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Questo poema senza nome d'autore e senza titolo, di datazione incerta (VII secolo?), è il più antico testo poetico lungo, scritto in un volgare europeo, l'unica epica compiuta delle letterature germaniche antiche, uno dei testi principali della letteratura anglosassone, poema dedicato a un tema mitico: il combattimento tra un uomo e un mostro. In poco più di tremila versi il poema racconta la strenua lotta di un giovane di nome Beowulf con un drago, intersecando elementi mitici, favolistici, leggende eroiche e fatti storici documentabili e datati.

122 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 900

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Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews751 followers
May 15, 2017
*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 vessel
have 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 men
o'er the paths of ocean, people of Geatland;
and the stateliest there by his sturdy band
is Beowulf named. This boon they seek,
that they, my master, may with thee
have speech at will: nor spurn their prayer
to 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."


Beowulf speaks:

"To Hrothgar I
in 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-days
he shall suffer in sorrow while stands in place
high 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 Almighty
in 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:


While 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 for you.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
February 11, 2020
”One of these things, as far as anyone ever can discern, looks like a woman; the other, warped in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale bigger than any man, an unnatural birth called Grendel by country people in former days. They are fatherless creatures, and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past of demons and ghosts. They dwell apart among wolves on the hills, on windswept crags and treacherous keshes, where cold streams pour down the mountain and disappear under mist and moorland.”

 photo Beowulf20Heaney_zpsamhndnds.jpg

It rained, but it was colder than what it should be to be raining. A combination of warmer atmosphere and colder temperatures on the ground produced an ice storm. It hit over the weekend so I could sit quite comfortably by my fireplace and watch out the window as the rain formed into sheets of ice on the streets and sidewalks. Power lines thickened as they became cubed in ice. Foot long and longer icicles dangled and swayed from the power lines, from the eaves of houses, from signs, from fence lines. The most affected though were the trees. The bigger the tree with the thicker branches, the more affected they would be. The ice accumulated on their branches bending and twisting them down to the ground. They became monsters, slumbering beneath an armour of ice.

I’d been thinking about rereading Beowulf for some time. This story has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember. I read a child’s version when I was young, several times before moving on to other more adult translations. The idea of a man taking on a monster, much stronger than most men, and finding a way to defeat him was compelling mythology for my young mind. The terror of it, the monster that comes into your home and kills in the dead of the night and takes heads as trophies, left shivers in the very center of me.

Beowulf hears of a monster who is attacking the Danes. He is one of thirteen men who decide to go to the rescue of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. He goes because he needs to make a name for himself, as Buliwyf in the movie The 13th Warrior says: ” I have only these hands.” Beowulf is poor, renown for his strength, but he has no Hall to call his own and, but for this small band, no men to call him King.

”Their mail-shirts glinted, hard and hand-linked; the high-gloss iron of their armour rang. So they duly arrived in their grim war-graith and gear at the hall, and, weary from the sea, stacked wide shields of the toughest hardwood against the wall, then collapsed on the benches; battle-dress and weapons clashed. They collected their spears in a seafarers’ stook, a stand of greyish tapering ash. And the troops were as good as their weapons.”

I had spent most of the day finishing another book and, thus, had started reading Beowulf late in the evening. The wife and my Scottish Terrier had gone to bed, and I was left in the soft glow of my reading lamp. Most of the city had lost power as lines too heavy with ice had crashed down one by one. I had candles close to hand. It never crossed my mind, power or no power, that I would go to bed. Beowulf was written in Old English between 975-1025. The Seamus Heaney translation that I read had the Old English on one page and Heaney’s translation on the other page. In college, I took a Chaucer class and became a fair hand at deciphering Middle English, but looking and even pronouncing these unfamiliar words did not ring any ancient bells in my English soul. I would have had better luck reading Greek than Old English.

 photo 432a759e-bc88-48bc-b36c-24c3982405f6_zpsisuua0xk.png
1,000 year old manuscript of Beowulf.

As Beowulf grapples with Grendel and then with Grendel’s mother, I was just as enthralled with the story as I was as a wee tot. The carnage, the darkness, the uncertainty that Beowulf had to feel, despite his boasts to the contrary, all lend a fine, sharp edge to the tale. As I read, I also started to hear the sharp cracks and howls of ice heavy tree limbs separating from their trunk in much the same way as Beowulf pulls Grendel’s arm loose from his shoulder. The crash of these ice shrouded branches against the frozen ground sounded to my mind like the steel swords of the Geats banging against their metal wrapped shields.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I walked out of my back door into an alien landscape. Each individual stem of grass had frozen into a nub of ice. With every step, my boots crunched and slipped across this icy topography. Piles of limbs laid at the bottoms of the bigger trees. A small limb detached from the cottonwood tree as I stood there and made discordant music as it hit the limbs below before finally landing among its fallen, dying brethren on the ground. The younger trees, more limber, were probably fine, I told myself. They are bowed over as if in supplication to Mother Nature. Their top branches were frozen to the ground, making arches of their shapes. It was all very beautiful. I remembered reading about a party that was given for Anastasia, the Russian princess, before her life became tangled in the turmoil of revolution. The servants were outside spraying water on the trees so they would glitter with ice as the aristocracy arrived on their horse pulled, bell laden sleighs.

I went back inside and peeled off my boots and my jacket and returned to Beowulf. Another log was required for the fire, so I spent a few moments poking the remaining logs to make room for more wood. I flinched as I heard more crashes from outside. An assembly of Geats preparing for battle. When I finally settled back into my chair, Beowulf has become King of the Geats and fights battles with the greatest champions of the land. He involves himself in disagreements. ”When Eofor cleft the old Swede’s helmet, halved it open, he fell, death-pale: his feud-calloused hand could not stave off the fatal blow.”

I just loved that…feud-calloused hand. I also really liked..”your blade making a mizzle of his blood.” There are lines like that all through the story. Words unfamiliar and evocative of a different age.

Beowulf does age and does need the help of others in the end when he battles a dragon, but few men are made with the courage that he is, and they fail to help him when he needs it most. He does kill the dragon, but at the cost of his own life.

No sword blade sent him to his death,
My bare hands stilled his heartbeats
And wrecked the bone-house. Now blade and hand,
Sword and sword-stroke, will assay the hoard.”

Stormy weather requires the proper book and a proper, hot, Scottish tea laced with a few drops of Scotch whiskey. For me Beowulf, those 3,182 lines, added enchantment and necromancy to a world transforming before my eyes into something magical and unknown.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Anne.
3,865 reviews69.2k followers
February 11, 2023
I vaguely remembered reading this in 7th grade and thought it might be fun to grab the audio version of one of the most important works of Ye Old English literature.
I listened to this twice the other day and then realized a funny thing:
Beowulf is basically every 80's action movie ever made.


It's true. Hear me out before you start shaking your head no.
The entire story centers around one guy wanking around the known world and loudly bragging about himself at every opportunity. He's the ultimate He-Man who comes complete with a set of bro-groupies faithfully following him from adventure to adventure, jerking him off and singing his praises, all while he shows off his super-strong hand grip powers.


