Becki Lee                        The Tollund Man                         Coursework

The Tollund Man is one of Europe’s best-known bog bodies.  He was found, alongside The Grauballe Man in the early 1950s.  Bog bodies recovered from the past are quite wide spread throughout Northern Europe, especially in Denmark, Germany and Ireland. The peat perfectly preserves the bodies due to anaerobic conditions, although the bodies are found blackened, their fingertips, hair and clothing are all still intact.  Seamus Heaney uses the bog bodies in his poetry to “uncover, in their meditations, a history of Ireland’s conquest, first by Viking’s and later by the English”.

‘Tollund Man’ opens quietly and effectively like Glob’s initial description, “an evocative and poetic prose”, and it is mirrored by the structure of quatrains which is divided into three sections. The first verse is mostly monosyllabic, ‘some day I will…to see his peat…’ making the words sound hard, which sets the scene as it is a serious subject.  There is also no repetition of vowels or consonants which shows a lack in fluency.  The repetition of p in the words ‘peat’ and ‘pods’ makes the verse sound very pronounced.  Moreover, the smallness of his head is defined by the short i’s and alliterated p’s of the monosyllabic words in the first verse.  “The balance of the initial and final p’s in the fourth line seals the verse around the repose of the dead man”.  The description of the Tollund Man, ‘peat-brown head’ and ‘pods of his eye-lids’ relates back to the land and nature and the natural ‘farmyards’ in Northern Ireland.  Heaney compares Tollund Man to a vegetable which is a very descriptive and sensory image.  The next verse, ‘last gruel of winter seeds/Caked in his stomach’ is very graphic and describes that his body was so well preserved that the contents found in his stomach from his last meal could still be observed.  The way he was found, ‘Naked except for the cap, noose and girdle’ makes it sound as though he was stripped of all his pocessions, defenceless, and suggests that he was strangled or hanged by the ‘noose’ around his neck.  Later in the poem Heaney says that ‘The Tollund Man’, ‘rode the tumbril’ which was a cart that took people to their death by punishment for example the guillotine, this also backs up the idea that ‘The Tollund Man’ was killed in rather gruesome circumstances.

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The third stanza, ‘Bridegroom to the goddess’ is describing the bog as the goddess of fertility, this is personification.  Glob argues that “some of the Iron Age people dug out of the bogs of Jutland were ritual sacrifices: their murder in winter, and the disposal of their bodies in bogs sacred to the goddess, would ensure the fertility of the crops the following spring”.  This is why The Tollund Man’s burial and preservation is described in sexual terms, ‘open her fen’.  ‘Those dark juices working/Him to a saint’s kept body’ describes how the bog preserves the body perfectly.  Also, ...

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