On the basis of legendary analogues, specialists in the Old
English poem Beowulf have long inferred that the action of
the main part of that poem is situated at the village of Gammel
Lejre on the island of Zealand, Denmark. Archaeological excavations
undertaken from 1986 to 1988 under the direction of Tom Christensen
of Roskilde Museum yielded spectacular confirmation of that
inference by uncovering the remains of two great halls at Lejre
dating from ca. AD 680 to 990, one built on the site of the other.
At that time, this discovery had little impact upon
Beowulf scholarship, in part because the chief monograph
reporting on the excavations was available only in Danish. In
2004–05, however, a new round of excavations revealed that a
still earlier hall had once stood elsewhere at Lejre. This hall has
been dated to the mid-sixth century, very close to the time when
the action of Beowulf is set. The question of the Danish
origins of the Beowulf story is thus now highlighted.
The main purpose of this book is to bring these archaeological
discoveries to the attention of a wider public, with analysis of
their significance. The book consists of five parts:
1. A translation into English of Tom Christensen's 1991 monograph
Lejre—Syn og Sagn (Lejre—Fact and
Fable), together with a new chapter by Christensen on the most
2. A presentation of other important archaeological studies
relating to Lejre, including reports on the Iron Age cremation
mound named Grydehøj, which dates from ca. 630 to 660.
3. Essays by John D. Niles and Marijane Osborn evaluating the
significance of these finds from the perspective of Old English
scholarship, with attention to the complex legendary history of
4. A presentation, in their original texts and in modern English
translation, of the chief medieval Latin and Old Norse documents
that mention Lejre as the seat of power of the early kings of
5. Some impressions of Lejre made by antiquarians, travellers,
poets, and artists who have known that place during the modern
period and have described or evoked it in various ways.
Prospective purchasers within North America should contact MRTS
at Arizona State University.