And yet, there exist those individuals who will simultaneously scoff at the peasants who enjoy a good mindless action flick and solemnly commend this who knows when it was actually written tale of heroes & monsters.
Beause it's old poetry.


Ok, imagine this: 10 thousand years from now, for whatever reason, nothing much of our current society has survived.
Except the script for Rambo.
Which one, Anne? <--doesn't matter, take your pick.


And now the Future People think that is some huge clue to how we all lived, while their scholars will praise the unknown author for the poetic phrasing. Rambo will be immortalized as a hero of yore, and little girls in middle school will have to create shitty dioramas of his famous battles.
Poor little girls. <--I feel for you.


My point is this, if any of you are ever tempted to look down your nose on those of us who spend our time reading comics and watching shit blow up on the big screen, whilst you sip your overpriced coffee and peruse classic literature, remember this was the 8th century's version of John Wick - minus the dog.
And that was what survived.
Lowbrow entertainment, FTW!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 16, 2021
As a college English major, I studied Beowulf without any great enthusiasm; my real love was for the Romantic poets. And Chaucer, but that might have been partly because I thought it was hilarious that we were studying such bawdy material at BYU. Plus you can still puzzle out The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English, with the help of a few handy annotations, while Beowulf in the original Old English--other than the immortal (at least in my mind) line "Bēowulf is mīn nama"--is beyond anyone but scholars, and it loses something in translation.

So I cheerfully forgot about Beowulf until I was puttering around in Barnes and Noble one day, and came across Seamus Heaney's recent translation. I read his foreword and was absolutely entranced by its brilliance. Heaney tosses off phrases like "the poem possesses a mythic potency" and talks about the "three archetypal sites of fear: the barricaded night-house, the infested underwater current, and the reptile-haunted rocks of a wilderness." He discusses how we are enveloped "in a society that is at once honour-bound and blood-stained, presided over by the laws of the blood-feud." And he explains in detail how he went about creating a new translation of the poem and the difficulty of finding the right voice:
A simple sentence such as "We cut the corn to-day" took on immense dignity when one of [my father's relatives] spoke it. They had a kind of Native American solemnity of utterance, as if they were announcing verdicts rather than making small talk. And when I came to ask myself how I wanted Beowulf to sound in my version, I realized I wanted it to be speakable by one of those relatives.
Anyway, all this is to explain why, after years of blissfully ignoring Beowulf, I felt compelled to buy this book and give it another try. Did it hold up to my hopes? Well, not quite. I still appreciate Beowulf more than I love it. But I heard the solemn, deliberate voice that Heaney was seeking to use, and I thought he did a great job of translating it as well as possible into modern English while preserving the original feel and intent of the poem. I love the liberal use of alliteration and the compound words (whale-road = sea; ring-giver = king) that are found in the original version of the poem as well as this translation. I felt the side-by-side nobility and brutality of these characters from (it's surmised) 6th century Scandinavia. And I was getting some serious Tolkien vibes from the ending, which is not at all a bad thing.

In the end, it was a bit of a tough slog reading through the entire poem, but I'm glad I did it. I think I still love Heaney's foreword more than I love the actual Beowulf poem. I need to check out J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf translation one of these days.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
October 5, 2021
Beowulf, Anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important works of Old English literature.

The date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025.

The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".

The story is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated.

Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is mortally wounded in the battle.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و یکم ماه سپتامبر سال 2017میلادی

عنوان: حماسه‌ ی بیوولف؛ نویسنده: ناشناس؛ یان سریلیر؛ مترجم: کامبیز منزوی؛ تهران: موج‏‫، 1386 (1387)؛ در 72ص؛ شابک9789645834409؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 10م

عنوان: بیوولف؛ نویسنده: ای‍ان‌ سیری‌لیئر؛ بارنویسی ژاکلین مورلی؛ مترجم: میثم امینی ؛ تصویرگر لی سیونک؛ ویراستار مهشیدسادات فهیم؛ قزوین سایه گستر، ‏‫1395؛ در 47ص؛ شابک9786003740068؛

عنوان: بیوولف قهرمان؛ نویسنده: ‏‫تونی بردمن؛ تصویرگر تونی راث؛ مترجم مسعود ملک‌یاری؛ تهران دنیای اقتصاد، کتاب‌های دارکوب، ‏‫1394؛ در52ص؛ شابک9786008004035؛‬

عنوان: حماسه بیوولف و دیگر اشعار انگلیسی باستان؛ ترجمه به انگلیسی: کنستانس ب هیات؛ مترجم عباس گودرزی؛ تهران بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب پارسه، ‏‫1395؛ در 166ص؛ ‬ شابک 9786002532497؛

عنوان: حماسه در بیوولف؛ مترجم: بهجت تربتی‌نژاد؛ گرگان: تنعیم‏‫، 1395؛ در 216ص؛ شابک: 9786007413470؛‬

بـِیُوولف نخستین حماسه ی شناخته شده ی اروپایی از نویسنده‌ ای ناشناس است؛ این حماسه به زبان «انگلیسی کهن» نگاشته شده و یکی از برجسته‌ ترین نوشته‌ های ادبی «آنگلوساکسون» شناخته می‌شود؛ تاریخ‌ نگاران، نگارش آن را میان 700میلادی تا یکهزار میلادی، برآورد کرده‌ اند؛ این رزمنامه که از سده ی نوزدهم میلادی به اینسو، به نام «بیوولف» نامور شده‌ است به داستان نبردهای پهلوانی به نام «بیوولف» می‌پردازد، که یک قبیله ی «دانمارکی» را از دست جانور خونخواری، به نام «گرندل» نجات می‌دهد، و سپس در دریا فرومی‌رود، تا مادر آن جانور را هم بکشد؛ سپس پادشاه قبیله خود می‌شود ولی سرانجام در جنگ با اژدها کشته می‌شود؛

این داستان بن‌مایه، و الگوی بسیاری از حماسه‌ های پس از خود، شده‌ است؛ نامورترین و امروزی‌ترین آن‌ها، اثر پروفسور «تالکین»، «سه‌ گانهٔ ارباب حلقه‌ ها» است، که به گفته ی خود ایشان، برداشت بسیاری از «بیوولف» داشته‌ اند؛ در آن زمان «تالکین»، بزرگ‌ترین «بیوولف‌ شناس» و پژوهشگر در اینباره، به‌ شمار می‌رفته‌، و بیشترین شمار جستارهای پژوهشی از آن وی بوده‌ اند؛ همچنین بخشی در «هابیت»، که «بیلبو» به کنام «اسماگ» سر می‌زند هم، به روشنی، همانندی بسیاری با داستان شبیخون «بیوولف» به غار «گرندل»، پیش از درگیر شدن با او دارد؛ با اینکه این نگاشته به زبان «انگلیسی کهن» نگارش شده‌، اما «بیوولف» پهلوانی «اسکاندیا» تبار است؛

