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Hygelac's only daughter: a present, a potentate and a peaceweaver in Beowulf

Hall, Alaric (2006) Hygelac's only daughter: a present, a potentate and a peaceweaver in Beowulf. Studia Neophilologica, 78 (1). pp. 81-87. ISSN 0039-3274

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[FIRST PARAGRAPH] The women of Beowulf have enjoyed extensive study in recent years, but one has escaped the limelight: the only daughter of Hygelac, king of the Geats and Beowulf’s lord. But though this daughter is mentioned only fleetingly, a close examination of the circumstances of her appearance and the words in which it is couched affords new perspectives on the role of women in Beowulf and on the nature of Hygelac’s kingship. Hygelac’s only daughter is given as part of a reward to Hygelac’s retainer Eofor for the slaying of the Swedish king Ongentheow. Beowulf refers to this reward with the unique noun ofermaðmas, traditionally understood to mean ‘‘great treasures’’. I argue, however, that ofermaðmas at least potentially means ‘‘excessive treasures’’. Developing this reading implies a less favourable assessment of Hygelac’s actions here than has previously been inferred. I argue further that the excess in Hygelac’s treasure-giving derives specifically from his gift of his only daughter, and the consequent loss to the Geats of the possibility of a diplomatic marriage through which they might end their feud with the Swedes. A reconsideration of Hygelac’s only daughter, then, offers new perspectives on the semantics of ofermaðum, on Hygelac’s kingship, and on women in Beowulf.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: This is an electronic version of an article published in Studia Neophilologica. Studia Neophilologica is available online at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/0039338x.asp . Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2009 10:27
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:05
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00393270600774719
Status: Published
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1080/00393270600774719
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5593

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