The Hero in Anglo-Saxon Culture
Roles of Anglo-Saxon Women
Maps, Glossary & Pictoral Guide - Beowulf
The Adventures of Beowulf
Beowulf on Steorarume [Beowulf in Cyberspace]
The Anglo-Saxon word ‘Wealhtheow’ originally means ‘treasure bearer.’ In Beowulf, Wealhtheow is Hrothgar’s queen and the mother of his two sons. She is offered as a wife to king Hrothgar in order to promote peace among the two tribes, the Helmings and Scyldings. This was typical practice among the Anglo-Saxons; women were often called ‘peace weavers.’ Wealtheow’s duty as a queen is to serve the court as a ‘weaver of peace’; this includes presenting necklaces and mead cups to the men at the court, and offering words of courage and honor to the warriors (www.classicnotes.com; Beowulf character list).
In Anglo-Saxon culture, women were not very important and did not have much of a say about how their lives were planned. Being married to the enemy is the only joy a girl brings to her parents (mistreatment of women in Beowulf). Women were generally considered the weaker sex and held very little power. Queen Wealhtheow, unlike most women of that time, shows certain traits that set her apart. She is shown as a good queen by her noble etiquette. She passes the cup at the mead-hall to serve her husband and his guests. She conforms to her name “treasure bearer” by assisting in the giving of the gifts to Beowulf, and she also acts as the peace-weaver between her husband and brother-in-law by offering Hrothulf the right to care for her sons in their father’s absence (www.classicnotes.com; Beowulf full summary and analysis), but she is also shown to be a free-thinking individual when she strongly reproaches her husband on the subject of Beowulf’s taking the throne She voices her objection by telling her husband to think of his family first, therefore securing her sons’ rights to the throne and acting in the interest of her children, like a mother should (www.classicnotes.com; Beowulf full summary and analysis).
Written by: Johane Charles