پیوستگی سه‌ هزار بیت «بیوولف»، نشان از آن دارد، که همه ی نگاشته از آن یک نویسنده بوده‌ است؛ اهمیت حماسهٔ «بیوولف» در این است که تمام رسوم دنیای عصر قهرمانی، به وسیلهٔ شاعر، منعکس می‌شود؛ بیان ارزش‌های قهرمان، سخاوت شاهانه، وفاداری امیران، عطش کسب شهرت، از راه شجاعت و بردباری، لاف و گزاف پیش و پس از جنگ، افتخار به اصل و نسب، و نظیر این ارزش‌ها، همگی با ویژگی‌های حماسه هماهنگند؛ اگرچه شرح عجیب «بیوولف»، با عجایب «ادیسه» متفاوت است؛ و امتزاج عناصر «عیسوی» و «ژرمنی»، آن را تا حدی تضعیف کرده، با این حال «بیوولف»، کهنترین حماسه، به یک زبان «تئوتونی» است، که با بیان زمینهٔ فرهنگی و اجتماعی عصر قهرمانی ملل «ژرمن»، بیانگر رسوم سنتی آن عصر است؛

برخی از پژوهشگران میگویند: حماسه ی «بیوولف» در سه هزار و یکصد و بیست و هشت مصراع، در سده ی هشتم میلادی، سروده شده، و تنها نسخه ی موجود، به لهجه ی «ساکسون غربی» است، که در سده ی دهم میلادی، نگاشته شده‌ است؛ قهرمانان و صحنه‌ های حماسه، همگی «اسکاندیناویایی» بوده، و غیر از زبان، هیچ چیز دیگرش «انگلیسی» نیست (هرچند اقوام «اسکاندیناوی» و قوم «آنگلوساکسون» هردو از تبار «ژرمن» و خویشاوند می‌باشند)؛ حماسه، شامل دو داستان جداگانه، از دلاوری‌های جوانی و پیری «بیوولف» است، و شخصیت قهرمان داستان، به این دو نیمه یگانگی می‌بخشد

نقل از متن: («ناگه آنفرت»، فرزند «اجلاف»، در کنار سلطان نشسته، و اینگونه با کلامی بیشرمانه سخن آغازید، که عزم جزم «بیوولف» در این پیکار بسیار او را ناخوشایند میآمد، چرا که غیرتش نمیگذاشت هیچکس را برتر و مفتخرتر از خویش بیند، در رزم آیا تو همان «بیوولفی» که به مقابله با «برکا» در دل امواج خروشان رفتی و غرورت بر آن داشت، تا بیهوده در آن پهنای دریا به قیمت جانت تن خود خستی و هیچت حاصل نشد، و آن همه به خاطر تفرعنی ابلهانه؟ هیچ کس، نه دوست و نه دشمن، نمیتوانست شما را از آن زور آزمایی که در دریا درگرفته بود، بازدارد؛ شما آنجا به نبرد امواج رفته بودید، بر بستر آن ره پیمودید، و باز ره به جایی نبردید؛ آنگه که دریا از طوفان زمستانی سرد به امواج برآماسیده بود، شما هردو هفت شبانه روز، در کمند امواج اسیر، تقلا کردید، ولی گویا «برکا» از شما زورمندتر بود، و در شنا چابکتر؛ پس در سحرگاه روز بعد، دریا او را به خاک «نروژ» درانداخت، و از آنجا او در پی وطن خویش، سرزمین عزیز «براندیگس» رفت، و به زودی بر مردم و خزائن آن دیار حکومت یافت؛ پس در حقیقت، آن فرزند بینستان بود که عاقبت ادعای خویش بر شما تحمیل کرد؛ بنابراین اگرچه شما همواره در آوردگاه و در رزم تنامند و دلیر نموده اید، باز ترسم انجام خوشی مترصد شما نباشد اگر خود به مصاف «گرندل» به شب هنگام میروید

بیوولف، زاده «اجتئو»، در پاسخش اینگونه گفت: «بسیار خب، دوست من آنفرت، اینک مست از شرابی و بسیار از احوال برکا و عصیانش سخن راندی؛ ولی اکنون به تو میگویم که حقیقت چیست: این که من بی شک از تمام مردان در نبردِ دریا و شکافتن سینه امواج تواناترم؛ ما هردو در آن زمان چون در عهد شباب جوان و بی باک بودیم، بر آن شدیم تا به زورآزمایی به دریا زنیم، و جان خویش در خطر نهیم و اینگونه آن عهد به سر بریم؛ وقتی به دریا درشدیم بدین قصد، هر یک شمشیری برگرفتیم، تا مگر امان یابیم، از تهدید نهنگ و ماهیان دگر؛ او نمیتوانست از من پیشی گیرد در شنا، و مرا میلِ دل نبود، که از او دور شوم در آن دریا، پس همچنان پنج شبانه روز، در کنار هم بر آب روان بودیم، تا هجوم سیلاب، ما را جدا نمود و هریک را به سویی راند؛

گردابها حایل بودند و هوا سرد و سوزان، شب تار و باد غرب وزان و امواج خروشان؛ ناگه در آن اثنا، ماهیان دریا بر سر خشم آمدند؛ بختم یار بود که زره تن پوشم، که سخت و آبدیده در هم تنیده بود، و آن ردای رزم مرصع به نقوش و طرح بر سینه ام محافظ بود، و جانم را مراقب؛ باز یکی خصم قاهرم به ژرفای دریا کشاند، و هم در آن حال مرا سخت در کمند خویش داشت؛ ولی به تقلا به دریدن جان آن دیو، و رهایی از دامنش ظفر یافتم؛ آری آن دیو دریایی تنومند، در آن آوردگاه طوفان، و هجوم امواج، به دست من هلاک شد؛ پس همچنان موجودات دگر هجوم آورده، و در پی آزار و تهدید من بودند؛ من نیز با شمشیر آبدیده ی خویش، به مصافشان میرفتم، که مستحق آن بودند، موجودات شرور، هیچ مجال نیافتند، تا در آن اعماق دریا، به قتال من توفیق یافته و از آن به بزم نشینند؛ فردا روز، جملگی به ساحل درافتاده بودند، به خون خفته از تیغ من، تا دیگر هیچگاه پس از آن، بر دریانوردانِ درگذر بر سینه امواج، راه نگیرند؛ خورشید از جانب مشرق برآمد، و آن چراغ ایزدی، بر جهان پرتو افشاند، و دریا بیاسایید، و من در کرانه، ساحل بدیدم؛ بخت یار مردانی است که شهامتشان مددکار است؛ و هنوز پایان عمرشان محتوم نیست؛ پس تقدیر من بود، که در آن نیمه شب مهیب، نُه دیو سرکش را، از دم تیغ گذرانم؛ هرگز رزمی سختتر از این، در زیر طاق آسمان نشنیده ام، و مردی پریشانتر، و درمانده تر از خود، در دام امواج هایل؛ و باز من از کمند مرگ رَستم، اگرچه جان و تن از آن خستم؛ پس دریا مرا، به جریان خود پیش برد، و امواج آرام به سرزمین «لاپس» رساندند؛ ولی در مورد شما هرگز از نبردی چنین خطیر نشنیده ام؛ هرگز تو یا «برکا»، اعمالی چنین دلیرانه، بر خود ندیده اید - گرچه من نمیگویم که این بزرگترین پیکار روزگارم بوده است - اگرچه برادران و اقوام خود را کشته، و به مکافات آن، به آتش دوزخ گرفتار خواهید آمد، حال هرچه میخواهید خود را خردمند فرض نمایید؛ باز گوش کن ای فرزند «اجلاف»، تا حقیقت را با تو بازگویم: «گرندل»، آن دیو پلید، هرگز نمیتوانستی چندین جنایات نماید، و این همه رنج بر پادشه شما تحمیل کند، اگر تو در دل و جان هم، آنچنان که در گفتار مینمایی، دلیر و بی باک بودی؛ او به خوبی پی برده است، که نباید چندان از جسارت مردان شما یا از تیغ رزم آوران «دانمارک» بهراسد؛ پس همچنان بر رنج و محنت شما میافزاید؛ و ترحمی بر هیچیک از خلق روا نمیدارد، بلکه به میل خویش قتال میکند، و ویرانی به بار می��ورد، چراکه بیم همآوردی از سوی شما ندارد؛ ولی من به زودی، توان و رشادت مردان اهل «گیتس» در رزم را، به او خواهم چشاند؛ و بعد از آن، با طلوع صبح، وقتی که رخش مهر رخ نماید، و از جانب خاور، بر ابنای بشر تابیدن گیرد، هر که را توان آن باشد، میتواند با فخر و فراغ به این بزمگاه درآید

