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bdNM
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The "goodliest collar" -- is it cursed?

A couple of things.  Wealtheow gives Beowulf a torque (a twisted band of metal worn around the neck of a warrior) which Kennedy calls "the goodliest collar" since the Brosings' jewel taken by Hama at some time in the past.  Immediately after this, we are told that Hygelac wears this torque into battle against the Frisians, a battle Hygelac will lose and in which he will die.   It is compared to the Brosings' (maybe Brisings?) treasure, which also caused great woe to the man who took it -- I wonder if the poet is suggesting that this torque is somehow cursed? 

Dignity, always dignity.
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Redcatlady
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Registered: ‎10-30-2006
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Re: The "goodliest collar" -- is it cursed?

I haven't yet been able to investigate that, but here's a link to Brosings for those who know nothing about it:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%ADsingamen

 

Hope this helps.

 

Redcatlady


bdNM wrote:

A couple of things. Wealtheow gives Beowulf a torque (a twisted band of metal worn around the neck of a warrior) which Kennedy calls "the goodliest collar" since the Brosings' jewel taken by Hama at some time in the past. Immediately after this, we are told that Hygelac wears this torque into battle against the Frisians, a battle Hygelac will lose and in which he will die. It is compared to the Brosings' (maybe Brisings?) treasure, which also caused great woe to the man who took it -- I wonder if the poet is suggesting that this torque is somehow cursed?


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Redcatlady
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Re: The "goodliest collar" -- is it cursed?

 

Redcatlady wrote:

I haven't yet been able to investigate that, but here's a link to Brosings for those who know nothing about it:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%ADsingamen

 

Hope this helps.

 

Redcatlady


bdNM wrote:

A couple of things. Wealtheow gives Beowulf a torque (a twisted band of metal worn around the neck of a warrior) which Kennedy calls "the goodliest collar" since the Brosings' jewel taken by Hama at some time in the past. Immediately after this, we are told that Hygelac wears this torque into battle against the Frisians, a battle Hygelac will lose and in which he will die. It is compared to the Brosings' (maybe Brisings?) treasure, which also caused great woe to the man who took it -- I wonder if the poet is suggesting that this torque is somehow cursed?


 

 

In chapter 11 of John Grigsby's Beowulf and Grendel, the collar Wealhtheow gives Beowulf is linked to the bog bodies of Denmark, buried with neck-rings, part of a fertility rite involving the annual investiture of a king, who either slays or hangs his predecessor, only to be himself killed the following year.  The neck-ring is also connected with the umbilical cord -- cords being wrapped around the baby's neck in utero apparently more common then than now, as we see on p.130:

 

"Another possible explanation is suggested by the imagery used in a medieval Welsh poem, The Spoils of the Abyss.  Here, a prisoner named Gweir lies bound in the underworld by a heavy blue cord or chain.  It has been convincingly argued that Gweir is Pryderi, the son of the horse-goddess Rhiannon, under his childhood name of Gwri Gwallt Euryn (golden-haired bay), whom she is accused of having eaten.  Some take the image of the blue chain to be a metaphor for the ocean, but if the child in the underworld is being used as a metaphor for the grain awaiting rebirth in the pregnant earth, the blue cord that holds him in the Earth-mother's womb is plainly the umbilical cord.

 

The connection between the umbilical cord and strangulation would have been obvious to the ancients:  in the days before modern medicine it was more common than now for babies to be strangled by their own umbilicus during birth.  It can only be imagined how the birth of such a child would have struck primitive man:  the mother was both giver and taker, and when she took life, she did so with the strangling cord, the twisted 'blue chain'.  It is hard to conceive that the deaths of the strangled bog men, placed in their watery graves, were not in any way influenced by this image.  The symbolism was clear -- they were returning to the amniotic fluid of the Mother's womb for rebirth as they had first emerged from it -- attached by a twisted cord."

 

Page 132 puts an interesting spin on the later history of the "goodliest collar":

 

". . . The connection between the act of love and the neck-ring sheds new light on Wealhtheow's gift of the neck-ring to Beowulf on the eve of his confrontation with Grendel's mother (see page 10 [which I will post in the section about Grendel's mother]).  [Italics mine.]

 

'Ornate gold was presented in trophy:  two arm-wreaths, with rings and robes also, and the richest collar I have ever heard of in all the world.  Never under heaven have I heard of a finer prize among heroes -- since Hama carried off the Brising necklace to his bright city, that gold-cased jewel' (Beowulf, 1193-200)

 

The gift seems to 'dedicate' Beowulf to the goddess, marking him out as Freyr/Ing, and in all probability he was wearing this neck-ring when the water-witch straddled him.  Certainly it can be linked with watery deaths:  Beowulf's lord, Hygelac, dies on the shoreline of Frisia while wearing it (see page 11) and a 3rd-4th century neck-ring found in a hoard at Pietroasa in Gothic Romania demonstrates the connection to Ing:  it is inscribed with Gothic runes that read 'sacred to Ingwa of the Goths'.

 

Beowulf is underwater -- 'in Gefion's ground' when the water-hag bestrides him, and in Egyptian tradition the body of Osiris is taken to the NIle marshes where Isis mounts the corpse and conceives the god Horus on him.  Celtic sources also show this ritual of love-death occurring in or near water."

 

Redcatlady