathobard's (a Danish people,) his lineage (not given in the Beowulf) is of great interest to us. We have already seen how the pre-Christian Saxons, Irish and early Britons all traced their royal descents through various lines from Japheth. Froda's line is likewise given as beginning with: Japhet Noa sun, fadir Japhans... Sescef [Sceaf], Bedwig, Athra, Itermann, Heremotr, Scealdna (otherwise Skjoldr - the founder of the Skjoldungas or Scyldings), Beaf, Eat, Godulfi, Ginn, Frealaf, Voden. Allowing for natural spelling variations and for omissions, this almost exactly corresponds with the Anglo-Saxon lineage of Woden we have already seen (CEN Tech.J., 5 (1):21). And then appears Froda's own line from Woden: Skioldr, Fridleifr, Fridefrode, (14 in the above Table,) Ingialdr Starkadar (see 18) and so on. (This information is preserved in the Langfethgatal [i.e. Vetustissima Regum Septentrionis Series Langfethgatal dicta, 12th century manuscript copy of a much earlier original source. Thus, we can now add the Danes to the list of those ancient (pre-Christian) peoples who independently traced their lineage back to the Genesis patriarches.
(15) Hrethric: Born AD 499. Known in other records (the Bjarkamal and Saxo [ii]) as Hroerekr and Roricus respectively, he was slain by Hrothulf (see 11) in AD 525.
(16) Hrothmund: Born 500. His is one of the only two names in this genealogy that can not be verified from other surviving sources. (See also 6.)
(17) Freawaru: Born AD 501. She married Ingeld of Sweden in AD 518.
(18) Ingeld: Identical with Ingjaldr of Ynglingasaga fame, his prowess was sung for ages in the halls of Scandinavia. Indeed, his fame is referred to in a somewhat indignant letter written in AD 797 by Alcuin to Bishop Speratus of Lindisfarne: 'Quid enim Hinieldus cum Christo?' - What has Ingeld to do with Christ? This was written in rebuke of the monks of Lindisfarne who loved to hear the old pagan sagas retold in cloisters. Yet it is to such monks we owe the often clandestine preservation of works like the Beowulf and the old pagan genealogies which have in turn yielded such vital information concerning our forebears unexpected knowledge of the Genesis patriarches. Ingeld himself married Hrothgar's daughter, Freawaru, in the year AD 518. In the Langfethgatal (roll of ancestors) he is listed as Ingialdr Starkadar fostri.