سلطان صاحب سَخا و سفیدموی، که روزگاری در رزم، شهره بودی، به شوق آمد، از این کلام، که او بیقرار، چشم یاری داشت؛ آن منجی مردمان در اندیشه «بیوولف»، عزمی جزم، و اراده ای استوار یافت؛ پس به ناگه غریو خنده ی مردان برخاست، وز آن سوی، نغمه ی چنگ و رباب، و باز در آن میان کلام و گفتار ایشان؛ «ولتئو»�� شهبانوی هراسگار آراسته به زینتی سیمین، خرامان پیش آمد، و جمله ی مردان را درود گفت؛ بانوی بزرگ ابتدا جام در کف سلطان خویش نهاد، و فرمود که با سرخوشی باده پیماید؛ سلطان صاحب نام نیز، با شور و شعف، دور خود از آن باده و پیمانه را برگرفت؛ سپس بانوی «هلمینگ» تبار چرخید، و به هر یک از حاضران و ملازمان، از پیر و جوان، پیاله ها درداد، تا آن زمان که آن بانوی با ذکاوتِ آراسته به زینت لعل و گوهر، جام را نزد «بیوولف» برد؛ او را سلام و ثنایی به حد گفت، و خدای را سپاس کرد، که آرزویش در امان یافتن و دفع آن بلای عظیم عاقبت اجابت میشود؛ پهلوان شرزه و دلیر، جام از آن بانوی مهرروی گرفت، گویی آماده رزم، اینگونه سخن گفت: «وقتی به کشتی درنشستیم و به همراه یاران راه این سفر درپیش گرفتیم، عزم کردم که بیشک خواسته ی شما و مردمان سرزمینتان را برآورم؛ یا خود در آوردگاه رزم درافتم، و به کمند خصم درمانم. لاجرم یا رشادتی به قاعده نمایم، یا جان در این سرای، که شماراست به جان آفرین واگذارم.»؛

این کلام که سوگند پهلوان بود، شهبانو را خوش آمد، و آن نجیب زاده، که مرقوله های زیبا داشت، رفت و در کنار سلطان جای گرفت؛ باز سخنانی از رزم و بزم، با الحانی از ساز و چنگ درآمیخت، و حاضران جمله شاد، به شادخواری روی نمودند؛ اکنون سلطان (پور نامدار هلفدن) را زمان خفتن رسیده بود؛ ولی میدانست اندیشه شبیخون به عمارت از طلوع فجر خورشید تا این زمان، که سایه تار شب به آرامی درمیرسید و همه را دربر میگرفت در خیال آن دیو پیوسته بود؛ جمله مردان به پا خاستند؛ «هراسگار»، «بیوولف» را بدرود گفت، بر او نیک بختی مسئلت نمود، و با این سخن زمام عمارت بدو سپرد: «هرگز پیش از آن که توان دست و سلاح برافراشتنم بود، زمام این سرای به احدی از مردان خویش نسپرده بودم تا اینک که به تو میسپارم.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 12/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lea.
117 reviews300 followers
February 26, 2022
“The gap of danger where the demon waits is still unknown to you. Seek it if you dare.”

Written by an Unknown author, Beowulf is the most famous work of Old English literature - a mythical epic that influenced J.R.R. Tolkien and the whole fantasy genre. Beowulf is a heroic epic about a Germanic hero, a Christian vision of a pagan heroic life - in which epic hyperbole exaggerates stories of individuals and creates a cult of warrior heroism. In a lot of ways, Beowulf is an ultimate monomyth as the story evokes the primordial myth, the myth of the process of individual mental growth and the development of universal human consciousness. In the story the hero Beowulf is confronted with three archetypes in the process of individuation - Shadow, Anima and Self - in Grendel, Grendel's mother and dragon. Beowulf's confrontation with these three figures embodies the Jungian stages of life in the context of his special role within the community. So the myth can seen as the myth of male initiation and individuation.

The poem is written in complex Old English with Anglo-Saxon accent alliterations, inversions and paraphrastic repetition. The composition is disordered in excessive repetition, slowness, interruption in the course of action. It consists of numerous episodes, inserted stories as the poet interrupts the unique course of action. That accentuates the notion that the passage of time is a mere human illusion as the past, present and future are inseparable parts - it is difficult to find a thread of wisdom in present without looking at the past and the future at the same time. Digressions should not be interpreted as vagueness but as variations of the basic theme - emphasizing the opposite in paraphrastic, comparative sentences, alluding to the fact that everything in nature, history, and human psyche comes in the pair of opposites.

The epic is set in Scandinavia in the 6th century and the plot is a combination of fiction, myth and history of the age of patriarchal warrior aristocracies. Lévi-Strauss’s question —“Where does history end and where does mythology start?”—is worth posing for its bearing on the poem’s main plot, as we can see in the illustrated edition, a lot of archelogical findinds corresponded with poem's story.

The atmosphere of the poem is dignified and gloomy, and without the sun and without the serenity the cold wind of the northern seas blows from the poet's verses, dark clouds and fogs. In that harsh climate live warlike tribes whose reality is harsh and bloody. Beowulf is a symbol, a hero that sublimates their moral values.
Beowulf's name is formed from the combination of words; bees and wulf; it means the enemy of bees, which is a metaphorical name for a bear. Beowulf has animal strength, in the hands (bear paws) and body as the animal components of Beowulf allude to shamanic traits. Interestingly, the reader never finds out how does Beowulf or any of the monsters look like; instead there are detailed descriptions of armor, like a mask that secretly shows the essence. Beowulf and monsters are more determined by what they do than by their physicality as they are characters of embodied ideas.

