The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

12 (May 2009)  |   Issue Editors: Larry Swain

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue Navigation

Issue Homepage

Office for St. Cuthbert

Metrical Foregrounding

King Alfred's Scholarly Writings

Forum—Digitizing Numismatics

Forum—Regna et Regnum

Forum—Saints and Sacred Space

Electronic Medievalia

Continental Business


| Philological Inquiries |


Philological Inquiries 1: Method and Merovingians

Michael D.C. Drout, Wheaton College, Massachusetts and Scott Kleinman, California State University, Northridge

© 2009 by Michael D. C. Drout and Scott Kleinman. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2009 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract: This is the first of a series of columns on philology. Philology is the foundation of humane letters, and we demonstrate the utility of the approach by discussing Tom Shippey's examination of the word "Merovingian" in Beowulf. The philological approach is shown to illuminate culture, history and politics and shed new light on an old problem.

§1.  "Philology is the foundation of humane letters" wrote J.R.R. Tolkien in his "Valedictory Address" of 1959 (Tolkien 1979). And indeed this is obviously, even trivially, true if we consider the Oxford English Dictionary definitions of the word or the history of our disciplines. But, like the foundation of many an edifice, neglected or ignored until something goes wrong and the basement floods, philology is no longer visibly central to literary study. We think this is a mistake for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the power of philology to shed light on very important questions of literary interpretation.

§2.  But what do we mean by "philology"? We thought to begin this column, like philologists, by examining the meaning of the word, but we soon realized that to do so was to be pulled into a question-begging vortex. At one extreme is the definition of philology as "the love of logos" and hence "the love of language," the "love of learning" (or, more partisan, perhaps, "the love of words"). We assume that every critical approach to studying language and literature could be fit into that definition. At the other end of the spectrum would be the nineteenth-century German scholars who withheld from Frederick James Furnivall the honorable title "Philologe" because he was too much of an enthusiast and not enough of a scientist (Utz 2001, 203). We would like to stake out a section of the (admittedly enormous) middle ground between these two extremes. For us, philology is an approach to literary studies that uses detailed knowledge of specific languages, dialects and their workings for the purpose of understanding texts, particularly literary texts. This focus on texts and literature (sadly) divides philology from contemporary linguistics, and the focus on languages in all their particulars (sadly) divides philology from what is now mainstream literary criticism.

§3.  But we are already now moving down the road to definition, and that is not our purpose in this and future columns in this series. We want to make the case for philology not in the abstract, but in very practical terms, and to do so we purpose to demonstrate the value of philology for understanding literary texts, making both explicitly and implicitly the argument that philological methods are not merely useful, but essential parts of the toolkit of the successful scholar. Thus each column in this new series will highlight a particular successful application of philology, explain how it was accomplished and why it is important. Along the way we will pause to examine some of the philosophical issues raised by philological practice, overturn some long-standing critiques (mostly implicit but some explicit) and discuss the relationship of philology to other theoretical orientations of literary study. In these columns we will demonstrate philology's potential both to reshape the field of literary study and to contribute to other intellectual efforts beyond the traditional boundaries of literature and linguistics.

§4.  These columns are also part of a larger project to create a Handbook of Philological Methods.1 We have learned through experience that no such resource exists, in one place and in English, for scholars who wish to be better philologists or students who wish to become philologists at all. In the English-speaking academy, philology is taught by the apprenticeship method, with senior scholars passing on their hard-won insights and long-established tricks of the trade to graduate students in their seminars. Such an apprenticeship model of instruction has significant strengths, not the least that the level of detail taught is enormously great. However, reliance upon apprenticeship also creates some significant problems that have grown greater in recent years and show no signs of diminishing. Demographic shifts in the profession have gradually replaced working philologists with scholars uninterested in philology or hostile to philology. Even some of those who are not hostile to the method may have insufficient experience to continue this system of training. Thus the chain of inheritance has begun to break down. Changes in the curricular structure of English programs have also limited opportunities for those willing to teach and learn philology in a systematic manner. There may also be an impression that the tremendous achievements of nineteenth- and twentieth-century philologists have left no stone unturned, and certainly there is an idea that philology is passé, overturned by more recent critiques, a methodological dinosaur. These ideas are false, and many who promulgate them should know better, but others cannot be blamed. Philology as a sub-discipline has not even codified its methodology, much less "fought its corner" by advocating the real value of that methodology for exactly the questions of literary study that are consuming the intellectual energy of the contemporary academy.2