    SAXON TERM               LITERAL MEANING   LINE        CREATURE DENOTED
1.  aelwiht....................alien monster...1500....... Grendel (female)
2.  atol aglaeca.....the terrifying ugly one....732......... Grendel (male)
3.  andsaca........................adversary...1682......... Grendel (male)
4.  angenga..................solitary walker....449......... Grendel (male)
5.  atol............................terrible....165......... Grendel (male)
6.  atelic..........................horrible....784......... Grendel (male)
7.  attorsceatha................venomous foe...2839......... Flying reptile
8.  brimwylf............she-wolf of the lake...1506....... Grendel (female)
9.  cwealm cuma................death visitor....792......... Grendel (male)
1O. daedfruma.......................evildoer...2090......... Grendel (male)
11. deathscua...................death shadow....160......... Grendel (male)
12. deofl..............................devil...2088......... Grendel (male)
13. draca.............................dragon...2290......... Flying reptile
14. eacen craeftig......exceedingly powerful...3051......... Flying reptile
15. ealdorgewinna ................life enemy...2903......... Flying reptile
16. ellengaest ...............powerful demon.....86......... Grendel (male)
17. ellorgaest...................alien spirt....807......... Grendel (male)
18. ent................................giant...2717......... Flying reptile
19. feond.......................fiend, enemy....101......... Grendel (male)
20. feondscatha ....................dire foe....554......... Grendel (male)
21. feorhbealu..............life destruction...2077......... Grendel (male)
22. ferhthgenithla................deadly foe...2881......... Flying reptile
23. fifelcyn................race of monsters....104...... Grendel (species)
24. gastbona.....................soul slayer....177......... Grendel (male)
25. geoscaftgast .........demon sent by fate...1266......... Grendel (male)
26. gesaca.........................adversary...1773......... Grendel (male)
27. gaedig..................greedy, ravenous....121......... Grendel (male)
28. grimlic.................fierce, terrible...3041......... Flying reptile
29. gromheort ...............hostile hearted...1682....... Grendel (female)
30. grundwyrgen..............hellish monster...1518......... Grendel (male)
31. gryrefah....terrible,variegated coloring...3041......... Flying reptile
32. guthsceatha.............enemy, destroyer...2318......... Flying reptile
33. haethstapa..................heath salker...1368................... Stag
34. heorowearh..............accursed outcast...1267......... Grendel (male)
35. hordweard..............treasure guardian...2293......... Flying reptile
36. hringboga...coiled (or wrapped) creature...2561......... Flying reptile
37. idese inlicness..the likeness of a woman...1351....... Grendel (female)
38. inwitgaest.................malicious foe...2670......... Flying reptile
39. lathgeteona..............loathly spoiler....974......... Grendel (male)
40. ligdraca.....................fire dragon...2333......... Flying reptile
41. ligegesa.....................fire terror...2780......... Flying reptile
42. lyftfloga......................air flier...2315..Flying reptile species
43. manfordaedla............wicked destroyer....563............ Sea monster
44. manscatha.................wicked ravager....712......... Grendel (male)
45. mearcstapa................ march stalker....103......... Grendel (male)
46. meredeor...................... sea beast....558............ Sea monster
47. muthbona....................mouth slayer...2079......... Grendel (male)
48. nearofah.................cruelly hostile...2317......... Flying reptile
49. nicor......................water monster....845........... Lake monster
50. nihtbealu.....................night evil....193..........Grendel (male)
51. nithdraca.................hostile dragon...2273......... Flying reptile
52. nithgaest..................malicious foe...2699......... Flying reptile
53. orcneas.........................monsters....112....... Monsters general
54. saedeor....................... sea beast...1510............ Sea monster
55. saedraca......................sea dragon...1426............ Sea monster
56. sceadugenga...........walker in darkness....703......... Grendel (male)
57. scinna.............................demon....939......... Grendel (male)
58. scucca.............................demon....939......... Grendel (male)
59. scynscatha................ hostile demon....707......... Grendel (male)
60. searogrim.............. fierce in battle....594......... Grendel (male)
61. theodsceatha.......... waster of peoples...2278......... Flying reptile
62. thyrs............................. giant....426......... Grendel (male)
63. weres waestmum........the shape of a man...1352......... Grendel (male)
84. widfloga..................... wide flyer...2346......... Flying reptile
65. wiht unhaelo............. unholy monster....120......... Grendel (male)
66. wildeor.......................wild beast...1430........... Lake monster
67. wohbogan... coiled (or wrapped) creature...2827......... Flying reptile
68. wrecend..........................avenger...1256....... Grendel (female)
69. wyrm.............................serpent...1430........... Lake monster
70. wyrmcynn................race of serpents...1425........ Monster species
71. ythgewinnes................wave-thrasher...1434........... Lake monster

Table 4. ZOOLOGICALLY APPLIED TERMS IN THE BEOWULF.

FLYING REPTILES

The last monster to be destroyed by Beowulf (and from which encounter Beowulf also died in the year AD 583) was a flying reptile which lived on a promontory overlooking the sea at Hronesness on the southern coast of Sweden. Now, the Saxons (and presumably the Danes) knew flying reptiles in general as lyftlogas (air-fliers,) but this particular species of flying reptile, the specimen from Hronesnes, was known to them as a widfloga, literally, a wide (or far-ranging) flyer, and the description that they have left us fits that of a giant Pteranodon. Interestingly, the Saxons also described this creature a ligdraca, literally fire-dragon, and he is described as fifty feet in length (or perhaps wing-span?) and about 300 years of age. (Great age is a common feature even among todays's non-giant reptiles.) Moreover, and of particular interest to us, the name widfloga would have distinguished this particular species of flying reptile from another similar species which was capable of making only short flights. Modern palaeontologists have named such a creature Pterodactyl.

But what of another reptilian monster that was surely the most fiercesome of all the dinosaurs encountered by Beowulf?

