Heorot Project

For my project, I’ve created Heorot from Beowulf in Minecraft, and I’ve written a bit about hospitality in Beowulf to go along with it, as follows:

Hospitality, as we see it in Beowulf, seems to largely involve parties. Naturally, there’s a reason for this. Hrothgar, the king, gives wealth to his subjects and honor to his warriors. This is mainly referred to with rings, with kings being called things such as “king of rings”, or “ring-giver” (page 18) and mentions of “his war-wedded wore king’s rings.” (page 6) Heorot is even referred to as the “ring-hall.” (page 38).

When Beowulf shows up to help him deal with Grendel, they feast in his honor, likewise when he returns victorious. On page 24, we read of how they feast together, songs are sung, and mead is had. Overall, all these shows of hospitality happen in Heorot, which itself is something of a symbol for hospitality, especially when we consider that it is a place in which men come together to ultimately celebrate survival (and this is contrasted so much with the danger that Grendel brings to it, but that is not a point for this writing).

This is further elaborated on in an excellent article I found called Anglo-Saxon Host-Guest Customs, written by Sara Ramey, which touches well on the link between hospitality and the need for survival. A mead hall is so important because in times when scarcity could come suddenly, sharing food and resources meant accepting kinship with another. As Ramey writes, “Beowulf is sheltered and welcomed temporarily into the kin-group while he travels without his permanent kin-group. Everyone drinks of the mead cup because everyone now shares in the same fate.” 

Ultimately, Heorot is a symbol of hospitality and survival, both of which become threatened in the story of Beowulf. It is a place of shared wealth and resources, a place of celebration, and a place of kinship, which was of such importance in Old English times.

Now, the build:

Here is the hall from the outside. I am using BSL shaders.

A minecraft rendition of a viking mead hall. The long side has a jutting out door and there is a small door on the far left side. The walls and supports are made from wooden beams, and the roof is dark stone with stripes of gold running perpendicular to the length of the hall.

Here is the main door looking inwards.

A close up of the main door. The wooden doors have golden details in them, and behind those are two open iron grated gates. Within is a carpeted room lit by a central campfire and hanging lanterns.

The interior of the hall, facing the head table

Interior shot. The stone and wood floor is covered in tables and benches. more benches are along the sides of the hall, set behind the interior supports, covered in colorful bedding. The tables all have food on them, and at the end of the hall is a head table with two big chairs. Banners hang from the supports and golden tapestries hang from the rafters.

Facing away from the head table

A similar view from the last imagine, but taken from the perspective of the head table, looking down the length of the hall to the small door at the other end. The campfire produces lots of smoke.

Facing away from the head table but at night, also with ambient ceiling lighting removed.

Same shot as before, but it is night, as seen through the main door.

And the same shot but with Sildurs Vibrant Shaders which is easier on my computer but a lot more orange in color. It does give it a rather cozy feel, I think!

Once more the same nighttime shot, but with different shaders applies to make the light sources shine with cozy warm orange light.

My process:

Firstly, I spend way too long finding a spot in the minecraft world to build this. I chose a rocky hill with some pine trees around it, which I felt fit the setting well, and it’s right near an intersection of jungle, swamp, and mangrove forest. A perfect place for Grendel to dwell.

Heorot is a timbered hall, and I knew right away I had to build it from wood. I studied the architecture of mead halls and viking longhouses to figure out the structure of the roof and supports, as well as the placement of the doors, which gave me some trouble. The main door ended up being in the side, and the far end has an extra entrance.

At first, I made the roof of haybales for a thatched roof. After all, timbered halls usually have thatched or wooden roofs. But it didn’t look very ‘kingly’ and supposedly, the roofs of Heorot were golden. On page 45, we also have the line “only the ceiling remained uncracked.” This all gave me stone imagery, so I used that in the construction of the roof, and as gold singles are theoretically plausible but unlikely, I did gold embellishments instead.

On page 35 we read “the hall trembled but stayed standing, its design fit for fighting, the wooden walls crossed with iron bands, a forest fettered together- though from what I’ve heard, the mead-benches stood on end and shattered, golden sigils no match for battle.”

I’ve thus given each long wall a stripe of netherite brick, the appearance of which I think just looks nicer than the standard minecraft iron block. This is to represent these iron bands spoken of, and while I couldn’t really fit ‘golden sigils’ on the benches, the head table does have some fancy plates.

On the topic of the wall area, the door is described on page 33 as being “iron-crossed” and so I’ve made a sort of metal gate behind the main wooden doors (which I’ve inlaid with gold blocks to make them nice and properly fancy). I think it’s more likely that the doors had long bits of iron reinforcing them, but I didn’t have the room in minecraft to make that look very neat. 

Page 33 also describes the floors as “decorated” and on page 58, it is said that Beowulf “threw the doors open to sunlight and rattled the floorboards.”

Some people think that the decorated floor refers to roman mosaic, as Heorot could have bee built upon a ruin. I think it’s more likely referring to simply carpets, as one page 6, when Heorot is build, we read “carpets, carpentry, walls and gables”. I love the idea of a stone floor, still, so I made a mix of stone and wood, covered in colorful carpet (on a whole, I’ve tried to keep Heorot looking quite colorful, as it is a place of celebration).

Outside the hall, I’ve added a cobbled path, as page 16 gives us the detail that “the road was stone-cobbled.”

I took lots of help for this from the resource “The ‘Beowulf’- Poet’s Vision of Heorot” which is a great JSTOR article about how Heorot is described, and it also goes into the matter of if the roof was truly gold or not.

As an additional note, I’ve added many details (some of which do appear in textual evidence) based off viking longhouses. The benches on the side, for example, used for sleeping. The additional smoke from the fire, as these halls had little ventilation. The banners, admittedly, are just designs I found online (I am not talented enough with minecraft banner-making myself) to add more color to the hall.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a mead-hall without mead.

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