§5.  All this leads to a dilemma. For the next generation of scholars to embrace philology, there needs to be some way for students (who do not have the good fortune to have ended up at a graduate program with a philologist on the faculty) to introduce themselves to the scope of philology and its analytical tools while being reflective about its methods in relation to the wider discipline of literary criticism. A survey of the classic texts currently available reveals that our current handbooks are both simultaneously essential monuments of learning and practically useless for teaching philology in any kind of introductory manner without the aid of an extremely effective apprenticeship system. For comparative philology, Prokosch's Comparative Germanic Grammar (Prokosch 1938) is unrivalled; for Old English, Campbell's Old English Grammar (Campbell 1959) remains the most valuable single resource; and in Middle English, Jordan's Handbuch der mittelenglischen Grammatik (Jordan 1968) is the standard which is some years from being replaced by the Middle English Grammar project at the University of Glagow.3 More recently published resources such as Richard Hogg's Grammar of Old English (Hogg 1992) tend to update the material to account for more contemporary discussions and for the discursive conventions adopted by contemporary linguists. Yet we defy any first-year graduate student, no matter how motivated (much less an interested undergraduate) to pick up one of these books and pull from it without guidance the essential principles that he or she could use to generate a philological interpretation of a literary text, or even to construct an etymology of an unfamiliar word.

§6.  At the other end of the spectrum from the great monuments, handbooks for students are frequently aimed at the undergraduate History of the English language market, driven in part by the needs of secondary education training. Notable exceptions such as Hogg's Introduction to Old English (Hogg 2002) and Horobin and Smith's Introduction to Middle English (Horobin and Smith 2002) seem to address the needs of linguists more than literary scholars. These books teach language history well, but they do not provide the tools budding literary philologists need to begin to use the method to investigate literature.

§7.  If philology is to have a future as a critical tool for the study of literature, neither of these extremes will do. We instead need a way to demonstrate how philological methods are successfully applied to the understanding of literary texts. Equally or even more importantly, before it is too late and the current generation of senior scholars—perhaps the last generation of giants—passes from the scene, we need to collect and explicate today's techniques and codify methods so that they may be preserved and passed on. Let it not be said that the tracks of these giants may still be seen but we do not know how to follow.

§8.  This is not a Quixotic or hopeless quest. We are not advocating the compilation of an Encyclopedia to gather and preserve knowledge for some future generation who will be smarter about using the accumulated wisdom (though there is nothing wrong with such an approach). Instead, we happily find ourselves at a cultural, technological, and political moment when we can claim that philology has the potential to provide insights (and correct misapprehensions) in a way never before possible. We can rebuild the discipline. We can make it better, faster, stronger: we have the technology. Today, new databases and software have allowed us to create research tools entirely unavailable to the philologists of previous generations, and we would like to use the opportunities these tools have created as the starting point for our argument that English literary studies needs to re-engage with philological methods.

§9.  For example, the corpora of electronic texts created for the Dictionary of Old English and the Middle English Dictionary allow us an unrivalled perspective on words and their usage with which both to re-assess the claims of the past and generate new ones. As a case in point we might cite the Oxford English Dictionary's claim that our modern word iron derives from a 'poetic' form of the word in Old English (iren, its more 'prosaic' forms being isen and isern). Apart from the unlikelihood of such a development, a search of the Toronto Corpus of Old English reveals that this claim could have been made only if Beowulf was used as the primary evidence for poetic usage. Setting Beowulf aside, isern is clearly the more common form in poetry. We will explore the significance of this observation in a future column. For now, it will suffice to demonstrate the potential of the new technology.

