Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jana K. Schulman

Second Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth C. Teviotdale

Third Advisor

Dr. Rand H. Johnson


Beowulf, dragon, Old English, architecture, philology

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Since the early twentieth century, the dragon’s lair of Beowulf has been primarily associated with the early megalithic mounds of northern Europe. This interpretation of the space, however, does not account for the many contradictions present in the poet’s descriptions. In order to fully understand the quiddity of the dragon’s lair, we must resolve three major issues with previous interpretations: the use of rare words with unclear meanings, contradictions in descriptions of the physical space, and an assumption by scholars that the poet is describing a single type of space identifiable in the historical record. By addressing each of these problems, this thesis will demonstrate that the apparent contradictions are in fact symptomatic of the Beowulf-poet’s appositive style, in which aspects of multiple spaces are overlaid to present a more complex, meaningful description. Throughout the descriptions of this space, the poet weaves together images and associations from numerous spaces in Anglo-Saxon England. He manipulates his vocabulary to highlight shifts in perspective and to demonstrate how changing experiences shape our view of the world around us. The lair represents not only the hellish abode of a supernatural monster or the dark finality of the grave, but also the memories of past civilizations and the warmth of present camaraderie.