Journal article Open Access

The deaths of Beowulf and Odysseus: narrative time and mythological story-types

Gainsford, Peter

(Preprint version) Juxtaposing the stories of Beowulf's and Odysseus' deaths highlights some distinctive features of each, with particular attention to narrative time. In Beowulf, the triad of symbols 'death-dragon-hoard' emerges as a meaningful constellation, with an underlying tale-type concerned with death, immortality, and narrative resolution, as illustrated by comparanda such as Gilgamesh. In the Odyssey, by contrast, death and resolution are deferred to an indefinite future. The standard narrative of Odysseus' death, the Telegonos legend, is a variant of the 'mortal combat of the father and son' tale-type, and is a fuller exemplar of that type than has been appreciated.

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