§10.  That said, the workings of the databases (like the Toronto Dictionary of Old English Corpus)4 are not as obvious as even the old Microfiche Concordance and certainly not as straightforward to use as the Bosworth-Toller dictionary (Bosworth and Toller 1921), the glossary in Klaeber's edition of Beowulf (Klaeber 1950) or even the execrable Clark Hall dictionary (Clark Hall 1969), and they can trick the unwary and philologically untrained scholar into a false sense of knowledge: all that power can easily lead one astray. Enter a string of letters, click search, and come back with an unfortunate error like labeling "umborwesendum" a hapax legomenon. This error, which appears in a very good, peer-reviewed study, would not have been made using the non-computerized tools, as the proximity of "umborwesende" even in the Klaeber glossary, or the note in Bosworth-Toller that the word might be a compound ("umbor wesende" or "umbor wesendum"), would suffice to prevent the erroneous conclusion. A screen with a single search result provides less context, and so what the computerized tools give in ease, they take away in transparency. But with philological training, the best of both approaches is possible. Knowing the extent of possible morphological forms and alternate spellings allows a philologist to get the most out of the databases, generating results that are better than either simple searches or pre-computer philological methods could generate on their own.5 In order to make the most of the tools, a scholar must have a method for asking the right questions, as well as one for interpreting the answers. Philology can supply such a method. Hence, in this opening column, we will examine a case study which demonstrates the value of new technology coupled with a philological approach for re-opening an abandoned line of inquiry, grappling with important problems of literary, cultural and even aesthetic interpretation, and reconstructing the past.

§11.  We begin by examining a passage in Beowulf which has troubled scholars for years. Recounting the consequences of the Geatish king Hygelac's raid on the Franks, Wiglaf states that the result was a lasting enmity between the two peoples:

            Nu ys leodum wen orleghwile, syððan under[ne] Froncum ond Frysum fyll cyninges wide weorðeð. Wæs sio wroht scepen heard wið Hugas, syððan Higelac cwom faran flotherge on Fresna land, þær hyne Hetware hilde genægdon, elne geeodon mid ofermægene, þæt se byrnwiga bugan sceolde, feoll on feðan; nalles frætwe geaf ealdor dugoðe. Us wæs a syððan Merewioingas milts ungyfeðe. (2910b–2921)6

Now there is amongst the people an expectation of war, after the fall of the king becomes widely known to the Franks and Frisians. The hard strife with the Hugas was shaped when Hygelac came faring with a sea-army into Frisian land, where the Hetware attacked him in battle, came at the brave one with too much strength so that the mailed warrior had to bow; the lord fell amongst his troops, to his retainers he gave no adorned armor at all. The favor of the Merovingian has been denied to us ever since.

However, this reading is by no means certain. Lines 2920b–2921 read, in the manuscript, "us wæs a syððan mere wio ingasmilts ungyfeðe" (Zupitza 1959). The letters are not obscured by fire damage or the paper frame, so the confusion that results from the sentence (which cannot be parsed as the words are divided) is not a result of a problem with the manuscript itself. Thorkelin, the first editor of Beowulf, was unable to make much of the line, but subsequent scholars proposed word divisions different from those of the manuscript, eventually coming up with the reading "us wæs a syððan / Merewioingas milts ungyfeðe," the reading given in the Klaeber edition of Beowulf and thus learned by generations of students.

§12.  The recovery of "Merovingian" from "mere wio ingasmilts" is a small triumph for philology and provides a bit more data about the historical context of the poem—although what this particular datum means is a contentious question. Some scholars argue that because the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed in 751, Beowulf must therefore be set some time earlier than the middle of the eighth century. These scholars would put the composition of the poem close to that date (although the chain of reasoning is by no means inevitable).7 Others reject the use of the word as providing any particular evidence for a date, noting that the Merovingians were famous throughout Europe despite the apparent damnatio memoriae practiced by their successors, the Carolingians, who refused to use the name of the family of their predecessors, and that the name is found in antiquarian sources, such as the Liber Historiae Francorum, which could have been known to the Beowulf poet.8

§13.  In a recent article, Tom Shippey has re-examined this problem of "Merovingian" in Beowulf (Shippey 2005). Although we find his conclusions congenial, the purpose of our essay is not to rehearse them, but instead to examine his method, which combines traditional philology with the use of new computing tools to shed new light on an old topic. Shippey's work is here our exemplum for how to do philology.