The myth is often considered a Christian allegory with pagan elements as it represents a fusion of Christianity and Germanic paganism as both elements are interwoven in the story. The Pagan Vikings saw themselves as prisoners of inevitable fate - there was no consolation that the afterlife would bring a reward to the righteous. The Pagan gods were themselves victims of the inevitable Destiny, so even man had no choice but to make peace with it. But the man did not reconcile with his transience, he sought to leave a trace among the living and therefore fought to gain the fame that will preserve his name from oblivion. This further strengthened heroism as a basic life principle. Individualism could hardly be expressed because the tribal spirit tended to conform everyone to the same ideal mold.
Christianization of Scandinavians in the 9th century was difficult because it was hard to reconcile the ideals of tribal morality - aggression, cruelty, boastfulness - with the demands of Christianity - gentleness and modesty. The Biblical idea of the devil in the poem summarizes the creations of Pagan imagination, various evil beings, monsters and ghosts.

The Christian symbolism is prominent in the poem. The story starts with the child who comes in the basket alluding to the Christian archetype of the child who saves, transforms and brings hope as, for instance, Jesus and Moses did. Also, the royal family tree is laid out as the Jesus family tree is described in the prologue of the Gospel of Matthew. The Danes royal family and blood ties are the cause of loyalty and fidelity - but the inheritance is as burdened as Jesus', as many of the family members are sinful murderers of their relatives. Later on, the monster Grendel is continuously described as Cain's descendant, jealous of people celebrating in the court regardless of sin, and he could attack them because they had the same inheritance.
The Hall of Heorot is akin to Solomon's temple in maintaining the order of society and civilization against chaos- it represents the good values of the community - security, prosperity, togetherness, abundance, honor, hospitality, heritage, protection. The number 12 is constantly repeated throughout the poem and Beowulf comes in the company of 12 warriors mirroring the 12 apostles, which all fled when the hour of danger stroke and in Beowulf's (Jesus') death - only one disciple remained - Wiglaf (John).
Hrothgar represents the archetype of the good King and Father who does not know about the Christian God, who is not capable of protecting his kingdom from the evil lurking in the kingdom - he needs the archetype of hero and warrior, as his ego is facing usurpation of the shadow by the monster Grendel.

Grendel can be seen as Shadow on a personal (Beowulf’s and Hrothgar’s) and collective level (of community, Heorot halls). He is also a negative Animus, destructive aspect of Father and King, a kind of Oedipal Monster, the Negative, Tyrannical Aspect of a Father Eating His Children - the opposite, mirror image of Hrothgar. Grendel is portrayed as a hellish, cursed creature - a "monster man" and an "anti-hero", a descendant of Cain, the primordial murderer of the genus, cursed and excluded from human society. He is a symbol of evil and jealousy, blood revenge, a mockery of humanity, a tormented by the sound of joy rising from Hrothgar's hall. He lives in a swamp, a traditional final resting place for those who "pervert their person". Grendel is the shadow of a warrior society, a wild, bloodthirsty “creature” that kills people in the dark. He is the antithesis of a warrior who guards the heritage of culture against the destruction of nature and the destructive attacks of neighboring tribes. Grendel secretly destroys the fabric of society, seemingly from the outside, but in fact from within, from the seed of bloodthirst and death wish lingering in every man.

Beowulf much like missionary Paul comes from the sea and brings peace and salvation to a society burdened with evil within and without, the evil of death revenge, murders of relatives, and monsters. He is a missionary, a both Hero and Saviour figure, who brings faith in the true God and peace, and he also comes to destroy, expel evil. He saves pagan Danes by his strength that is more than the ability to defeat monsters - he has the ability to control his instincts and urges and not do morally wrong actions. Unlike impotent hero Unfarth, he's not a killer of his own kin.
Beowulf performs the act of symbolical castration on Grendel in tearing his arm and later severing his head. Grendel's death shares a lot with the great myths of beheading and dismemberment in mythology that are in resonance with the creation of the world and the establishment of culture.

After Grendel, Beowulf is confronted with Grendel’s Mother as he has to be confronted with the feminine shadow aspect in the Devouring Mother, the opposite of the good queen. Grendel’s mother is a hideous man-eating female dwelling outside the pale of civilization and thus corresponds closely to the fairy-tale image of the witch. In Jungian terms, the symbolic figure of the witch is a negative manifestation of the projection generating archetype known as the anima. The anima represents the contra-sexual nature of a man, and by analogy, the feminine ideal of a male-dominated society. Grendel’s mother is fueled by vengeance in irrational emotionalism and sentimentality and she works out of the sadness of losing Grendel. Irrational emotionalism and sentimentality are the chief “bad attributes” of the feminine archetype in modern western culture and were likely to have been the same 1500 years ago.

In his quests Beowulf cannot use earthly methods, his famous swords fail him every time, he can on rely on what he was born with, his strength of a body, soul and spirit. Beowulf wins because he is anointed by God, mirroring Biblical stories, the evil must be defeated on a spiritual level, by faith in God, and the victory comes because God willed so.

Dragon is the ultimate and final monster Beowulf is confronted with. Unlike Grendel and his mother, the dragon's origin does not lead to Cain - he is not a mockery of humanity, it is something outside the human realm, a primordial being. Trans-personal in nature, the dragon is not merely a projection of psychic content, but power in itself, far beyond the limited sphere of Beowulf's ego, which lies beyond the relatively shallow depths of mind and nature he has mastered. He symbolizes the Uroboros - completeness of the psyche and the development of the hero that ends in death, the integrity of life and death itself - the place of transformation and enlightenment, finality. The hero is an archetype that must die and the dragon is the evil that will kill him, as history repeats the previously announced Sigemund's story.

In constant premonitions of Beowulf's death and demise, there is both Pagan determinism and Christian acknowledgment of death. Unlike the Antic heroes who strived and received immortality with their deeds, Beowulf is a Pagan and Christian hero, that, like Jesus, has to end his heroic life in death - the hero is the one who repeats the work of Christ. The Pagan fatality and tragedy are prominent as Beowulf in the end did all in vain, he did not succeed in saving the Geates, as the other nations that will destroy Geate after his death. Neither Pagan religion nor Christianity saved the Geates - the dragon's treasure that Beowulf winned by his death will not save a nation and is actually useless.
In a lot of ways, Beowulf’s death signals the end of a Heroic Age. The dragon is transpersonal nature, the evil that overwhelms even the hero, a fate that no man can escape - the diminishment of all his good deeds, the triumph of destruction.

”For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark.”

As a myth of initiation, Beowulf has a spiritual value that transcends the needs and imagery of any given historical epoch. Beowulf is a man that mastered “five Giants,” the senses, and then the “sea serpents:” his emotional and sexual nature. Beowulf is also a symbol of a hero that undergoes his psychological transformation and therefore can bring peace to society and culture, and restore order. In times of crises, wars, and monsters, stories like Beowulf’s are needed as they set us to our own quest of finding the psychic wholeness and balance - the act of rebellion against the eternal chaos of the world.

