Beowulf

Beowulf

The earliest extant poem in a modern European language, "Beowulf" is an epic that reflects a feudal, newly Christian world of heroes and monsters, blood, victory, and death. This repackaged Signet classic Includes a Glossary of terms....

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Title:Beowulf
Author:Unknown
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Edition Language:English

Beowulf Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten

    It r

    It rained, but it was colder than what it should be to be raining. A combination of warmer atmosphere and colder temperatures on the ground produced an ice storm. It hit over the weekend so I could sit quite comfortably by my fireplace and watch out the window as the rain formed into sheets of ice on the streets and sidewalks. Power lines thickened as they became cubed in ice. Foot long and longer icicles dangled and swayed from the power lines, from the eaves of houses, from signs, from fence lines. The most affected though were the trees. The bigger the tree with the thicker branches, the more affected they would be. The ice accumulated on their branches bending and twisting them down to the ground. They became monsters, slumbering beneath an armour of ice.

    I’d been thinking about rereading Beowulf for some time. This story has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember. I read a child’s version when I was young, several times before moving on to other more adult translations. The idea of a man taking on a monster, much stronger than most men, and finding a way to defeat him was compelling mythology for my young mind. The terror of it, the monster that comes into your home and kills in the dead of the night and takes heads as trophies, left shivers in the very center of me.

    Beowulf hears of a monster who is attacking the Danes. He is one of thirteen men who decide to go to the rescue of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. He goes because he needs to make a name for himself, as Buliwyf in the movie

    says:

    Beowulf is poor, renown for his strength, but he has no Hall to call his own and, but for this small band, no men to call him King.

    I had spent most of the day finishing another book and, thus, had started reading Beowulf late in the evening. The wife and my Scottish Terrier had gone to bed, and I was left in the soft glow of my reading lamp. Most of the city had lost power as lines too heavy with ice had crashed down one by one. I had candles close to hand. It never crossed my mind, power or no power, that I would go to bed. Beowulf was written in Old English between 975-1025. The Seamus Heaney translation that I read had the Old English on one page and Heaney’s translation on the other page. In college, I took a Chaucer class and became a fair hand at deciphering Middle English, but looking and even pronouncing these unfamiliar words did not ring any ancient bells in my English soul. I would have had better luck reading Greek than Old English.

    As Beowulf grapples with Grendel and then with Grendel’s mother, I was just as enthralled with the story as I was as a wee tot. The carnage, the darkness, the uncertainty that Beowulf had to feel, despite his boasts to the contrary, all lend a fine, sharp edge to the tale. As I read, I also started to hear the sharp cracks and howls of ice heavy tree limbs separating from their trunk in much the same way as Beowulf pulls Grendel’s arm loose from his shoulder. The crash of these ice shrouded branches against the frozen ground sounded to my mind like the steel swords of the Geats banging against their metal wrapped shields.

    Curiosity got the better of me, and I walked out of my back door into an alien landscape. Each individual stem of grass had frozen into a nub of ice. With every step, my boots crunched and slipped across this icy topography. Piles of limbs laid at the bottoms of the bigger trees. A small limb detached from the cottonwood tree as I stood there and made discordant music as it hit the limbs below before finally landing among its fallen, dying brethren on the ground. The younger trees, more limber, were probably fine, I told myself. They are bowed over as if in supplication to Mother Nature. Their top branches were frozen to the ground, making arches of their shapes. It was all very beautiful. I remembered reading about a party that was given for Anastasia, the Russian princess, before her life became tangled in the turmoil of revolution. The servants were outside spraying water on the trees so they would glitter with ice as the aristocracy arrived on their horse pulled, bell laden sleighs.

    I went back inside and peeled off my boots and my jacket and returned to Beowulf. Another log was required for the fire, so I spent a few moments poking the remaining logs to make room for more wood. I flinched as I heard more crashes from outside. An assembly of Geats preparing for battle. When I finally settled back into my chair, Beowulf has become King of the Geats and fights battles with the greatest champions of the land. He involves himself in disagreements.

    I just loved that…

    . I also really liked..

    There are lines like that all through the story. Words unfamiliar and evocative of a different age.