§14.  Shippey suggests that fresh insights can be gleaned from the newly available electronic databases of the massive Latin editorial monuments of the nineteenth century: the Patrologia Latina (, the Corpus Christianorum (, Series Latina, and the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) ( These resources allow us to search a vast number of medieval Latin texts in a way never before possible. Shippey took advantage of this new technology by searching the MGH for Meroving* (the initial string Meroving with any number of trailing inflections). He discovered, to his surprise, that the only time the word appears in the MGH in this form is in the Liber Historiae Francorum (Krusch 1888) which was written in 727. This in itself is rather a remarkable discovery, as we would expect to find the Merovingians mentioned in large numbers throughout the MGH (a subsection of which is called, after all, Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum). Shippey then checked for forms of the name "Merovech" (Latin Merovechus), the putative founder of the Merovingian dynasty. He found 49 appearances, but these were all in two texts, Gregory of Tours' Historia Francorum and other versions of the Liber Historiae Francorum mentioned above. Such a small number of references in so few texts is surprising. Where were all the Merovingians?

§15.  It turns out that they are there, but spelled differently. Shippey examined the index of J.M. Wallace-Hadrill's edition of Book IV of Fredegar's chronicle (Wallace-Hadrill 1960) and discovered that, although "Merovech" appears in the facing-page translation, the actual Latin text reads "Maeroeum," Meroeus," "Merouius," "Meroeum" or "Meroeo." That is, the name is most frequently spelt in Latin without a "v".

§16.  Up until this point we have merely good scholarship (no small thing, of course, and rarer than it should be). But now philology comes in. Shippey notes that the probable pronunciation of the founder of the Merovingian dynasty was Mero-wech, with the "ch" pronounced as a fricative (like the ch in Scottish loch). The procedure by which this pronunciation is derived goes beyond the scope of this column, but, briefly, the most likely origin of the name is from a compound of two elements, one meaning "sea" and one relating to holiness. In Old English, these survive as mere (sea) and wih, wioh, weoh (idol, pagan idol).9 The final consonant, spelt h in Old English, is a fricative, and, since it is regularly found in this position in the Germanic languages (unless subsequent developments affected it), this is probably how it was pronounced in Frankish. The "ch" spelling is a Latin attempt to represent this sound, rather than the sound in English "church." The "u" also occurs regularly in Latinate spellings of Germanic names containing the w sound. Shippey notes, for example, that the Anglo-Saxon name Alc-wine becomes in the Latin spelling system Alcuin, a name which should be pronounced the same as its Anglo-Saxon spelling (although this is rarely the case today).

§17.  We can thus postulate a form like *Merowehing (using the Old English "h" spelling for the fricative), which would mean "descendants of Merowech." But now the h, which had been at the end of the word, appears between two vowels, a phonetic situation in which the fricative was regularly dropped.10 That would give us *Meroweing, and it was perhaps this Frankish form which was then Latinized, sometimes with a "u" spelling for the w sound and sometimes with the "u" dropped (probably because the vowel combinations u-e and u-i tend to have a natural w sound between them). And it turns out that Meroing- does appear in a variety of texts, including, most importantly, Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni, the source for the famous description of the deposed Merovingian dynasty being transported across the country by ox-cart (Einhard Vita Karoli Magni, 3–4).

§18.  Shippey then made additional searches of the databases by guessing possible variants based on the notion that the Mer- and the -ing were consistent, but a variety of spellings can form the middle of the word. Using this method, it turns out that the plethora of Merovingians that we would expect can be found throughout the MGH corpus. Shippey argues, based on the variety of spellings, that copyists soon found the name of the dynasty unfamiliar or incomprehensible, and that therefore arguments that the Beowulf poet must have taken the word from the Frankish chronicle are, to say the least, problematic. Unless he was rather an expert philologist and interested in the phonological reconstruction of historical forms, the poet would never have generated Merewioingas from the shortened forms (such as Maeroeum, Meroeus, Merouius), found in his putative sources.11 Therefore, for Shippey, the simplest conclusion is that the Beowulf poet used the name "Merovingians" because at the time he was writing, the king of the Franks was in fact a Merovingian. The poet then spelled the Frankish name transformed into Anglo-Saxon the same way many other "foreign" names are converted into their Anglo-Saxon forms in Beowulf (in a process absolutely identical to writing "John" for the Latin "Johannus" or "Mary" for Latin "Maria").

