Share for friends:

Beowulf (2001)

Beowulf (2001)

Book Info

3.4 of 5 Votes: 4
Your rating
0393320979 (ISBN13: 9780393320978)
w.w. norton & company

About book Beowulf (2001)

Beowulf is one of the oldest, complete surviving epic poems in existent. There are a few others from the same era that have survived in fragments, so the significance of Beowulf remains in regards to English literature. Written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) the manuscript of Beowulf is believed to date back to the 10th century (1,000AD). This is an example of a heroic poem, which can be defined as a text that deals with heroic actions in battle. Beowulf focuses on three great battles, with Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and a Dragon.While this is an English poem it is interesting to note that it is not set in England but southern Scandinavia, half in Denmark and the other in Geatland (or Götaland) which is one of three lands of Sweden. Beowulf does incorporate a large amount of Norse and Germanic history and legends, however I don’t have the knowledge to pick up on this within the text, just information I learnt after the reading. I suspect that this information was added into the poem to help pass on the information to Anglo-Saxon people, like a history lesson or as the poet calls it “the treasured repertory” (line 871). It is believed that Beowulf was composed in a time of stability, in a time of some democracy; an early medieval Christian civilisation. One might say this was an age where art and literature were flourishing and often used as methods of education.Beowulf was no exception. What I got out of this poem was a reflection of the cultural and, to a lesser extent, political views of the time; a civilisation that values courtesy and formality. Chivalry, generosity and thoughtfulness are valued but still have a strong sense of precariousness, ready of imminent attack and war. Strength is still considered important; Beowulf is a warrior willing to fight against enemies both human and demonic. He even travelled to another country to fight a demonic menace. However you have to look to the other warriors as well, who appear as strong and capable as Beowulf but without their faith are rendered useless.The role of the poet (or bard) is actually depicted in the poem itself several times. The poet is “…a fellow of the king’s” (line 868) which suggests that he is of a high rank. One who knows old and traditional stories, “Whose head was a storehouse of the storied verse, whose tongue gave gold to the language” (line 870). This allows the poem to have a unique perspective on the events that unfolds within Beowulf, a tactic that doesn’t always get explained within modern literature.It is said that you can interpret this poem as having both Christian and pagan themes; however for me this had a very strong religious message. A battle of good and evil but I suspect this wasn’t a conflict of morality but an inevitable clash between the two. In a Christian context, Beowulf could be compared to Jesus, coming to save our souls from evil. You can even compare it to the story of Cain and Abel which is referenced within the text of Beowulf.Given that Beowulf is meant to be experienced a spoken word I found myself struggling to read this as a written text. I had a look for the Michael Alexander translation (which was assigned to me for my university course) but was unsuccessful. However I did try to think about the text as if it was a story been spoken and I found it difficult. For me the narrative felt too slow, it lacked suspense and felt a little awkward (possibly the translation). The obscure historical allusions may not have been an issue back in the 800AD but it was for a modern reading.I was nervous about reading Odyssey by but ended up loving it; I was hoping I would have a similar experience here. I suspected that Beowulf will remain a difficult text. There is some historical context that would be helpful before going into the poem that I just didn’t get. Reading the epic poem as part of a university course did help but for me it wasn’t enough. Medieval literature will remain difficult for me and would rather enjoy something a little more recent, like the 19th century. If you have read Beowulf and have some interesting insights that might help get my head around it, please let me know.This review appeared on my blog;