GRENDEL

It is too often and mistakenly thought that the name Grendel was merely a personal name by which the Danes knew this particular animal. In much the same way as a horse is called Dobbin, or a dog Fido, this monster, it is assumed, was called Grendel. But, in fact, Grendel was the name that our forebears gave to a particular species of giant reptile. This is evidenced in the fact that in the year AD 931, King Athelstan of Wessex issued a charter in which a certain lake in Wiltshire (England) is called (as in Denmark) a grendles mere. 31, 32 Other place-names mentioned in old charters, Grindles bec and Grendeles pyt, for example, were likewise places that were (or had been) the habitats of a particular species of animal. Grindelwald, literally Grendelwood, in Switzerland is another such place. But where does the name Grendel itself come from? What was its origin, and what information does it convey? Well, there are several Anglo-Saxon words that share the same root as Grendel. The Old English word grindan, for example, and from which we derive our word grind, used to denote a destroyer. But the most likely origin of the name is simply the fact that Grendel is an onomatopoeic term derived from the Old Norse grindill, meaning a storm or grenja, meaning to bellow. The word Grendel is strongly reminiscent of the deep-throated growl that would be emitted by a very large animal and it came into Middle English usage as grindel, meaning angry.

To the hapless Danes who were the victims of his predatory raids, however, Grendel was not just an animal. To them he was demon-like, one who was synnum beswenced (afflicted with sins). He was godes ansaca (God's adversary,) the synscatha (evil-doer) who was wonsaeli (damned,) a very feond on helle (devil in hell)! He was one of the grundwyrgen, accursed and murderous monsters who were said by the Danes to be descended from Cain himself. And it is descriptions such as these of Grendel's nature that convey something of the horror with which the men of those times anticipated his raids on their homesteads.

But as for Grendel's far more interesting physical description, his habits and the geography of his haunts, they are as follows.

Between lines 1345 - 1355 of the poem, Hrothgar relates to Beowulf the following information when describing Grendel and one of the monster's companions:

"Ic thaet londbuend leode mine seleraedende secgam hyrde thate hie gesawon swylce twegen micle mearcstapan moras healdan ellorgaestas. Thaera other waes thaes the hie gewislicost gewitan meahton idese onlicnes, other earm-sceapen on weres waestmum sraeclastas traed naefne he waes mara thonne aenig man other thone on geardagum Grendel nemdon foldbuende..." (emphases mine.)

...the best translation of which is Alexander's:-

"I have heard it said by subjects of mine who live in the country, counsellors in this hall, that they have seen such a pair of huge wayfarers haunting the moors, otherworldly ones; and one of them, so far as they might make it out, was in woman's shape; but the shape of a man, though twisted, trod also the tracks of exile - save that he was more huge than a human being. The country people have called him from of old by the name of Grendel..." 33

The key words from this passage, and from which we gain important information concerning the physical appearance of Grendel, are idese onlicnes when referring to the female monster, and wereswaestmum when referring to the mate. Those Danes who had seen the monsters thought that the female was the older of the two and supposed that she was Grendel's mother, but what exactly do the descriptive terms tell us that is of such importance? Simply this: that the female was in the shape of a woman (idese onlicnes) and the mate was in the shape of a man (weres waestmum.) In other words, they were both bipedal, but larger than any human.

Further important detail is added elsewhere in the poem concerning Grendel's appearance when the monster attacked the Danes for what was to prove the last time. In lines 815 - 818, where we are told in the most graphic detail how Beowulf inflicted a fatal injury on the monster (Beowulf held the creature in an armlock, which he then twisted - 'wrythan' - line 964,) the following information is derived:

"Licsar gebad atol aeglaeca him on eaxle wearth syndolh sweatol seonowe onspungon burston banlocan.'

Which may be translated thus:

"Searing pain seized the terrifying ugly one as a gaping wound appeared in his shoulder. The sinews snapped and the (arm)-joint burst asunder" (my translation.)