§19.  Shippey's argument asks us to reconsider the significance of a line which in recent years has been dismissed as useless for the purposes of dating Beowulf. Here we will attempt to break down exactly how Shippey has used philological methodology to interpret the evidence and explain the principles involved. This is the "How To" section of our column. Shippey begins with the progenitor of the Merovingian dynasty, whose name Merovech we know from Latin sources. Comparative philology supplies evidence for regular sound changes when Frankish (and other Germanic) words were borrowed into Latin, and, by working backwards, we can assume that the Frankish form of the name was pronounced *Meroweh (where the "h" represents the fricative sound). Dividing the two elements into Mero- and -weh, we (again through the magic of comparative philology) reconstruct an equivalent in early Old English *Merewioh. The same logic allows us to reconstruct an original Frankish *Merowehing "Merovingian", for which the Old English equivalent would be *Merewiohing > Merewioing—the form in Beowulf. The Latin forms of the word for Merovingian (Meroing, and other variants) likewise seem to go back to a Frankish *Merowehing, and their lack of the medial -owe- can be attributed to further phonological changes. The Old English form in Beowulf, by contrast is closer to the original Frankish form. Shippey concludes that the most likely explanation for the spelling "Merewioing" in Beowulf is that the poet was familiar with the Frankish form of the name—and easily assimilated it to the closely similar Old English—rather than with the Latin forms we find in texts from the Carolingian period onward.

§20.  The only way to evaluate or even make sense of this line of reasoning is through philology, and in particular its method of reconstructing hypothetical forms of words from which the forms surviving in extant texts are derived. Indeed, that the form of the word in the Beowulf manuscript means "Merovingians" is nothing more than such a reconstruction, even a guess. The copyist himself may have stumbled over the word, since he originally wrote mere wio ingannilts before correcting it to mere wio ingasmilts (an observation which goes back to the earliest German philologists). But the deduction that Merewioingas means "Merovingians" is almost certainly right, and the philological method employed by Shippey proves it. Merewioingas is precisely the form of the word we would expect in Old English. One need not agree with Shippey's conclusions about the dating of the poem to see that this finding provokes new questions about how to interpret the word's significance for our understanding of the world of the poem. The word Merewioingas alone, without this type of philological work, does not help us to use the databases to extract more detailed cultural information. For that we must rely upon literary interpretation, which is founded on the philological method, enabled by method, but in the end not reducible to method. It is only the combination of the techniques with judgment that allows for the development of new knowledge.

§21.  The knowledge thus gained is not only important for merely the matter of the dating of Beowulf (a scholarly topic rarely described by the word "merely"), but more importantly for the much larger point of how to interpret the poem. What "cultural world" does Beowulf inhabit? If the actions in the poem are set in a quasi-historical world of sixth-century tribes around the North Sea then we would interpret the poem differently than if it occupies a more timeless cultural "imaginary" that is not bound to a particular place or time. Likewise, if references to tribes or events in the poem arise from an antiquarian source rather than from the poet's own knowledge, how we interpret various scenes and juxtapositions in the poem—such as how we read the poet's invocation of Heremod or how we understand the Modthryth digression—is changed. The politics of the poem, and the political uses to which the poem appears to be put, either in its time or in our own, cannot be investigated without making the interpretive choices that are influenced by our reading of Merewioingas. How we read the poem in its complexity, not just ideas about dates, tribes and artifacts, but about the whole world-view and imagination of the culture that produced the poem (and the one that reads it), turns out to require philology. Without philology, "literary" interpretation in this particular context is impossible (and note that the philology is still there, influencing interpretation, even if it is not recognized or acknowledged, even if we just say that "Merewioingas means Merovingians, full stop").

§22.  Furthermore, philology here tells us something about culture, although here we must be much more interpretive, more in the mode of literary or cultural critics, than "scientific" philology might allow. The wide range of spellings for the Merovingians supports the idea that the damnatio memoriae carried out by the Carolingian dynasty was somewhat successful, and that the process was beginning as early as the first quarter of the ninth century when Einhard wrote his account of the pathetic state of the last Merovingian king in the Vita Karoli Magni. Although the Merovingians themselves are mentioned in a large number and wide variety of Latin texts throughout medieval Europe over several centuries, it appears that scribes were not particularly familiar with the spelling of the name of the dynasty. Thus we may tentatively conclude that, although the Merovingians were not entirely forgotten, they were a matter of some mystery and confusion and that knowledge about them was perhaps esoteric. The historical memory of individuals in medieval Europe was thus somewhat different from our own view, shaped as it is by the great editing projects (and the normalization of the spelling of proper names that these monuments promulgated). We have not just explicated a line of Beowulf, or re-interpreted a key piece of data (important as these things are). By using philology, technology and literary judgment to understand "us wæs a syððan mere wio ingasmilts ungyfeðe," we have recovered a tiny bit of lost culture, hidden amongst the crumbling, moldy volumes of the MGH. And this scrap of culture is significant for understanding a whole suite of other important documents for the time period as well as for understanding the relative success of part of a Carolingian project of reconstructing (and deconstructing) cultural rhetoric and memory.

