Beowulf's Dragon

A golden dragon with a man in its mouth

© Metropolitan Museum of Art

    • One of the most precious things we have left from Anglo-Saxon times is a long adventure poem, called an 'epic' poem, about a hero called Beowulf.

      Shows a simple carved dragon made from wood.© British Museum
      This carved dragon is from Anglo-Saxon times. It is a ship's figurehead and you can find it in The British Museum.

      A copy of the poem has survived from around 1000 AD, which is an amazing thousand years. The original book, or manuscript, is kept safe in London at The British Library.

      The Beowulf gallery on the Library's website explains the story and the history of the manuscript in lots of detail.

      The poem is really exciting, telling the story of three terrible battles Beowulf must fight. It also tells us lots about the way Anglo-Saxons lived.

      In the poem Beowulf first kills an awful monster called Grendel, then has to deal with Grendel's very angry and even more horrible monster mother! The last of Beowulf's battles is with a fierce and fiery dragon. Beowulf manages to kill the dragon, but is hurt so badly that he dies too.

      Imagine you were listening to a storyteller talking about Beowulf's adventures hundreds of years ago. Can you see the dragon in your mind's eye?

      How about having a go at painting or drawing Beowulf's dragon? Dragons are fantastic things to draw because they are imaginary.

      The original version of Beowulf was written in Old English which is very difficult to understand. Rosemary Sutcliff's book 'Beowulf: Dragonslayer' is based on the poem and is really easy read if you'd like to find out more.

      An incredible hoard of Anglo Saxon treasure was found at a place called Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Most of the treasure from the site is on show at The British Museum in London, but the Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre is well worth a trip too.
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