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Boar Helmets in Beowulf

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 353
  • Category: Beowulf

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Beowulf: A Verse Translation, a story passed on through the centuries in Anglo-Saxon and other Germanic cultures, inherently speaks through archetypes while still holding true to the cultural zeitgeist of the times. In an epic such as Beowulf, where war is a common theme, the archetypal images of weaponry and armory naturally enter the complex allegorical plot line. Specifically, the helmet of Beowulf and the other soldiers often becomes a basis of analytical thought. This analysis offers different suggestions as to the meaning behind the helmet both in literal use and the figurative use of the story tellers of the time.

The most common helmet used at the supposed time Beowulf took place was the boar helmet. The boar helmet is as it sounds, a helmet with a boar shaped piece at the top of it. One archaeology study states that these helmets were often fitted with precious metals such as bronze, silver, and gold, and often made with an iron base (Webster 217). Depending on the location the helmets were trimmed with different metals. For instance, in Torslunda, Oland, boar helmets have often been found with bronze trim dating to approximately the sixth and seventh centuries. However, much earlier in Denmark, boar helmets were often encrusted with silver trim (Speake). The different regions’ mineral wealth determined the archaic meaning of the boar helmet. The unifying structure of iron remains constant however the different trims can change the symbolic meaning to the culture. Moreover, a feature that did remain constant was the structure of the actual helmet itself. Models found in both York and Sweden had face masks, cheek guards, and neck protection (Webster 217). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a small boar on the top of the helmet remains constant.

The most interesting aspect of this helmet appears to be the different metals used in the different cultures. Beowulf happens to use every metal in reference to these helmets. “Boar-shapes flashed above their cheek-guards, the brightly forged work of goldsmiths” (Heaney 303-305). “To guard his head he had a glittering helmet… It was of beaten gold” (Heaney 1448-1453).

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