For twelve years, the Danes had themselves attempted to kill Grendel with conventional weapons - knives, swords, arrows and the like. Yet his impenetrable hide had defied them all, and Grendel was able to attack the Danes with impunity. Beowulf considered all this and decided that the only way to tackle the monster was to get to grips with him at close quarters. The monster's forelimbs, which the Saxons called eorms (arms) and which some translate as claws, were small and comparatively puny. They were the monster's one weak spot, and Beowulf went straight for them. He was already renowned for his prodigious strength of grip, and he used this to literally tear off one of Grendel's small arms.

Grendel, however, is also described, in line 2079 of the poem, as a muthbona, that is, one who slays with his mouth or jaws, and the speed with which he was able to devour his human prey tells us something of the size of his jaws and teeth. Yet, it is the very size of Grendel's jaws that would have aided Beowulf in going for the forelimbs, because pushing himself hard into the animal's chest between those forelimbs would have placed Beowulf tightly underneath those jaws and would thus have sheltered him from Grendel's terrible teeth. We are told that as soon as Beowulf gripped the monster's claws (and we must remember that Grendel was only a youngster, and not by all accounts a fully mature adult male of his species), the startled animal tried to pull away instead of attacking Beowulf. The animal instinctively knew the danger he was now in, and he wanted to escape the clutches of the man who now posed such an unexpected threat and who was inflicting such alarming pain. However, it was this action of trying to pull away that left Grendel wide open to Beowulf's strategy. Thus, Beowulf was able in the ensuing struggle eventually to wrench off one of the animal's arms, as so graphically described in the poem. As a result of this appalling injury, the young dinosaur returned to his lair and simply bled to death (see figure 9 and caption.)

As for his haunts and habits, Grendel hunted alone, being known by the understandably frightened locals who sometimes saw his moonlit shape coming down from the mist-laden moors as the atol angengea, the terrifying solitary one. He was a mearcstapa (literally a march-stepper,) one who stalked the marches or outlying regions ('haunting the moors,' as Alexander renders it.) He hunted by night, approaching human settlements and waiting silently in the darkness for his prey to fall asleep before he descended on them as a sceadugenga (literally a shadow-goer, a nightwalker.) Gliding silently along the fenhlith (the waste and desolate tract of the marshes,) he would emerge from the dense black of night as the deathscua (death's shadow.) The Danes employed an eotanweard (literally a giant-ward, a watcher for monsters) to warn of Grendel's appearance, but often in vain. So silent was Grendel's approach when he was hunting in the darkness of the night that sometimes the eotanweard himself was surprised and eaten. On one particular and long-remembered night, no less than thirty Danish warriors were killed by Grendel. Little wonder then that Beowulf was rewarded so richly and was so famed for having killed the monster.

In all, a comprehensive and somewhat horrifying picture of Grendel emerges from the pages of Beowulf, and I doubt that the reader needs to be guided by me as to which particular species of predatory dinosaur the details of his physical description fit best. Modern commentators who have been brought up on evolutionary ideas are compelled to suggest that monsters like Grendel are primitive personifications of death or disease, and other such nonsense. (It had even once been suggested that he was a personification of the North Sea!!) But really, the evidence will not support such claims.

One modern and refreshingly honest publication on the poem makes a far more telling comment:-

"In spite of allusions to the devil and abstract concepts of evil, the monsters are very tangible creatures in Beowulf. They have no supernatural tricks, other than exceptional strength, and they are vulnerable and mortal. The early medieval audience would have accepted these monsters as monsters, not as symbols of plague or war, for such creatures were a definite reality." 34

CONCLUSION

The study of living dinosaurs from the ancient records is a fascinating one, and we have here examined only a few of the surviving examples. One or two of the accounts (not dealt with here) that have come down to us could, arguably, be dismissed either on the grounds that they are plainly fanciful or that they are so hopelessly muddled that no accurate knowledge can be gleaned from them. But the vast majority of the accounts, such as these that we have examined, are sober and detailed reports of the not always malevolent creatures that our forebears encountered. The flying reptiles of Wales (see Appendix) that survived until very recent times are just one further example. Those of the North American Indians are another. 35 The reports are surprisingly consistent, and together they give the lie to those scurrilous charges that are so often laid by modernist scholars at our ancestors' proverbial door. 36 You can only say so often that records and traditions are fake, and that their authors are either habitual and unscrupulous liars and fraudsters, or else the most gullible fools in history. There comes a point when either it has to be acknowledged that there is substance to the reports, or the reports themselves are ignored. Modernists have chosen the latter course.