    Beowulf does age and does need the help of others in the end when he battles a dragon, but few men are made with the courage that he is, and they fail to help him when he needs it most. He does kill the dragon, but at the cost of his own life.

    Stormy weather requires the proper book and a proper, hot, Scottish tea laced with a few drops of Scotch whiskey. For me

    , those 3,182 lines, added enchantment and necromancy to a world transforming before my eyes into something magical and unknown.

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  • Michael

    *bum bum* IN A WORLD . . . *bum bum* . . . FULL OF NASTY MONSTERS . . . *bum bum* . . . WHO EAT PEOPLE AND BREAK INTO CASTLES . . . *bum bum* . . . THE BEASTLY GRENDEL LURKED LONG OVER THE MOORES . . . *bum bum* . . . BUT NOW . . . *Cut to scene of monster ripping someone's face off with his teeth*

    (silence. black screen.)

    *Unknown warriors approaching*

    *bum bum* . . . ONE M

    *bum bum* IN A WORLD . . . *bum bum* . . . FULL OF NASTY MONSTERS . . . *bum bum* . . . WHO EAT PEOPLE AND BREAK INTO CASTLES . . . *bum bum* . . . THE BEASTLY GRENDEL LURKED LONG OVER THE MOORES . . . *bum bum* . . . BUT NOW . . . *Cut to scene of monster ripping someone's face off with his teeth*

    (silence. black screen.)

    *Unknown warriors approaching*

    *bum bum* . . . ONE MAN . . . *bum bum* . . . ONE LARGE MAN . . .*bum bum* . . . OF NOBLE BIRTH AND LONG, LONG SWORD . . . *bum bum* . . . IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE THEM.

    *cue symphony: BUM-BUM-BUUUUMMMMM! BUM-BUM-BUUUUMMMMM*

    Beowulf speaks:

    *Everyone looks around at each other, wondering what the fuck he's talking about*

    *Exciting symphony, something along the lines of "O Fortuna." combat shown as Beowulf tosses Grendel down, gets Grendel in a headlock, pokes him in his eyes. Beowulf takes his shoe off and starts hitting Grendel on the top of his head with it.*

    *Music stops. Shot of Beowulf on the shore, hand on his hilt.*

    Beowulf speaks:

    "Tis time that I fare from you. Father Almighty

    in grace and mercy guard you well,

    safe in your seekings. Seaward I go,

    'gainst hostile warriors hold my watch."

    BEOWULF. PG-13, Parents Strongly Cautioned. Contains Monsters Biting People's Faces Off, Graphic Far-Fetched Violence, and Shots of Beowulf's Bare Chest.

    *****

    Beowulf is totally the precursor to Conan, and Rambo. He's mothafuckin' badass. And you know how, since the Rambo movies are so old, they come out in boxed sets now? Think of this slim volume as a trilogy:

    BEOWULF

    BEOWULF II: MOMMY DEAREST

    BEOWULF III: BEOWULF VERSUS A BIG-ASS DRAGON

    While often trilogies get worse as they go along, this one actually improves. And it's safe to say that a fourth sequel will never come out about Beowulf after he gets old and out of shape. . . although that might be what BEOWULF VERSUS A BIG-ASS DRAGON is.

    If you like football, Stallone, Escape From New York, and can't get enough of Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is THE classic for you.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    As a college English major, I studied

    without any great enthusiasm; my real love was for the Romantic poets. And Chaucer, but that might have been partly because I thought it was hilarious that we were studying such bawdy material at BYU. Plus you can still puzzle out

    in its original Middle English, with the help of a few handy annotations, while

    in the original Old English--other than the immortal (at least in my mind) line "Bēowulf is mīn nama"--is beyond a

    As a college English major, I studied

    without any great enthusiasm; my real love was for the Romantic poets. And Chaucer, but that might have been partly because I thought it was hilarious that we were studying such bawdy material at BYU. Plus you can still puzzle out

    in its original Middle English, with the help of a few handy annotations, while

    in the original Old English--other than the immortal (at least in my mind) line "Bēowulf is mīn nama"--is beyond anyone but scholars, and it loses something in translation.

