The Implication of the Dream Vision: Transformation and
Coalescence of Speakers in “The Dream of the Rood”

Dongill Lee


There are three main speakers in “The Dream of the Rood”: the first of
these is the Dreamer, within whose mind and in whose words the whole poem
takes place. As Susanne Langer has rightly put it, “The most noteworthy formal
characteristic of dream is that the dreamer is always at the center of it.” The
second is the speaking tree before the scene of crucifixion. The third is the cross
which appears in a visionary form and speaks at length to the dreamer, and by
so doing fundamentally alters his life. The fourth is the dryhten (Lord) Christ,
who delivers his message through the cross. However, such individuality is
often obscured as the roles of speakers overlap. This obscurity emerges firstly
between the tree and the cross, secondly the cross and Christ, thirdly the cross
and the Dreamer, and finally Christ and the Dreamer.
The coalescence of the speakers is gradually achieved through the poet’s
characteristic use of words or phrases. The word eaxlegespann (cross beam) is
the first suggestion, that is, the metaphor by which the body of the tree or cross
is increasingly identified with that of Christ. Two phrases are applied to the
dreamer just after the Rood has finished speaking which earlier have been
applied to Christ. The first, “elne micle” (with great zeal, courage; DR 123)
describes the dreamer’s strong desire to pray to the cross. It also parallels the
“elne micle” (DR 34) with which ‘the Lord of mankind’ earlier hurried to mount
up on the cross. However, this parallelism between the Dreamer and Christ with
reference to the same formulaic expression does not necessarily mean that the
Dreamer is identified with Christ unlike the sharing of the same identification
of the Cross and Christ. Hence exists clear difference in terms of transformation
and coalescence of identification amongst the tree, cross and Christ, and the
Dreamer and Christ.

Key Words
The Dream of the Rood, transformation and coalescence of speakers, formulaic