§23.  In the end, we see that what appeared to be a strictly philological, linguistic problem is, in Shippey's hands, anything but narrow, purely technical, or limited. Old-school philology plus new computerized tools, examination of phonology and sound-change plus an awareness of culture and history, enable us to recover the lost past, to create new literary interpretations and to evaluate old ones, and to provide a foundation (one without water in the basement) for further study of cultural questions. Philology thus enriches other approaches just as these approaches (interest in politics both within and among literary works and cultures, recognition of the spaces of the imagination that works inhabit) enrich philology. A turn towards philology—one that keeps in mind and adapts to all the theoretical criticisms and concerns—has the potential to shore up the foundations of our disciplines in preparation for the attacks we can see being prepared against them. A return to philology, with eyes open and history fresh in our minds, has the potential to return the study of humane letters to its proper and deserved place at the pinnacle of intellectual life.


1.   As we were preparing this column, one scholar to whom we described the project commented: "Your title probably sounds better in the original German." It is a rather pointed joke. Philology is associated, for good and ill, with Germany and its complex history, both academic and political. We will discuss the relationship of philology to Germany and its nineteenth- and twentieth-century history in more detail in future columns. For now it will be sufficient to observe that much of the landmark scholarship on medieval English philology was written in German in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  [Back]

2.   The commonplace is Shippey's in "Tolkien's Academic Reputation Now," and he applies the idea to the struggle between philology and "Critical Studies" in "Fighting the Long Defeat: Philology in Tolkien's Life and Fiction," in Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien by Tom Shippey (Shippey 2007, 210 and 139–56).  [Back]

3.   Information on the Middle English Grammar project can be found at  [Back]

4.   The Dictionary of Old English Corpus is available in electronic form (Healey 1981) at Since 2000 the Corpus has been searchable on CD-ROM; more recently a web-based version has been made available to subscribers.  [Back]

5.   Tkacz (1995, 32–39) demonstrates the kind of detailed work necessary to do an exhaustive word search in the corpus (she discusses variant spellings and alternate morphologies). Much of this work is now done, invisibly, by the Dictionary of Old English's Variant Spelling Tool, which is on the DOE website at (The authors would like to thank Antonette diPaolo Healey for her assistance and encouragement).  [Back]

6.   The Old English text is cited from Klaeber 1950; the translation is our own.  [Back]

7.   The view that the word "Merovingian" could be used to date the poem to the middle of the eighth century was first proposed by Joseph Bachlechner, "Die Merowinge im Beowulf" (Bachlechner 1849). Although a number of prominent scholars have followed Bachlechner, the use of "Merovingian" for dating the poem has not been universally accepted.  [Back]

8.   The notion that the Merovingians were subject to a damnatio memoriae by the Carolingians who succeeded them derives from Ian Wood (Wood 1994, 1). For earlier discussion of the significance of lines 2920b–2921 to the dating of Beowulf, see Roberta Frank's "Skaldic Verse and the Date of Beowulf" (Frank 1981). In the same volume, Walter Goffart offers the view that the Beowulf-poet might have derived the word from the Liber Historiae Francorum (Goffart 1981). For a recent summary of the various arguments for and against the use of Merovingians to date Beowulf, see A Beowulf Handbook (Bjork and Niles 1996, 18–19).  [Back]

9.   If the second element carried the same connotations in Frankish as it did in Old English, it may have been reinterpreted as wig (war) after the conversion to Christianity, when pagan idols were, one guesses, remembered less fondly.  [Back]

10.   We may compare the superlative of Old English heah (high), which appears in the superlative with forms like hest, heist from *hehest.  [Back]

