Beowulf and the Illusion of History
Most Beowulf scholars have held either that the poems' minor episodes are more or less based on incidents in Scandinavian history or at least that they entail nothing of the fabulous or monstrous. Beowulf and the Illusion of History contends that, like the poem's Grendelkin episodes, certain minor episodes involve monsters and contain motifs of the "Bear's Son" folktale. In the Finn Episode the monsters are to be taken as physically present in the story as we have it, while in the mention of the hero's fight with Daeghrefn and perhaps in the accounts of the fight with Ongenbeow, the principal foes, though originally monsters, appear now more like ordinary humans. The inference permits the elucidation of passages hitherto obscure and indicates that the capability of the Beowulf poet as a "maker" is greater than has been thought. John F. Vickrey, is Professor of English, Emeritus, at Lehigh University.