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Beowulf

by Beowulf Poet

Other authors: W. F. Bolton (Editor), C.L. Wrenn (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,202279139 (3.81)2 / 795
Beowulf first rescues the royal house of Denmark from two marauding monsters, then returns to rule his people for 50 years, ultimately losing his life in a battle to defend the Geats from a dragon's rampage.
Recently added byprivate library, ihatemyelf2, Akerekes83, 1RM, nonbobviz, nutbrownrose, Rennie80, JonHarr
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose, T. E. Lawrence
  1. 224
    Grendel by John Gardner (lyzadanger, sweetandsyko, sturlington)
    lyzadanger: Stunning prose from the point of view of the monster.
    sturlington: Grendel is a retelling of Beowulf from the monster's pov.
  2. 150
    The Iliad by Homer (benmartin79)
  3. 142
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Gawain Poet (OwenGriffiths, chrisharpe)
    OwenGriffiths: If you like Old/Middle English texts translated by great poets...
  4. 144
    The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (benmartin79)
  5. 101
    The Nibelungenlied: Prose Translation (Penguin Classics) by Anonymous (Weasel524)
    Weasel524: Embodies and champions the same spirit/ideals commonly shared by norse mythology, scandanavian sagas, and northern germanic folklore. Significantly longer and different in structure, should that be of concern
  6. 101
    The Icelandic Sagas by Magnus Magnusson (BGP)
  7. 102
    Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (PaulRackleff)
    PaulRackleff: Michael Crichton had written "Eaters of the Dead" as a means to show Beowulf's story value. The character names and plot line are very similar. Though Crichton changed some elements to make it more interesting than just a copy of Beowulf.
  8. 82
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / Pearl / Cleanness / Patience by A. C. Cawley (OwenGriffiths)
  9. 71
    The Táin by Táin author (BGP)
  10. 61
    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
  11. 74
    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (moonstormer)
    moonstormer: the short story in Fragile Things - Monarch of the Glen - is very related to Beowulf and could be seen as an interesting commentary.
  12. 31
    The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (Cecrow)
  13. 10
    The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics) by Michael Alexander (octothorp)
  14. 14
    Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996 by Seamus Heaney (JessamyJane)
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» See also 795 mentions

English (268)  Swedish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Tagalog (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (277)
Showing 1-5 of 268 (next | show all)
Beowulf is a classic that comes down to us from Anglo-Saxon times, written in what we now call Old English, and so, except for scholars of Old English, today we read it only in translation.

This is a wonderful translation that's fun, exciting, thoroughly enjoyable.

I'm going to assume that, as Beowulf is more than a thousand years old, and is a popular choice for teachers to assign to high school students who will never even thing of studying Old English, spoilers are not really an issue.

The basic story, of course, is that a Danish king has built a great mead hall, Heorot, where he and his thanes feast, drink, and generally party every night--until Grendel, a never really described "monster," being greatly annoyed by the noise, starts visiting nightly to kill, carry off, and eat men from the court. The Danes are unable to kill him, and this, obviously, puts quite a damper on the partying.

Word spreads, and Beowulf, a young warrior of the Geats, comes to Heorot with the plan of fighting and killing Grendel. He succeeds in this, and everyone is delighted, until, the following night, Grendel's grieving, angry, warrior mother shows up, seeking vengeance for the death of her son. Grendel's mother, never named, is an even tougher opponent, and Beowulf has to fight her in her undersea lair.

Tolkien said that the use of archaic language in translations of Beowulf is essential because the language used in the original would have been archaic to the listeners of the time. This isn't a universal opinion, but it certainly expresses something about how most translations of it are written. This is one of the things that makes it a challenging read for high school students, and not necessarily a beloved or even interesting one. Yet some of those translations have also been popular and beloved, also.

It's important to understand than no translation is simply a matter of correctly translating the words on the page. Direct, exact translation can lose much of the meaning, even much of the basic sense, because different languages and cultures don't just have different things to say. They also tend to say "the same thing" in different, often very different ways. Then add in the effects of differing grammars and sentence structure, and it becomes clear that translation is always an act of artistic interpretation as well as translation of the words.

What Maria Dahvana Headley has done is translate and interpret Beowulf not as a Great Work of Literature, but as a work that is meant to be performed in a loud mead hall, or bar, or drunken party, a work that needs to grab the attention of people who weren't waiting quietly for the performer to begin.

The first word, in Old English "Hwaet," customarily used in Old English to demand the attention of the audience, becomes "Bro." This epic poem is about young men who have to prove themselves as warriors to be able to establish themselves as adult men. That's not the story; it's the cultural background that poet and audience took completely for granted. Headley doesn't turn the entire poem in to modern dudebro slang, not by any means, not even really very much of it--but that dudebro slang and attitude is lightly salted throughout, to give it for modern ears the tone and attitude the original audiences would have been hearing. This is a loud, engaging poem with a lot of male swagger, because that's what the original was for its original audience. It was not serious, sober, Serious Literature. It was popular entertainment.

What makes it great literature is that, more than a thousand years later, it still has an audience that cares about it and enjoys it--even if that audience tends not to be high school students reading it only because it's been assigned and they'll be tested on it.

Another thing Headley has done is salt in a few references to some of our more modern myths, stories, and bits of culture--not explicitly naming them, but references modern readers or listeners will likely enjoy even if they don't consciously register them. I'm personally sure that similar references were present in the original, and we don't recognize them, because Beowulf is the only significant piece of Old English literature we have. We don't have access to the literary culture it would have been embedded in in its day.