REFERENCES

1. The New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, London. 1972. p. 138, s.v. Behemouth.
2. The New Bible Dictionary., Ref. 1. pp. 729-730. s.v. Leviathan.
3. Pfeiffer, C. F., 1960. Lotan and Leviathan. Evangelical Quarterly. XXXII:208ff.
4. Cooper, W. R., The early history of man - part 5, in preparation.
5. Thorpe, Lewis., (tr.) 1982. The History of the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth. Guild Publishing, London. pp. 101-102.
6. Jones, G. and Jones. T. (tr.). 1974 and 1989. The Mabinogion. Revised edition. Everyman's Library. J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd. pp. 209-212 and 217.
7. Westwood. J., 1985. Albion Granada, London. pp. 270, 275, 289.
8. This chronicle was begun by John de Trokelow and finished by Henry de Blaneford. It was translated and reproduced in the Rolls Series, H. G. Riley. (ed.). IV,in 1866.
9. Simpson. J., 1980. British Dragons, B. T. Batsford Ltd. London. p.60.
10. Simpson, Ref.9. p. 118.
11. The fighting dragons of Little Cornard. In: Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, Reader's Digest, 1973, p. 241.
12. True and Wonderful: A Discourse Relating to a Strange and Monstrous Serpent (or Dragon) lately discovered, and yet living, to the great Annoyance and divers Slaughters of both Men and Cattell, by his strong and violent Poison: in Sussex, two Miles from Horsham, in a Woode called St Leonard's Forrest, and thirtie Miles from London, this present month of August 1614. With the true Generation of Serpents. Cited in: Harleian Miscellany. III, 1745. pp. 106-109.
13. Simpson, Ref.9.p. 118.
14. Simpson, Ref.9.p.35.
15. Simpson, Ref.9.p.21.
16. Gregory., Lady, l920. Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland (reprinted 1976.)
17. Simpson, Ref.9.pp.42-43
18. Steiger, B., 1980. Worlds Before Our Own, W. & J. Mackay Ltd., Chatham (England.) pp. 41-66. (Steiger is by no means a creationist.)
19. Morris, W., 1923. Volsangassaga: The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblings. Longmans, London.
20. Elton's translation cited by Klaeber. Fr., 1950. Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 3rd edition. D.C. Heath & Co.,Boston, p. 259.
21. The Anglo-Saxon text relied on in this study is that of Klaeber's Ref. 20.
22. Alexander, Michael. 1973. Beowulf, Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, pp. 112-113.
23. Cooper, W. R., 1991. The early history of man - Part 2. The Irish-Celtic, British and Saxon chronicles. CEN Tech. J., 5(1):21.
24. It also verifies the pre-Christian origin of the Mercian (and other) pedigrees, proving that the early genealogies were in existence before the Saxons migrated to England, modernist assertions of late monkish forgeries notwithstanding.
25. Historiae Francorum, Book III, chapter 3.
26. Thorpe, Lewis (tr.). 1974. Gregory of Tours: The History of the Franks, Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, p. 163.
27. Cited by Klaeber, Ref. 20, p.xli.
28. Klaeber, Ref. 20, p.xli.
29. This is the one flaw that mars Michael Alexander's otherwise excellent translation of Beowulf, Penguin Classics (Ref. 22). Klaeber (Ref.20) also, and surprisingly, makes the same mistranslation.
30. Ythgewinnes=literlly a wave-thrasher, evidently a surface-swimming monster rather than a creature that swam at depth like the saedracan. This would explain the ease with which the ythgewinnes was harpooned from the shore of the mere.
31. Cartularium Saxonicum, W. de Gray Birch (ed.,) ii., p. 363 ff.
32. Cited also by Klaeber, Ref. 20, p. xxiv.
33. Alexander, Ref. 22, p. 93.
34. Longman Literature Guides. (York Notes series.) Beowulf, p. 65.
35. Steiger, Ref. 18, pp 41-66.
36. Sceptics on this subject are no new thing. Three hundred years ago, their often stultifying academic presence led a 17th century scholar to pen the following:
"To save a maid, St. George a dragon slew,
     A pretty tale if all that's told be true. 
     Most say there are no dragons, and 'tis said, 
     There was no George...let's hope there was a maid!" (John Aubrey) 
37. Trevelyan, M., 1909. Folklore and Folk Stories of Wales.
38. Cited also in Simpson, Ref. 9, pp. 34-35.
39. Whitlock, R., 1983. Here Be Dragons, George Allen & Unwin, Boston, pp. 133-134.

