Beowulf, the story of a tribal hero's encounters with a succession of monsters, is the most famous among Anglo-Saxon poems that survived in written form. Its allusions to other stories -- stories which haven't survived in writing -- creates a crudeness and "disproportion" in the work, according to some critics: " It has been said of Beowulf itself that its weakness lies in placing the unimportant things at the centre and the important on the outer edges." (Tolkien, 52) [Link to Derrida/Decentering] To others, the allusions represent richness and dramatic purpose which a modern audience, without recourse to the alluded texts, is forced to do without. Besides the content allusions, Francis Magoun notes that most of the poem's linguistic allusions, the wording of the poem broken down into metrical-formulaic word-groups, occurs elsewhere in the corpus of Anglo-Saxon poetry [link to 30,000 lines]. Thus, a relatively modest set of poetic formulas and centuries of orally-transmitted stories are recombined and reconnected to create new meanings, new stories -- all mnemonically aided (rather than aesthetically constrained, as is often thought of written poetry) by a strict meter. The poets, or scops, of the age are aptly called "word-weavers," but they are also culture-weavers in that they preserved cultural knowledge through perpetual recombination of old and new stories.
Francis P. Magoun, Jr., "The Oral-Formulaic Character of Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry," An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, 198-200
J.R.R. Tolkien, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, 51-103.