    So I cheerfully forgot about

    until I was puttering around in Barnes and Noble one day, and came across Seamus Heaney's recent translation. I read his forward and was absolutely entranced by its brilliance. Heaney tosses off phrases like "the poem possesses a mythic potency" and talks about the "three archetypal sites of fear: the barricaded night-house, the infested underwater current, and the reptile-haunted rocks of a wilderness." He discusses how we are enveloped "in a society that is at once honour-bound and blood-stained, presided over by the laws of the blood-feud." And he explains in detail how he went about creating a new translation of the poem and the difficulty of finding the right voice:

    Anyway, all this is to explain why, after years of blissfully ignoring

    , I felt compelled to buy this book and give it another try. Did it hold up to my hopes? Well, not quite. I still appreciate

    more than I love it. But I heard the solemn, deliberate voice that Heaney was seeking to use, and I thought he did a great job of translating it as well as possible into modern English while preserving the original feel and intent of the poem. I love the liberal use of alliteration and the compound words (whale-road = sea; ring-giver = king) that are found in the original version of the poem as well as this translation. I felt the side-by-side nobility and brutality of these characters from (it's surmised) 6th century Scandinavia. And I was getting some serious Tolkien vibes from the ending, which is not at all a bad thing.

    In the end, it was a bit of a tough slog reading through the entire poem, but I'm glad I did it. I think I still love Heaney's forward more than I love the actual

    poem. I need to check out J.R.R. Tolkien's

    translation one of these days.

  • James

    is thought to have been written around the year 1000 AD, give or take a century. And the author is the extremely famous, very popular and world renowned writer... Unknown. Got you there, didn't I? LOL Probably not... if you're on Goodreads and studied American or English literature, you probably already knew this is one of the most famous works without an author.

    It was first really

    in the 1800s, using the Old English version where many have translated it, but there are still so

    is thought to have been written around the year 1000 AD, give or take a century. And the author is the extremely famous, very popular and world renowned writer... Unknown. Got you there, didn't I? LOL Probably not... if you're on Goodreads and studied American or English literature, you probably already knew this is one of the most famous works without an author.

    It was first really

    in the 1800s, using the Old English version where many have translated it, but there are still some blurry parts of the story. Essentially, a monster named Grendel hunts and kills the people of a town and many warriors have died fighting against it. Beowulf tackles the monster and its mother, and well... you're gonna have to read it to find out. Or if you can't get yourself there, watch the Star Trek or Simpsons episode which does a nice little rendition.

    Here's the reasons why you should take a look at the story:

    1. Many famous writers and editors have attempted to translate the story into more modern English. Tolkien is a famous example. Each reader has his/her own interpretation. So pick one whose style you like and go to that version.

    2. It's a translated book... other than the famous Greek literature we read in high school, it's one of the earliest translated forms of literature. Makes it worth taking a gander.

    3. It's a really great story. Monster terrorizes people. Someone strong steps up to fight it. There is a victory of sorts. Momma wants revenge. So... how many books have you read that have just copied... I mean borrowed... that entire plot?

    4. There is a lot of beauty in the prose and the verse, and when you hear the words describe the creatures, it's a bit like fantasy.

    Here's why you may not like it:

    1. It's long.

    2. It's hard to understand at some points.

    3. It's 1000 years old and you just like modern stories.

    My advice... pick a passage or two, read for 30 minutes and decide if it's something you want to read more of. But you should always give a chance to some part of our early heritage and culture. Right?

    For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at

    , where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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  • AJ Griffin

    If I wrote a list of things I don't give a shit about, I'm pretty sure "some big fucking monster whose name sounds like a word for the area between my balls and my ass that attacks alcoholics and is eventually slain by some asshole, told entirely in some ancient form of English that I don't understand" would be near the top (for the record, run-on sentences would not. Judge not).

    This was one of the first books I was ever assigned to read in high school, and I'm pretty sure it was the catalyst to

    If I wrote a list of things I don't give a shit about, I'm pretty sure "some big fucking monster whose name sounds like a word for the area between my balls and my ass that attacks alcoholics and is eventually slain by some asshole, told entirely in some ancient form of English that I don't understand" would be near the top (for the record, run-on sentences would not. Judge not).

    This was one of the first books I was ever assigned to read in high school, and I'm pretty sure it was the catalyst to my never caring about school again.

    God do I hate this fucking book.

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