APPENDIX

THE FLYING REPTILES AND OTHER DINOSAURS OF WALES

Flying reptiles were a feature of Welsh life, a more common feature than many might think, until surprisingly recent times. Indeed, as late as the beginning of this present century, elderly folk at Penllin (Glamorgan) used to tell of a colony of winged serpents that lived in the woods around Penllin Castle. As Marie Trevelyan tells us:

'The woods round Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago [around the turn of the century], said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and looked as if they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow." When disturbed they glided swiftly, "sparkling all over," to their hiding places. When angry, they "flew over people's heads, with outspread wings bright, and sometimes with eyes too, like the feathers in a peacock's tail." He said it was "no old story invented to frighten children," but a real fact. His father and uncle had killed some of them, for they were as bad as foxes for poultry." The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to the fact that they were "terrors in the farmyards and coverts."

An old woman, whose parents in her early childhood took her to visit Penmark Place, Glamorgan, said she often heard people talking about the ravages of the winged serpents in that neighbourhood. She described them in the same way as the man of Penllyne. There was a "king and queen" of winged serpents, she said, in the woods round Bewper.... Her grandfather told her of an encounter with a winged serpent in the woods near Porthkerry Park, not far from Penmark. He and his brother "made up their minds to catch one, and watched a whole day for the serpent to rise. Then they shot at it, and the creature fell wounded, only to rise and attack my uncle, beating him about the head with its wings. She said a fierce fight ensued between the men and the serpent, which was at last killed. She had seen its skin and feathers, but after the grandfather's death they were thrown away. That serpent was as notorious "as any fox" in the farmyards and coverts around Penmark.' 37, 38

The authenticity of the above account is enhanced in many points, not the least of which is the fact that it is not a typical account. The creatures concerned were not solitary and monstrous dragons, but small creatures who lived in colonies. They had to be exterminated, unfortunately, because of their predilection for the local poultry, but they were not large animals. We must bear in mind that many "dinosaurs" known to us from the fossil record were, in fact, quite small, some no bigger than birds. The old folk who remembered the Welsh serpents agreed that they were very beautiful creatures to look at, especially when they were in flight.

A different kind of winged reptile nested on an ancient burial mound, or tumulus, at Trellech a'r Betws in the Welsh county of Dyfed. It seems, though, to have been a larger species than those of Penmark and Penllin.

But whilst we are in Wales it is worth noting that at Llanbadarn-y-Garrag, Powys (is Garrag a corruption of carrog, or vice versa?) the church contains a carving of a local giant reptile whose features may be familiar to some of us. They include large paddle-like flippers, a long neck and a small head. We would call it a Plesiosaur.

Apart from those Welsh locations mentioned in the main body of this article, Glaslyn (Snowdon) is another lake where afancs have been spoken of and sighted, one as recently as the 1930's. On this occasion, two climbers on the side of the mountain looked down onto the surface of Glaslyn and they saw the afanc, which they described as having a long grey body, rise from the depths of the lake to the surface, raise his head, and then submerge again. 39

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Other references that were useful for compilation of the text are:-
Alexander, Marc, 1982. British Folklore, Myths and Legends, Weidenfeld and Nicholson. London.
Bord. J. and Bord. C., 1987. Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Paladin. London.
Topsett, E., 1608. The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, printed also by G. Sawbridge, T. Williams and T. Johnson, London. 1658.

Bill Cooper is a keen student of Bible history, archaeology and paleontology. He first introduced he subject of living dinosaurs in early records in Anglo-Saxon Dinosaurs As Described in Early Historical Records, Creation Science Movement (England), Pamphlet Series #280. This article is reproduced by permission of the author and the editor of the "Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal" (PO Box 302, Sunnybank, Qld. AUSTRALIA 4109.)

.../Back to Contents


http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/