As is now well known from films, graphic novels, and other popular adaptations, Beowulf, our most important Old English poem, treats a super-hero's fights against monsters. Often overlooked, however, are its many allusions to events involving pre-English peoples still living in their continental Germanic homelands. We will consider how these allusions contribute to the poem’s meaning. Man can sometimes defeat the monsters, the poem seems to tell us, but his is also a terrifyingly unstable world.

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