Sean Endymion's Reviews > Beowulf

Beowulf by Unknown
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Jul 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, historical-fiction, literary-adult

While I've always loved the stories and the characters of the greater epic fictions of the past (which led to my obsession with fantasy), I really never got into the *telling* of them. The Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the only one that I've really enjoyed; far too often, I find the verse shitty, the telling annoying, and the authorial sidetracks worthless. Beowulf wasn't *that much better*, but I did quite enjoy it.

While the overlong and uninspired side-stories went on as usual (i.e. the history of the dragon, the ridiculous 12 years that supposedly went by of Grendel's terror, the history of who-cares-whose-great-grandfather-did-suchandsuch-to-the-soandsos, etc.), the meat of the story was done just beautifully -- and I think this is due to one, the kennings, and two, the real beginning of fantastic/magical realism. A kenning is a compound word made up of whole other words (as opposed to the portmanteau's parceling of words) that creates figurative images like the "whale-road" for the ocean; these are always cool, and they bring an impassioned life to an otherwise bland verse. On top of this, there is effort to convey a very real sense of life, while mixing in fable -- a sort of outlandish real land; if there is anything about fantasy that always draws me, it is that perfect blending of the real and unreal, where the line becomes blurred and then widens and then disappears.

A relatively short read, but one you should take the time to parse rightly. Because of its short length, old age, and good "fantasy", I don't think less than 4/5 would be appropriate, even though I'm not sure it quite deserves 4 stars.
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