Edward Pettit

Published On


Page Range

pp. 293-314

Print Length

21 pages

12. Another Tale of Two Creatures

The Loss and Recovery of the Solar Draught-Beast in Wið Dweorh

  • Edward Pettit (author)
Chapter 12 aims to provide further evidence for the treatment of this basic mythic theme in Old English poetry by venturing a related interpretation of the obscure metrical charm ‘Against a Dwarf’. Petitt argues that the incantatory section of this text describes the arrival of a sun-deity or solar emissary to reclaim a radiant draught-horse, which by night had taken the form of (or been possessed by) a lunar dwarf and concealed itself (or been hidden) inside the skull of a human, who consequently suffered a convulsive fever. The sun-god or a solar emissary harnessed this errant dwarf-horse, which may also have had a cervine aspect, to his chariot and then journeyed into the sky, perhaps over the cooling sea, with the result that the patient’s fever cooled. Again, the argument is bolstered by parallels in Old English and Old Norse literature. Especially noteworthy for the appreciation of Beowulf may be correspondences between the dwarf’s invasion and occupation of a human’s head and Grendel’s invasion and occupation of Heorot, which caused Hroðgar mental suffering.


Edward Pettit