“So every man should act, be at hand when needed; but now, for the king, this would be the last of his many labours and triumphs in the world.“
Profile Image for AJ Griffin.
63 reviews434 followers
July 3, 2007
If I wrote a list of things I don't give a shit about, I'm pretty sure "some big fucking monster whose name sounds like a word for the area between my balls and my ass that attacks alcoholics and is eventually slain by some asshole, told entirely in some ancient form of English that I don't understand" would be near the top (for the record, run-on sentences would not. Judge not).

This was one of the first books I was ever assigned to read in high school, and I'm pretty sure it was the catalyst to my never caring about school again.

God do I hate this fucking book.
Profile Image for James.
Author 18 books3,533 followers
April 23, 2017
Beowulf is thought to have been written around the year 1000 AD, give or take a century. And the author is the extremely famous, very popular and world renowned writer... Unknown. Got you there, didn't I? LOL Probably not... if you're on Goodreads and studied American or English literature, you probably already knew this is one of the most famous works without an author.

It was first really published in the 1800s, using the Old English version where many have translated it, but there are still some blurry parts of the story. Essentially, a monster named Grendel hunts and kills the people of a town and many warriors have died fighting against it. Beowulf tackles the monster and its mother, and well... you're gonna have to read it to find out. Or if you can't get yourself there, watch the Star Trek or Simpsons episode which does a nice little rendition.

Here's the reasons why you should take a look at the story:

1. Many famous writers and editors have attempted to translate the story into more modern English. Tolkien is a famous example. Each reader has his/her own interpretation. So pick one whose style you like and go to that version.

2. It's a translated book... other than the famous Greek literature we read in high school, it's one of the earliest translated forms of literature. Makes it worth taking a gander.

3. It's a really great story. Monster terrorizes people. Someone strong steps up to fight it. There is a victory of sorts. Momma wants revenge. So... how many books have you read that have just copied... I mean borrowed... that entire plot?

4. There is a lot of beauty in the prose and the verse, and when you hear the words describe the creatures, it's a bit like fantasy.

Here's why you may not like it:

1. It's long.

2. It's hard to understand at some points.

3. It's 1000 years old and you just like modern stories.

My advice... pick a passage or two, read for 30 minutes and decide if it's something you want to read more of. But you should always give a chance to some part of our early heritage and culture. Right?

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
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Profile Image for Brett C.
783 reviews157 followers
May 2, 2021
This is a reread from my high school days. It was fun to reengage with this epic poem. This particular edition is bilingual with Old English on the left and modern English on the right. So technically that cuts the book length in half but does not take away from the story. The poem blends lots of elements of fictional, historical reference, and elements of legends. There are even Biblical allusions of Cain, making him a monster “pained by the sounds of joy.” Beowulf, son Ecgtheow, goes to aid of Hrothgar the Danish king. The Danes are being tormented by a monster, Grendel, who stalks a great hall and kills many men. This epic poem includes the entire tale of Grendel, the monster’s mother, and the fighting of the dragon. I was able to see how Tolkien used the sleeping dragon, underground layer, and cunning thief stealing from the dragon’s hoard of loot.

I enjoyed reading this overall. Sometimes I lost focus and found it rambling but some part kept me engaged. This is considered the most important Old English poem and that’s probably why everyone has to read it in school. Thanks!
Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 3 books857 followers
June 30, 2007
I've just finished reading Beowulf for the third time! But lo, this reading was in the bold and exciting Beowulf: a New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney! And what a difference a day makes - Heaney is unstoppable! Rather, he makes Beowulf unstoppable. Unstoppable in his ability to pound you in the face with his manliness and leave you bleeding-but-strangely-desiring-more.

As I said, I've read the epic Anglo-Saxon poem several times now, but usually, I'm trudging through to get to the "good parts" (i.e., Beowulf's three notable feats), but this time, I was taken aback! The whole durned thing was the good parts! What luck! I read it over the space of three days and boy is my voice tired (I have a distinct inability when it comes to facing these sorts of tales - I have to read aloud. And with an accent. And with bluster).

One of the coolest things spicing up this reading (besides Heaney's great translation) was the juxtaposition of the Old English to the translation. As you may know, the only surviving copy of anything close to an original Beowulf is written in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) from 'tween AD 700 and 1000. Now Old English isn't just archaic some King James English with lotsa thees, thous, and forsooths, as many people seem to think. It's the illegitimate birth father of Middle English (which I believe came about sometime after AD 1066) which in turn spawned Modern English. Modern English includes the English used in both Shakespeare and the King James Bible as well as the haphazard trash we sprechen today. In truth, Old English is nearly indecipherable. Below, I've included the first three lines of Beowulf, which are not only a great example of what I'm talking about, but strangely fitting for who I am:

Hwæt wê Gâr-dena in geâr-dagum
Þêod-cyninga Þrym gefrûnon,
hû ðâ æÞelingas ellen fremedon.

Fun, no? Well... so you know, that translates as:

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.

Hoorah! Hoorah for the Spear-Danes! And...*ahem* ..who cares if by the time Beowulf comes around their busy getting their butts eaten off by Grendel. Hoorah for the Spear-Danes! Hoorah for Gâr-dena (and doesn't that sound like a wonderful name for a city?).

In any case, it was fun to look over at the Anglo-Saxon to see if I could decipher any of it. Alas, my attention was so rapt upon the tale that I didn't take as much time to peruse the original as I would have liked. But since I bought it, I should be afforded plenty of time for such trivialities.
Profile Image for Loretta.
297 reviews155 followers
April 17, 2018
I was always quite intimidated by this book. I'm not sure why. Now I realize that my being intimidated by a book, especially by this one, was just ridiculous. What a fabulous, fabulous book! I just loved everything about it! The poetry, the story! Five big ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️'s all the way!
Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 2 books45k followers
October 13, 2019
I really don’t think I started Beowulf in the right mindset, and for the first 20 pages I actually wasn’t enjoying it very much at all.
I think this was because I started reading with certain expectations — namely in terms of style, for I am familiar with Seamus Heaney’s poetry. I was put off because, I think, it was not what I was anticipating. There were only a few lines whose construction I really stopped to pool over.
But — game changer — then I listened to the piece read in the original old English, and started reading it aloud to myself. And my appreciation of the language was completely reformed.
My favourite line — “the world’s candle warmed them” (line 1966)
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,326 followers
March 1, 2019
Beowulf and his drunk meathead friends are having a loud party, and their neighbor Grendel comes over like hey guys, can you keep it down? - that's funny because actually he eats a bunch of them - and then Beowulf tears his fuckin' arm off and nails it above his door, and honestly nobody really comes out of this looking like a good neighbor, do they?

So like Humbaba in Gilgamesh, or Odysseus’s cyclops, Polyphemus, we have a monster of questionable monstrosity. Because Beowulf started this fight, right? And then Grendel's mom gets involved, as moms do, and then later there's a dragon.

It’s become fashionable lately to claim that the Dark Ages weren’t so dark. There were great civilizations like the Celts and the Golden Age of Islam; there was extensive trade; things weren’t so bad. This is not entirely true at the best of times - seriously, this was a shitty thousand years full of wars and plagues - but it’s especially untrue when we're talking about literature. Between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance in the 1300s, there is not much good stuff to read.

