Jen's Reviews > Beowulf

Beowulf by Gareth Hinds
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's review
Mar 01, 11

bookshelves: 5201, graphic-novel
Read in March, 2011

This graphic novel was included in the 2008 YALSA list. Gareth Hinds does graphics for computer games and apparently reinvents classics as graphic novels in his spare time. He’s done Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and “King Lear” and just published The Odyssey in January. The illustrations of Beowulf and Grendel on the front and back covers indicate that the drawings will be dark and gritty. I’m hoping for a more creative classic adaptation than P&P&Zombies — something that could perhaps be used to hook student interest or as part of an Old English or epic poem reading ladder.

First page — Tiny-headed Beowulf looks like a cross between Zeus and The Hulk. He also appears to be decomposing. This must be a foreshadowing.

End of Book I — Hinds devoted 20 full pages to the gruesome battle between Beowulf (clad in a manly loincloth and helmet) and Grendel (looking like one of Tolkein’s uruk-hai). Bones were shattered, blood was shed, and then Grendel runs away with one less arm than he came with. Eww.

End of Book II — Another gruesome set of battle scenes between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, who puts up a better fight than her son did. Beware the momma bear. Hinds snuck an image of 9/11 into Hrothgar’s speech warning Beowulf against pride, which I find to be in poor taste and unnecessarily political.

Of the text included, Hinds managed to find a pretty good balance between readability and the beauty and cadence of Old English poetry, but it would still be difficult for low readers. I liked that he gave each book a distinct color scheme — the first, mostly light browns and black; the second, light browns, red, and greenish-blues for the water-lair; the third and final, purplish-gray and white. The colors lent emotion and tone to the story.

This adaptation simplifies the tale of Beowulf and breaks it down into three easy-to-grasp events. It could be used to introduce the story or as a tool of struggling readers, but I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend it to teachers or students to read just for kicks. I’m very curious, though, to take a look at his adaptation of The Odyssey.

Side note: I have a difficult time with Children’s and YA authors who try to persuade their readers to think or believe a certain way. Steve Augurde, a British children’s author, wrote a blog post about the fact that children’s authors function as a kind of babysitter to kids and as such, they need to feel a keen sense of responsibility for what they are communicating to those kids. “Children are susceptible. As an audience they're relatively easy to scare, manipulate, and indoctrinate. I feel that children's fiction writers therefore have to be particularly conscious and careful of what they say.” More and more often I encounter educators justifying the political indoctrination of their students instead of working relentlessly to teach students how to think for themselves. I see the same thing in literature, in music, in the words coming out of mouths of celebrities -- people marketing their beliefs the way we market jeans. It's no wonder the country is a mess.
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