Hrothgar’s Grave

Go behind Bairnwick, toward a small stand of oaks and the swamp leading to Stirling’s, and you will see the gravestone of Hrothgar.

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Who was Hrothgar, you ask?  He was an English bulldog, much beloved in Sewanee over half a century ago, named for the Danish king in Beowulf.  That Hrothgar–the builder of the great mead-hall, Heorot–was described by the poet as sé þe his wordes geweald      wíde hæfde / hé béot ne áléh      béagas daélde / sinc æt symle, “he whose words had weight everywhere, who did not lie when he boasted, who dealt out rings, and treasures at banquet.”  In Boston I had a neighbor with a bulldog named Beowulf, and a cat named Grendel, but neither was commemorated with a monument.  I have seen Hrothgar’s picture–and collar–in the archives, and perhaps will post them sometime soon.  A fine piece in the Sewanee Purple (March 2, 1960) about Hrothgar’s funeral is posted below.

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Hrothgar Park Is Site Of Hrothgar Funeral By ALEX SHIPLEY

Funeral services for Hrothgar were held Monday, February 22. Hrothgar, the big English bulldog, had been an adopted member of the Dr. George B. Myers family for eight years. Every student at Sewanee dur-ing that period grew to know the “King of the Mountain.”

Hrothgar majored in DOGmatic the-ology under Dr. Myers and Dr. Robert Petry gave him “A’s” in physics be-cause “. . . he never gave a stupid an- swer.”

Clad in his own cap and gown (made for him by Mrs. Myers) Hrothgar marched in academic processions. He faithfully attended chapel services and his snores, which habitually ended in a low moan, were very disconcerting to the clergy.

At All Saints’ Chapel, where Hrothgar preferred the chancel steps, the procession would part and walk around him. In hot weather the marble step in front of the lectern seemed a cool resting place. Rather than ask the English gentleman to move, Chaplain Collins straddled him on occasions in order to read the lessons.

A Dog of Dogs
Hrothgar was wonderful with chil-dren and with people in general, but he demanded respect from other dogs. In his younger days he fought many a bloody battle to prove his point. The funeral held in Hrothgar Park at Bairnwick, the home of Dr. and Mrs. Myers, was attended by approximately thirty students, matrons, and faculty members.

Dr. Myers, presiding at the service, paid the following tribute to Hroth-gar: “He had a pedigree longer than mine. He was gentle and friendly, particularly with children, and nobody loved this Mountain more than he. We shall miss him, and commend him to
a faithful Creator.”

The Interment
After this eulogy the “Benedicite, omnia opera Domini” (“. . . O all ye Beasts and Cattle, bless ye the Lord, . . .”) and the Prayer for Animals (”. . . help us to find in caring for them [animals] a deeper understanding of thy love for all creation. . . .”) were read. The service was ended with the Grace.

Hrothgar’s casket was draped with a pall of Sewanee purple. Death notices of Hrothgar appeared in several Southern newspapers. Mr. Myers said that she and her husband had received letters of sympathy from all over the South. Mrs. Jo Conn Guild of Lookout Mt. Tennessee, the owner of the kennels in which Hrothgar was born, wrote a letter to Mrs. Myers expressing her sympathy.

“Beloved Dog”
“The loss of a beloved dog leaves such a vacancy in one’s life and heart. Mr. Guild and I have followed Hroth-gar’s academic career with interest and delight . . . Indeed his life must have been a glorious one. . . .

“Bulldogs are an amazing combina-tion of dignity and clownishness. I think their physical build is so typical of their nature—that great great clumsy front and frisky debonair rear.”
Dr. Myers has announced plans to erect a headstone bearing the inscription:“HROTHGAR MYERS, NOBLE ANIMAL, KING OF THE MOUNTAIN.” Hrothgar’s collar is to be framed and, with a picture of the animal, hung in the Thompson Union beside other mementos of notable Sewaneeans.

Posted on October 4th, Feast Day of Saint Francis.
Laudato sie, mi Signore, cum tucte le Tue creature

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About Uncomely and Broken

I teach Latin and Greek at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Animals, Boston, Dogs, England, Mythology, Poetry, Sewanee, Trees & Flowers. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hrothgar’s Grave

  1. Roshni says:

    That’s awesome! I’ve never heard this story before

  2. April Alvarez says:

    I believe it was Hank Haynes, C’63, who told me a wonderful Sewanee story. He had stayed late at the Library, and walked out at midnight into a impenetrable fog. As he started his way along the path toward his dorm, he heard the sound of heavy breathing. So he stopped and turned and asked, “Who’s there?” Silence. He started walking again and heard this heavy breathing behind him. Again he stopped and asked, “Who’s there?” Again, silence. The third time he started walking again, faster, and for the third time he heard it loud and clear, this heavy, heavy breathing, so he was a little frustrated and also a little nervous, so he said, “OK, what’s going on here? I can hear you! Who’s following me?” Nothing. He started on the path back toward the library to catch whoever it was and there sat Hrothgar the bulldog, waiting quietly for someone to follow home.

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