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Beowulf

by Beowulf Poet, Howell D. Chickering (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
21,595308135 (3.81)4 / 815
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.
  1. 244
    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. 160
    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. 112
    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.
  6. 101
    Nibelungenlied 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
  7. 101
    The Icelandic Sagas by Magnus Magnusson (BGP)
  8. 82
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / Pearl / Cleanness / Patience by A. C. Cawley (OwenGriffiths)
  9. 71
    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
  10. 71
    The Táin by Táin author (BGP)
  11. 40
    The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics) by Michael Alexander (octothorp)
  12. 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.
  13. 31
    The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (Cecrow)
  14. 00
    Beowulf by Benjamin Bagby (gwernin)
  15. 00
    Understanding Beowulf As an Indo-European Epic: A Study in Comparative Mythology by Earl R. Anderson (questionablepotato)
  16. 14
    Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996 by Seamus Heaney (JessamyJane)
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English (293)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Tagalog (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (301)
Showing 1-5 of 293 (next | show all)
"You have won renown: you are known to all men far and near, now and forever." (pg. 41)

So. After putting it off for a number of years, partly because of the ever-growing list of other books I wanted to read, and partly because of my indecision over which translation to choose (does Heaney stray too far from the original? Does Tolkien stay too close?), I finally got around to reading, embarrassingly late, a core part of my heritage as a native speaker of the English language. Even though the medieval manuscript languished in obscurity until the 19th century, reading Beowulf plugs you directly into a long line of English literature and storytelling.

My procrastination over the translation (the original poem is in a now-incomprehensible Old English) soon proved irrelevant. I stopped wondering whether Seamus Heaney (whose translation I ended up choosing) was providing an authentic Beowulf experience, because the story itself soon outsized the bounds of any one translator. Its titular hero proves as complex a character, and as important a totem to his culture, as the titular heroes from The Odyssey, The Aeneid or The Epic of Gilgamesh, or Achilles from The Iliad. Beowulf is not a vanilla, one-dimensional monster-slayer, for all his boasting; he has doubts, knows life is transitory, and the narrator shows how he is in part undone by his desire to do it all himself. Part of Beowulf's tragedy is that he did not appreciate he was not the only "watcher in Heorot" on the night Grendel came to the hall (pg. 42).

For this reason, Beowulf is a surprisingly mature work. I had expected a simple epic – brave warrior kills monster, becomes king, kills dragon – but the nuance, angst and atmosphere (the windswept halls and salt-sprayed seas) combine to make this a sombre yet thrilling read. The persistent effort on the part of the poem's narrator to reconcile the pagan king's deeds in light of the emergence of Christianity is interesting, and helps qualify Beowulf as a literary touchstone. The poet is keen to teach the reader on morality (one passage on Beowulf's noble conduct ends with "hence, understanding is always best and a prudent mind" (pg. 34)), just as The Odyssey provided overt instruction on guest-right, and the themes of wergild (death-compensation) and wyrd (fate) are skilfully integrated into the story. The general reader can find them without the help of academic analysis and the poem is all the better for it – and fresher.

There is no need to soft-sell Beowulf: it is fascinating in its own right. Heaney's translation is bracing and accommodating to the general reader, but is only building on what's already there. Many will be keen on the story because of its obvious influence on Tolkien (the Old English naming conventions, the dragon with a hoard of gold disturbed by a thief, and the short step from Beowulf's 'prince of the rings' to The Lord of the Rings), but such is the story's richness and composure that, as I suggested earlier, it could well stand as England's Iliad or Aeneid. Though he never knew it, Shakespeare heard this song, for the poem's late emergence in the 19th century provided a missing link in a rich continuum of English-language resonance that passed through the Bard and many others. Beowulf's deep tones still ring across the centuries. ( )
4 vote MikeFutcher | Jun 19, 2022 |
written originally in anglo/saxon english. so there are like a million and one translations. the story is pretty good, if basic. It was written, they think, around the 3rd or 4th centuries, author unknown. the story follows the adventures of the hero, Beowulf, who is the strongest man alive. Thats why local king Hrothgar calls him from far away to beat local terror Grendel. After defeating Grendel with no armor and with his bare hands, he fights Grendel's mother, who is enraged at her son's death. Beowulf kills her too, with his bare hands, without armor, underwater. He then becomes King, and rules for 50 years. He was a good king. after 50 years, he gets up again (now an old man) to fight a dragon that is guarding a big treasure. This time he decides to use weapons and armor, knowing that he isn't the spry lad he once was. Along with the help of a trusty sidekick, he defeats the dragon, but is fatally wounded in the process. He eventually dies, and they build a little pyre and monument on the ridge overlooking the sea. The story is a good one, I suppose. pretty much the precursor to the modern adventure story. ( )
  Michael_J | Jun 2, 2022 |
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! ( )
  chasingholden | Apr 26, 2022 |
A great epic fantasy tale. ( )
  Bookslesstravelled | Apr 15, 2022 |
An awakening for me, this book has opened up the classic and made it very accessible. My purist literature professor friend refers to it as an abomination since she can read it in its original. I, on the other hand, am most appreciative of this new translation and loved. A great way to make one's way into the myth - but of course quite a breadth away from the original. Purists beware. ( )
  dbsovereign | Feb 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 293 (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 (99 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beowulf Poetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chickering, Howell D.Translatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Chickering, Howell Dmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alexander, Michael J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Sarah M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baskin, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bolton, W. F.Editorsecondary 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
Wrenn, C.L.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, A. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
In memory of Ted Hughes

Seamus Heaney (1999)
To Kate, Julie, and Ben
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.
Preface

This book is meant to make Beowulf available as poetry who have not studied Old English (Anglo-Saxon) before and to those who have only a rudimentary knowledge of it.
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)
Introduction

Beowulf is written in the unrhymed four-beat alliteratie meter of Old English poetry.
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)
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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.
Please see the LT Combiners' discussion at http://www.librarything.com/topic/508... before combining the Howell Chickering translation of Beowulf with other editions of the original work on LT. Thank you.
This is NOT an abridged edition. DO NOT combine with the abridged edition by Crossley-Holland or any other abridged edition.
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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An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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