Where did the unique Old English epic of 'Beowulf' come from? In whose hall did the poem's maker first tell the tale? The poem is preserved on just one surviving manuscript, probably itself a copy, but a long and careful study of the literary and historical associations reveals striking details which lead Dr Newton to claim, as he pieces together the various clues, a specific origin for the epic. The fortunes of three early 6th-century Northern dynasties feature prominently in 'Beowulf'. Taking this as a probable reflection of the genealogical traditions of a pre-Viking Anglo-Saxon aristocracy claiming descent from one or more of these dynasties, Dr Newton further suggests that references in the poem to the various heroes whose names are listed in Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies indicate that such Northern dynastic concerns are most likely to have been fostered in the kingdom of East Anglia. He supports his argument with evidence drawn from East Anglian archaeology, hagiography and folklore, bringing life to a vanished age with his sympathetic interpretation of the few records that have survived.
His argument, detailed and passionate, offers the real and exciting possibility that he has discovered the lost origins of the poem in the pre-Viking kingdom of 8th-century East Anglia. SAM NEWTON graduated with a first in English literature from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, where he was later awarded his Ph.D. for work on 'Beowulf' (supervised by Michael Lapidge, at the Dept of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge). He lives in East Suffolk, not far from Sutton Hoo, and even closer to the Snape boat burial.