Beowulf’s Barrow

There isn’t much evidence for the location of Beowulf’s barrow so this page is speculative and slightly tongue in cheek.  We have seen on the page about Beowulf’s voyage, Beowulf and Heorot, that the voyage originated outside the Baltic . 

One of the candidates for the location of the land of the Geats is the area around modern Gothenburg and this would be consistent with a voyage which includes the salt sea and the gannet’s bath.  The distribution of iron age strongholds in southern Sweden suggest that the territory of the Geats was mostly coastal, extending from the modern border with Norway in the north, as far south as Varberg in the south.

According to the poem Beowulf battles the dragon at a place called Earna-næss (Eagles ness).  After his death his body (and a cart load of treasure) are taken to Hrones-næsse (Whales ness).  The poem implies that the two places are reasonably close together.  Beowulf’s funeral pyre is constructed in a commanding position overlooking the sea and his barrow is built over the remains of his pyre.

Birger Nerman, Swedish archaeology professor and Director of Swedish Museum of Antiquities, believed that the modern Swedish place name of Årnäs was derived from Earna-næss and that the burial mound at Skalunda (not far from Årnäs) was the likely site of Beowulf’s barrow.  Skalunda is located on a promontory on the southern shore of Lake Vänern.  It is unlikely that any place on the lake would be called Whales-ness as there have never been whales in an inland freshwater lake so we need to look for a coastal location for Beowulf’s barrow.  Luckily there is another place named Årnäs that is in the area tentatively identified as Geatish, about 10km north of Varberg, that has a coastal location. If Beowulf’s barrow was ever more than a figment of the poet’s imagination it would surely be found close to Årnäs in a prominent position. 

Just outside Varberg, to the north, is the Getteron peninsula.  At the top of the hill, overlooking the sea, is a mound of similar sized rocks. Are these the rocks used to build the wall around the funeral pyre, any soil being scoured by the wind?

This would place Beowulf’s barrow at the southern edge of the land of the Geats and would serve as a territorial marker to those sailing out of the Baltic, and as a warning to those thinking that the Geats were easy prey after the death of Beowulf.

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