Beowulf and the Ever Growing Resume Hoard

I’ve been reading Beowulf. Correction: I am taking a class on Beowulf. That’s right. One whole semester on an English story written about a Swede who goes to Denmark to fight a monster.

We’ve bounced in and out of various translations: Liuzza, Heaney, Tolkien.

There’s this part where, when Beowulf is first introduced, he goes to speak for the first time, and the author says that Beowulf opens his “word-hoard.”

The eldest one answered him,

leader of the troop, unlocked his word-hoard (Liuzza, 258-59).

Old English is a fascinating study. It forces the reader to consider where words come from and what exactly they mean, and how these words have evolved through translation overtime.

Apparently, word-hoard is the forerunner to “vocabulary.”

Tolkien, in his Beowulf translation, says “store of words.” The idea is the same.

Old English was very object-oriented. People didn’t just have a vocabulary, because to them that wouldn’t make sense. They would need a physical place, or structure, to store the words. It’s interesting because, now, we don’t even consider what we mean when we say “vocabulary.” We just know that somewhere in our brains we’ve hidden all the words we know.

Personally, I’m going to say “word-hoard” from now on.

Segue Hoard

This is probably the worst segue of all time, but I checked my resume folder in Google Drive the other day, and I found about twenty resumes, all made within the last three months.

“Resume-hoard,” I said in an Old English accent.

The accent was more Scottish, but I do a terrible Scottish accent, so let’s just call it Hackney.

The point is this: I’m graduating in May. Since the start of the year, I’ve already applied to over thirty jobs. I feel like I should have some serious leads but I don’t. My wife and I are hoping for either Seattle or San Francisco. Only God knows. It could be Lithuania, really.

My resume-hoard is growing, but is it working? Am I impressive? Am I targeted enough? Will the gate keeper see me, hear me, let me in?

I am Beowulf—standing on the shore, behind me the billowing waves, my wooden vessel scraping the coastline. There is a soldier upon a rocky cliff looking down at me, a thane, a gate keeper; he asks me my credentials. When I speak I spew paper. Resumes that I’ve labored over—details and dates, nuanced, specified to receiver—shoot across the bay and collect in the wind. The soldier on the cliff reaches out but the pages don’t catch. The wind takes them further.

I stand and wait.

The monsters I am to slay rejoice, proud and untouched.

Their time extended upon the fabric of fate.

Header photo: [Keith Misner]


One comment

  1. This is brilliant! I can’t agree more. I hope your word-hoard, or word-hord, is found worthy in any place. Lithuania would be pretty sweet! I like Burton Raffel’s translation of “word-hord”, not more, but its more descriptive in an unusual way: “Their leader answered him, Beowulf unlocking words from deep within his breast . . .” (line 259). It implies the unlocking of a chest or hoard.
    I enjoy Seamus Heaney’s translation because it has old english on the left page.

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