So the stoic, tragic, beautiful Beowulf is one of the few high points in this whole millenium. Here's what it sounds like. Check out the alliteration - that’s when words start with the same letter; in most Old English stuff, like this and the awesome Gawain, they didn’t use rhyme so much. They depended on alliteration.

(By the way, if you want a challenge, look on Youtube for someone reciting Beowulf without holding a sword. The crossover between fans of this poem and fans of Dungeons & Dragons is pretty heavy.)

I've read Beowulf like five times now. This was my second time through Heaney's translation, which (like Armitage's translation of Gawain and the Green Knight) conveniently gives the original text on the left side and Heaney's translation on the right. That's super cool, and this is the exact translation that appears on The Toast's list of books that literally all white men own, so I guess that tells you whether you should buy it or just borrow it from some white dude you know. You can come over any time, I got a nice living room.

Here it is, with a custom bookmark my friend Frank whipped up special on his 3D printer, it's Grendel's arm.

(More of my custom bookmark project here)
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 16 books1,185 followers
July 19, 2019
What an epic should be... a valiant epic that will relish the joys of poetry at the hands of the translator who has made it possible once more. I enjoyed reading it many times but a free-fall into the chasm of poetry was even more interesting and enlightening.
Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,788 reviews501 followers
October 9, 2020
I had to read Beowulf for my British Literature class, and my goodness was it one excellent read! I had heard vicious rumours that Beowulf was difficult to read and rather boring, and they were all wrong. I found Beowulf to be an exciting epic that grasped my attention better than Games of Thrones or the Witcher ever did. I was truly blown away and really loved reading into this story. It did help having an English Professor walking us through some of it, but either way it was marvellous.

Beowulf is a warrior coming to Hrothgar's aid. The wicked monster Grendel has plagued Heorot (Hrothgar's famous mead hall) for twelve long years. Nothing has gotten rid of the vicious monster who was tormenting them and killing off all the Spear-Dane men he could find. Good ole Beowulf comes around and slaughters him, has to deal with Grendel's Mother and finally has to fight a dragon. Can you get any more epic than that?

I can see how this poem influenced a lot of today's modern stories. It's truly epic and really interesting. I really liked this poem and want to read more like it. It's a truly marvellous classic.

Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,581 followers
July 18, 2007
There are different ways to translate, and it comes down to what you want to get across. Most creative authors have such a strong voice and sense of story that they will overwhelm the original author. As Bentley wrote of Pope's Iliad: "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer".

Sometimes this sort of indirect translation is useful in itself, such as during the transition of the Renaissance from Italy to Britain. Many of the British poets rewrote Italian sonnets into English, and though the line of descent was unquestionable, the progeny was it's own work. Another example might be the digestion of Wuxia and Anime into films such as Tarantino's or The Matrix (though Tarantino's sense of propriety is often suspect).

However, in these cases, we can hardly call the new work a translation of the old. You are not experiencing the old work but the inspiration it has wrought. Beowulf is just this sort of translation, capturing the excitement and passion of the story, but obliterating the details which make the work interesting to students of history or literary theory.

Heaney's translation is a fun, rollicking epic, able to draw in even uninitiated students, which is no doubt why it is now included in Norton. Unfortunately, it is not a particularly useful tool for teaching the importance of the original work. Heaney severs many connections to the unique world of Beowulf.

As the only surviving epic from its time, place, and tradition, Beowulf is a unique vision into a pre-Christian culture outside of the Mediterranean. Though the poem shows Christian revisions, these stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the work, and can usually be easily excised, unlike many pervasive Christian impositions on the 'pagan' cultures.

Heaney is not a philologist nor a historian, but a popular poet. He doesn't have the background for conscientious translation, and the clearest sign that his translation is haphazard is the fact that there are no footnotes explaining the difficult decisions that most translators have to make in every line. Heaney also loses much of the alliteration and appositives that marked the artistry of the original.

A Beowulf that can exist without context is a Beowulf that has well and truly been separated from its past. Perhaps his translation is suitable for an introduction to the work, but a good professor should be able to teach the original without much difficulty.

Then again, perhaps the inclusion of this version in college classes has to do with the fact that college is no longer the path for scholars, but has been given the same equality treatment as art and poetry. College is now meant for your average, half-literate frat boy who only wants a BA so he can be a mid-level retail manager.

Heaney's translation certainly suits for them, since it is the easiest version of the story this side of a digital Angelina. It's fun and exciting, certainly worth a read, but doesn't stand up as a translation.
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
157 reviews307 followers
June 2, 2021
Michael Alexander’s Beowulf - 4 ⭐
Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf - 3.5 ⭐

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon Epic poem and the greatest surviving work of literature in Old English. It survives as one part of a manuscript known as the Nowell Codex, copied in the early 11th Century by an unknown scribe. The age of the original composition is also unknown. I read Michael Alexander’s translation in-tandem with that of Seamus Heaney, both are unabridged Verse Translations, so this will be a comparative review of sorts.

The tale itself is set in the North-Germanic or Scandinavian region during the 5th and 6th centuries. Though written for a Christian audience, the subjects of the story are “Pagans”. Predominantly the Danes, victims of 12 Years of nightly terror wrought by the demonic abomination Grendel, and the Geats, to whom their would-be hero Beowulf belongs. Bolstered it is, however, by the inclusion of the Swedes, Jutes, Angles, Frisians, Franks and Heathobards and the storied connections, rarely amicable, between the various tribes.

It’s an era of patriarchal warrior aristocracies. Kings are respected for their “open-handedness” and generosity in gift-giving; subjects are prized and rewarded, above all, for their Bravery and Heroism, characteristics which Beowulf exemplifies above all others. Women, even Queens, are reduced to glorified mead wenches and “companions of the bed” as we see with both Hygd and Wealhtheow. Daughters of Kings, like Hildeburgh or Freawaru, are little more than peace-offerings between rival tribes, given without care for how one might treat the daughter of their enemy. Here’s a Hot Tip: If you’re a woman and time-travel becomes possible, don’t push the fucking Rewind button!! There’s nothing remotely good waiting for you there. I don’t give a shit about your Highlander Fantasies either, forget about it! Where was I? Oh yeah.

Great importance is placed on the Lineage of men. Kingships, hoards of treasure and legendary weapons, bearing the names of their original owners, are inherited and gifted by the Will of the King as proof of one’s value and a display of Brotherhood/Kinship. The ”Pagan” tribes of the time lived in perpetual states of nervous tension, slights to their ancestors unforgotten, always looking for a chance for reciprocation or, more accurately, retaliation and so the cycle of revenge, like life and death symbolised by the Worm Ouroboros, was eternally renewed. All of this is woven beautifully into what is essentially a Hero Story in which Beowulf must battle 3 monstrous creatures, across many years, in defence of both the Danes and his eventual subjects, the Geats.

