Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues

Article excerpt

Christine Rauer, Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000). x + 230 pp. ISBN o-85991-592-1. (English pound)75.00. While some may disagree with her definitions of key terms, Christine Rauer offers much fine new material in her discussion of the dragon fight in the final third of Beowulf. The core of her book is a cataloguing and analysis of sixtythree hagiographic texts containing 'a serpentine monster that "terrorizes the neighbourhood"' (p. 57; her quotation is from Margaret Goldsmith; one of Rauer's strengths is her careful scholarship). She readily acknowledges that some of the details, such as the saint's 'unqualified and immediate triumph' (P. 74), differ radically from events and descriptions in Beowulf. Others, however, indicate the tradition's influence; particularly compelling are those like the dragon's sniffing (p. 81), precisely because they seem so minor. She argues, moreover, that the correspondences are more significant since similar details are 'extremely rare' (P. 82) in the other Scandinavian and classical traditions the poet could have used.

Rauer classifies these saints' lives as analogues for Beowulf because they do not meet her strict definition of a source, a particular text that can be shown by 'distinctive parallels' in 'phraseology and/or imagery' to have influenced another (p. 10). She stresses the obvious point that a source must pre-date the work it influences, but also asserts the more complicated claim that it must have 'demonstrably circulated in the same historical and literary context as the target text' (p. …

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