The old English Beowulf poem gives brilliant presentment of the spirit and embodiment of the heroic tradition. Illuminating studies of the Beowulf, in comparatively recent years, by Ker, Lawrence, Chambers, Klaeber, Malone, and others, have brought increasing appraisal of the extent to which Scandinavian backgrounds are reflected in its material, literary tradition in its structure, and Christian influence in its spirit. Of the circumstances under which the Beowulf was composed we actually know little, though it is possible to trace with some degree of clearness the evolution of the material from which the poem is shaped. Portions of this material must have originally circulated by oral transmission. The poem itself may well have been developed from an earlier series of epic lays, though no one of these lays has survived. In any case, as Ker has pointed out, the Beowulf , in the form in which it has come down to us, is a single, unified poem.