The result is an epic poem that conveys the story and the culture of the day, while making it recognizable and accessible to the modern reader or listener--and, I think, in the process captures the fun and excitement, and something of the atmosphere in which it was intended to be heard.

Highly recommended.

I bought this book. ( )
3 vote LisCarey | May 19, 2021 |
This book has been on my to read list for years (and I'm sure I'm not alone on this) I am so glad I finally set my mind to take the time to read it even though I have several books I SHOULD be reading right now.

This is a must read for anyone. Some people may struggle with the phrasing and there is a lot to keep track of but I found myself immersed in the story all the same, so definitely worth giving it a try.

So if you're like me and have been meaning to get around to, or you've never thought of reading it..just read it! ( )
  literarylifelines | May 13, 2021 |
By far and away, my favorite translation of this ancient tale. It's told in a rollicking beer-hall manner suited to the battle and bravado contained within its verses. Modern slang is combines with more traditional translation techniques to make the story sound to our ears as a tale told in tavern over a pint or seven. Absolutely glorious. I highly recommend reading it aloud and throwing yourself into the role. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Apr 28, 2021 |
I had a great translation, and I'm sure it helped a lot. I'm not a fan of reading thing in verse, other than sometimes Shakespeare. I find it really hard to follow even if it does have a proper plot and story structure. This wasn't as bad as I'd feared and the story was quite enjoyable. I did however find myself getting bored about halfway though. ( )
  afrozenbookparadise | Apr 22, 2021 |
A warrior fights monsters.

2.5/4 (Okay).

For a short work about hunting and fighting three different monsters, everyone sure spends a lot of time giving speeches and exchanging gifts. ( )
  comfypants | Mar 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 268 (next | show all)
At the beginning of the new millennium, one of the surprise successes of the publishing season is a 1,000-year-old masterpiece. The book is ''Beowulf,'' Seamus Heaney's modern English translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic, which was created sometime between the 7th and the 10th centuries.
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Mel Gussow (Mar 29, 2000)
 
Translation is not mainly the work of preserving the hearth -- a necessary task performed by scholarship -- but of letting a fire burn in it.
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Richard Eder (Feb 2, 2000)
 

» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beowulf Poetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bolton, W. F.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wrenn, C.L.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, Michael J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Sarah M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baskin, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Botkine, L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brunetti, GiuseppeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chickering, Howell D.Translation and Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clark-Hall, John RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Collinder, BjörnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crossley Holland, KevinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dean, RobertsonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donaldson, E. T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Earle, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ettmüller, Ernst Moritz LudwigTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flynn, BenedictTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gordon, Robert KayTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grein, Christian Wilhelm MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grion, GiustoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grundtvig, Nicolas Frederic SeverinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gummere, Francis BartonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hall, John LesslieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Headley, Maria DahvanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heaney, SeamusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heaney, SeamusIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heaney, SeamusNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoffmann, P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hube, Hans-JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kemble, John M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirtlan, Ernest J. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, FredericIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehmann, Ruth P. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehnert, MartinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leonard, William ElleryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lumsden, H. W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnusson, MagnusIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McNamara, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyer, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekonen, OsmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raffel, BurtonTranslation and Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, SueProducersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaldemose, FrederikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simons, L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simrock, KarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steineck, H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swanton, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorne, BeccaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tinker, Chauncey BrewsterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wackerbarth, A. DiedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wickberg, RudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
William Ellery LeonardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolpe, BertholdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolzogen, Hans vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, A. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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People/Characters
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Important events
Related movies
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Epigraph
Dedication
In memory of Ted Hughes

Seamus Heaney (1999)
For Brian and Blake

Burton Raffel (1963)
In memory of Joseph and Winifred Alexander

Michael Alexander (1973)
For Grimoire William Gwenllian Headley,
who gestated alongside this book,
changing the way I thought about love, bloodfeuds,
woman-warriors, and wyrd.

Maria Dahvana Headley (2020)
First words
Hwæt we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Bro! Tell me we still know how to speak of kings! In the old days,
everyone knew what men were: brave, bold, glory-bound.

(translated by Maria Dahvana Headley, 2020)
Of the strength of the Spear-Danes in days gone by we have heard, and of their hero-kings: the prodigious deeds those princes perfomed!

(translated by Stephen Mitchell, 2017)
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.

(translated by Seamus Heaney, 1999)
Hear me! We've heard of Danish heroes,
Ancient kings and the glory they cut
For themselves, swinging mighty swords!

(translated by Burton Raffel, 1963)
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disambiguation notice
This work is any complete, unabridged translation of Beowulf. The Seamus Heaney translation is not a separate work from the other complete, unabridged translations. To quote the FAQ on combining - "A work brings together all different copies of a book, regardless of edition, title variation, or language."

Based on currently accepted LibraryThing convention, the Norton Critical Edition is treated as a separate work, ostensibly due to the extensive additional, original material included.
Reserve this for dual-language texts (Anglo-Saxon and modern English) regardless of translator.
This is an unabridged translation of Beowulf, and should NOT be combined with abridged editions, regardless of translator.
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Beowulf first rescues the royal house of Denmark from two marauding monsters, then returns to rule his people for 50 years, ultimately losing his life in a battle to defend the Geats from a dragon's rampage.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
Fear falls on the hall:
monster meets match in hero;
mother waits at home.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393320979, 0393330109

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140449310, 0451530969, 0141194871

University of Texas Press

An edition of this book was published by University of Texas Press.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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