Finnesburg Fragment (partially found fragment of Old English poem; date unknown)

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An edition of Beowulf that includes the surviving portion of the Finnesburg Fragment.

Status: Partially Found

The Finnesburg Fragment is a fragment of an Old English poem that tells of a prince named Hnæf and his sixty men who are under attack, and must repel the attack while in a great hall during the Battle of Finnsburg. The fragment that has been found is most likely a later retelling of the poem. It is possible that the completed poem is approximately three hundred lines long. References to the Finnesburg fragment have been made in other works of Anglo-Saxon literature, most notably in Beowulf where the poem is sung by a gleeman in Hrothgar's court. The Beowulf version of Finnsburg ends on a different note than what was given in the Finnesburg Fragment.[1]

The first translation of the manuscript into Modern English was completed in 1705 by British scholar George Hickes, when he published fifty lines of the fragment in Linguarum Veterum Septentrionalium Thesaurus.[2]


Due to conflicting accounts of the story, it is unknown what exactly happens, but it can be estimated that Prince Hnaef and sixty loyal men visited King Finn of Frisinia and his wife, Hildeburh who is Hnaef's sister. The Frisians mount a surprise attack on the Danes who are resting inside the great hall. The story opens with the sixty Danes who are led by Prince Hnaef are under attack by the Frisians. Due to the lost nature of the poem, it is unknown what or why the conflict occurred. The Danes take up positions at the doors of the great hall. Two Frisian soldiers who are named Garulf and Guthere call upon the soldiers who are guarding the great hall and ask who is guarding. A Danish soldier named Sigeferth responds, but it is unknown what he said. The Danes hold off the attacking Frisians for five days without any casualties and end with Guthere retreating.[3]

The Finnsburg Episode

A segment in Beowulf features The Finnsburg Episode where Prince Haenf is mentioned. The Finnsburg Episode is also similar to the Finnesburg Fragment expect there are a few alterations made. The character Hnæf is established to be the brother of Hangest and is the King of Danes.[4] The claim of no casualties differs in the Beowulf version as by the fifth day the great hall is breached and Prince Hnaef is killed by Frisian soldiers. The Finnsburg Episode does give a better insight into what the The Finnesburg Fragment may have been like before being lost to time.[5]

Like other early works of literature, it is most likely that the ‘’Finnesburg Fragments’’ were written down at a later time. This would most likely alter key plots of the original poem.