*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*"Who are ye, then, ye armed men,mailed folk, that yon mighty vesselhave urged thus over the ocean ways,here o'er the waters?"*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. "Hither have fared to thee far-come meno'er the paths of ocean, people of Geatland;and the stateliest there by his sturdy bandis Beowulf named. This boon they seek,that they, my master, may with theehave speech at will: nor spurn their prayerto give them hearing, gracious Hrothgar!In weeds of the warrior worthy they,methinks, of our liking; their leader most surely,a hero that hither his henchmen has led."*cue symphony: BUM-BUM-BUUUUMMMMM! BUM-BUM-BUUUUMMMMM*Beowulf speaks: "To Hrothgar Iin greatness of soul would succor bring,so the Wise-and-Brave may worst his foes, --if ever the end of ills is fated,of cruel contest, if cure shall follow,and the boiling care-waves cooler grow;else ever afterward anguish-dayshe shall suffer in sorrow while stands in placehigh on its hill that house unpeered!"*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 Almightyin 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:BEOWULFBEOWULF II: MOMMY DEARESTBEOWULF III: BEOWULF VERSUS A BIG-ASS DRAGONWhile 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 is for you.

Do You like book Beowulf (2001)?

I read the Michael Alexander translation but I gave my copy away because everyone tells me that the Seamus Heaney translation is the best. I can't wait to read it. I also recently purchased Tolkien's translation of Beowulf. His commentary on the text though is the reason why I bought it. Beowulf is a great story! I was surprised that his pride was not condemned. This excessive pride in battle must have been acceptable at that time because in the Song of Roland (written a few centuries later in France c. 1100), Roland's pride is only condemned by one character (his "pair" Olivier). Roland is the hero even though his pride is completely unacceptable in our eyes. Still love Beowulf! Just find the early Medieval concept of heroism intriguing.
—Barry Pierce

I just finished teaching this to my 10th graders, and having never read it before myself, I found myself really delighted. Heaney does a fantastic job of showing how much a patchwork Beowulf is, the weird pagan and christian influences, the bizarre feudal culture of anglo-saxon England, and most importantly, the sorrow and sense of impending mortality which permeated so much of human life in this age.Like a lot of early literature, the basic mechanics are (by our over-developed, modern sensibilities) sort of clunky at times. We get a family history, then suddenly a tale of a battle, then some painfully overbearing christian imagery, then a lesson comparing a good ruler to a terrible one, etc. And yet the text is full of amazing subtleties. People are forced to confront the shortness of their own lives, and of a natural world still seemingly animated by primeval forces which put most modern fantasy writing to shame.Beowulf absolutely deserves to be considered a stone-cold classic, not just for the richness of its prose, but for the utterly weird originality of its vision.

I teach Beowulf in my honors class, and it's a tale I've always loved. There's something about the raw power, the direct yet engaging storyline, the rhythm and tone of the story that draws the reader (or, ideally, the listener) into another world. The social conventions, alien in many ways to our modern mindset, show a world both brutal and honorable, where death and heroism go side-by-side, where every act has consequence and there is no expectation of joy and happiness—these things have to be wrested from existence and are of short duration. And the interplay of the original Pagan story and the Christian elements brought in by our monastic narrator show the tension of a people wrestling with their old beliefs and how to reconcile them with the new. The startling use of language and poetic diction make this a masterpiece of English literature.I've read a dozen translations (and even done my own crude one); each of them has different aspects to recommend it. Heaney's strength is in his poetic voice—he's done an amazing job of preserving the rhythms and alliterations so crucial to the format of the original verse and updated it without being so modern as to lose the flavor of the original. He uses some archaic terms and those of his Celtic ancestors, which work well and do not mar the understanding of readers new to the text. Best of all, this is a parallel translation, with the original Old English on the verso pages.My only quibbles have to do with some of Heaney's word choices. There are debates within the literary community about the nature of the monsters (and the heroes) in the poem, and Heaney takes a pretty hard line, translating some phrases and terms in ways that make his choices seem unavoidable (but which are not always supported in the original). Innocent phrases like "wight" and "spirit" are sometimes glossed as "demon" or "specter," and we lose the sense of some of the wonderful Old English kennings, like the description of Grendel as a mearcstapa, "walker on the borders."Overall, a really fine translation. (And since it's been immortalized in The Norton Anthology and all Norton's student editions, it will be the version most everyone knows for the foreseeable future.)

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Unknown

Other books in category Young Adult Fiction