11.   Goffart (1981, 87–77) suggests an alternative view that the poet had access to the Liber Historia Francorum, where he encountered the form Merovingi. However, as Shippey points out, there is no further evidence that the poet knew this text, and the poet would himself have had to have been a skilled philologist to reconstruct from it an Old English form that was etymologically equivalent to the Frankish (Shippey 2005, 400).  [Back]

Works Cited

Bachlechner, Joseph. 1849. Die Merowinge im Beowulf. Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 6: 524–26. [Back]

Bjork, Robert E. and John D. Niles, eds. 1996. A Beowulf handbook. Omaha: University of Nebraska Press. [Back]

Bosworth, J. and T.N. Toller. 1921. An Anglo-Saxon dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1898). [Back]

Campbell, Alistair. 1959. Old English grammar. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [Back]

Clark Hall, J.R. 1969. A concise Anglo-Saxon dictionary. 4th ed. with a supplement by Herbert T. Merritt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Back]

Einhard. 1911. Vita Karoli magni, Ed. G.H. Pertz and G. Waitz. Monumenta Germanica historia, scriptores rerum Germanicarum 25. Hanover and Leipzig: Hahn. [Back]

Frank, Roberta. 1981. Skaldic verse and the date of Beowulf. In The dating of Beowulf, edited by Colin Chase. Toronto: Toronto University Press. [Back]

Goffart, Walter. 1981. Hetware and Hugas: Datable anachronisms in Beowulf. In The dating of Beowulf, edited by Colin Chase. Toronto: Toronto University Press. [Back]

Healey, Antonette diPaolo, ed. 1998. The dictionary of Old English corpus in electronic form Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.  [Back]

Hogg, Richard. 1992. A grammar of Old English, 1: Phonology. Oxford: Blackwell. [Back]

———. 2002. An introduction to Old English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Back]

Horobin, Simon and Jeremy Smith. 2002. An introduction to Middle English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Back]

Jordan, R. 1968. Handbuch der Mittelenglischen Grammatik: Lautlehre, 3rd ed. Heidelberg: Carl Winter. Trans. Eugene Crook. 1974. Handbook of Middle English grammar: Phonology. The Hague: Mouton. [Back]

Klaeber, Friedrich, 1950. Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 3rd ed. with supplements. Boston: D.C. Heath. [Back]

Krusch, Bruno, ed. 1888. Liber historiae Francorum. In Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 2, 215–328. Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani. 1984: Reprinted by Hahnsche Buchhandlung. [Back]

Prokosch, E. 1938. Comparative Germanic grammar. Baltimore: Linguistic Society of America. [Back]

Shippey, Tom. 2005. The Merov(ich)ingian again: damnatio memoriae and the usus scholarum. In Vol. 1 of Latin learning and English lore: Studies in Anglo-Saxon literature for Michael Lapidge, edited by Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe and Andy Orchard. Toronto: Toronto University Press. [Back]

———. 2007a. Fighting the long defeat: Philology in Tolkien's life and fiction. In Roots and branches: Selected papers on Tolkien by Tom Shippey. Zurich: Walking Tree Publishers. [Back]

———. 2007b. Tolkien's academic reputation now. In Roots and branches: Selected papers on Tolkien by Tom Shippey. Zurich: Walking Tree Publishers. [Back]

Tkacz, Catherine Brown. 1995. Unlocking the word hoard: Conducting word studies using MCOE. OEN 29.1: 32–39. [Back]

Tolkien, J.R.R. 1979. Valedictory address to the University of Oxford, 5 June 1959. In J.R.R. Tolkien, scholar and storyteller, edited by Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.  [Back]

Utz, Richard. 2001. Enthusiast or philologist? Professional discourse and the medievalism of Frederick James Furnivall. Studies in Medievalism 11: 189–212. [Back]

Wallace-Hadrill, J.M., ed. and trans. 1960. The fourth book of the Chronicle of Fredegar. London: Nelson. [Back]

Wood, Ian. 1994. The Merovingian kingdoms 450–751. London and New York: Longman. [Back]

Zupitza, Julius. 1959 [for 1958]. Beowulf: Autotypes of the unique Cotton MS. Vitellius A. XV in the British Museum, with a transliteration. 2nd ed., rev. Norman Davis. EETS 245. London: Oxford University Press. [Back]