Hwearflacra hrær: Line 34a of The Finnsburh Fragment


“The Battle of Finnsburh,” related to the “Finn Episode” in Beowulf, exists only in a seventeenth-century transcription and contains forty-eight lines. The original manuscript, believed to have been found in the Lambeth Palace Library, is thought to have been lost during the reordering and rebinding of manuscripts in the late seventeenth century. It is known as the Finnsburh Fragment. There are numerous cruces found in the text, including line 34a, hwearflacra hrær. Although many previous considerations have assumed the transcriber, George Hickes, was in error, it is proposed that Hickes was correct in his transcription. Hwearflacra is dealt with as a plural genitive kenning, while hrær is viewed as a variation of hræw. The proposed reading of line 34a also considers the influence of Germanic and Norse mythology on the text. The suggested interpretation demonstrates that harsh emendations to Hickes’s transcription are not necessary to reach a comprehensible reading.