The Binding of Religious Heroes in Andreas and the Hêliand

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Scholarly approaches to the Old English Andreas have tended to emphasise the poem's formulaic debt to Beowulf and the works of Cynewulf, but as of yet unexplored is its strikingly similar use of the binding motif also present in the Old Saxon alliterative gospel, the Hêliand. These two poems, likely produced in a similar period, share not only a depiction of bound religious heroes that far outstrips their sources, but also specific formulaic and linguistic parallels. The suggestion that the Hêliand's preoccupation with the binding of Christ stems directly from the experience of those Saxons subjugated by the Franks is, therefore, problematised when we take into account the formulaic nature of binding terminology in the closely related language of Old English. Similarly, a desire to read the binding of the saints in Andreas as a unique innovation does not take into account the possibility that the poet may have been familiar with a tradition in which Christ's Passion includes binding. In discussing these two texts together, this paper emphasises a cross-cultural interest in bondage, as well as the importance of exploring formulaic connections between the Old English and Old Saxon corpora.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-524
Number of pages18
JournalEnglish Studies
Issue number5
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2015


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