It’s evident to me now that most all classics of this nature contain, essentially, an entire analysis of the text in the introduction, meaning if you’re looking to read this purely as a fantastical tale unknown to you, you might consider leaving the introduction until after completing the text. If, however, you’re reading with an equal interest in the story’s historical significance, then the information shared in the introduction can actually add to the reading experience.

Wordsmithery vs. Wordsorcery is really what it comes down to when comparing the two translations. Both are great but Alexander wins the day for a number of reasons, in my opinion.
Heaney’s translation is the more accessible of the two. Much more direct and modern in both it’s phrasing and use of words. Heaney himself comments in the intro on straying from the strictest rules of the poem, stating, "when these breaches occur, it is because I prefer to let the natural 'sound of sense' prevail over the demands of the convention" and that he has "a prejudice in favour of forthright delivery". That’s absolutely fine and I think it gives Heaney’s version a more universal appeal but, at the same time, I feel that it loses some of the magic that Alexander's evokes having stuck more strictly to the conventions of the original poem. He also includes an excellent section in the introduction on his personal experience translating the text and adds a charming Celtic sheen to the Classic experience.

Where Heaney’s translation has done a great job re-popularizing this classic and may garner greater popularity in the Modern market, Alexander’s translation offers what I believe to be, in my entirely unqualified opinion, a closer-to-original experience and a more accurate interpretation of what the original Anglo-Saxon tale would sound like translated into modern English. Heaney was a fantastic Wordsmith; I don’t want to diminish his work in any way. If you wish to read his translation, excellent choice, you’ll love it! I just found something more “Old English” in Alexander’s work and was drawn to that. On top of this, Alexander’s Penguin Classics edition has a far more comprehensive intro, at about 50 pages, discussing central themes of the work, “its place among epic poems, the history of its publication and reception, and issues of translation”. It also includes a set of Genealogical tables (as does Heaney), a handy map, extensive notes on all important passages and an Index of Proper Nouns. These might just sound like pointless add-ons but they really are essential.

They’re essential because, Heroes in a half-shell, brothers and sisters! There are some names to wrap your head around here! Just so you can get an idea:

Hygelac, King of the Geats, is the Son of Hrethel, Brother of Herebeald and Hathkin and Father to Heardred.
Hrothgar, King of the Danes, is the Son of Healfdane, Brother of Heorogar and Halga, and Father to Hrethric and Hrothmund.
Heoroward is the Son of Heorogar
Hrothulf is the Son of Halga

Still with me? Didn’t think so. Couple more things.

Beowulf is the son of Edgetheow but make sure not to confuse Beow (Beowulf the Dane) with our Hero, Beowulf the Geat.

Apart from that you should be fine unless, like me, you read 2 translations in tandem. Then you’ll come across different translations of the same name… Good luck!

”Now the flames shall grow dark
And the fire destroy the sustainer of the warriors
Who often endured the iron shower
When, string-driven, the storm of arrows
Sang over shield-wall, and the shaft did its work,
Sped by its feathers, furthered the arrow-head.”
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
524 reviews117 followers
January 22, 2021
I listened to the Seamus Heaney recording on a dark stormy day. It was fantastic.
Profile Image for Simona B.
887 reviews2,973 followers
January 28, 2021
"But generally the spear
is prompt to retaliate when a prince is killed,
no matter how admirable the bride may be."

I'm astounded by the complexity of this poem. It makes me wish my Germanic philology course lasted forever so we could analyse it word by word, slowly, meticulously, languidly. This is why I personally suggest reading it with the help of a critical guide if you haven't the faintest idea what the poem is about, when and in what cultural context it was written, about the debate about it being Christian or not, etc.
If you're willing to do some research by yourself, I promise you're in for a treat.
Profile Image for Michael.
16 reviews3 followers
May 21, 2008
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.)
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,851 reviews16.4k followers
August 18, 2020
Like many readers, I first encountered Beowulf as a young student, then later as a college student. The writing seemed old and tired and, though the subject was adventurous, having to read to it in the context of an English lesson drained most of the life out of it.

Seamus Heaney’s 2001 translation from the Old English breathes some new life into the ancient tale. We still have Grendel and his mom and later the dragon when our hero is an old king and not long for this world, but Heaney’s prose is colorful and vibrant. I was especially intrigued by the writing from the perspective of a Christian when it seemed plain that the tale being described was pre-Christian.

This work also features an afterward by Heaney that goes into detail about how and why Beowulf is still important. It was also illuminating to learn that Tolkien was very much inspired by the older text, not sure that I knew that before, thanks Seamus!

Good times!

Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
446 reviews4,402 followers
June 2, 2019
I don't know who this "anonymous" guy is but he sure does write some fantastic books. I'll be sure to check his books his other stuff in future.

Image result for beowulf artwork
Profile Image for Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨.
1,062 reviews615 followers
May 10, 2019

✨ Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019✨
✨✨A book set in Scandinavia✨✨

Now. I might be biased here - I am Danish and most of this story takes place in Denmark - but this was truly an epos! I am not usually into poems, but this one actually moved me.

"[...] Beowulf and fear were strangers; he stood ready to dive into battle."


Writing: It is not easy to make a battle sound almost beautiful, but the lyrical flow of the writing in this poem actually pulls it off. More than once I found myself rereading a stanza simply because the writing touched something in me.

"In the darkness, the horrible shrieks of pain
And defeat, the tears torn out of Grendel's
Taut throat, hell's captive caught in the arms
Of him who of all the men on earth
Was the strongest."

The epicness: There are so many things about this that makes it truly epic. The battles, the bloodshed, the heraldry, the monsters! Beowulf is a hero of the same ilk as Theseus, Hercules and Ragnarok.

"So fame comes to the men who mean to win it and care about nothing else."

The mystery: This actually lies outside the actual story of the poem and is more about the history of the poem. Because there is so much mystery surrounding the origin of this story. The text was discovered in a monastery in the 16th century but was probably written around 700 AD by an unknown author in England, who somehow had knowledge of Danish and Swedish (Geat) legends and who tried to recast them in a Christian narrative. I might be the only one on this one, but this mystery really captivates me. Might just be because I am an historian...

Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,287 reviews730 followers
December 30, 2015
I doubt I would have liked this so much had The Lord of Rings not been such an essential part of me so early on. Books are the one and only thing that has been mine and my own since the beginning, and the rings, the dragons, the songs of days long lost and the coming of the end have filled the place of me that religion never could. While there is much to critique, it has sunk so deeply into my resonance that the best I can do is hope that everyone has such a refuge in their heritage as I do in English. Beowulf played the strings of Tolkien, Tolkien played the strings of me, and the most I can do is seek out the same in worlds beyond the same old, same old.

Beyond my nostalgic tone, there is the text itself with its strong rhythm, unusual self-reflexivity, and a future that looks back onto the crossroads with relief and a yearning. They are old, these crossroads, traversing a time when bloodshed belonged to a single self and the conquering strain had not yet set the tone for my postcolonial times. It is a time popularly known as the Dark Ages, a naming that shows how little use there is in generic categorizations that ignore both the frame of reference and the multifarious qualities of "Dark." True, there is neither Emperor nor Empire, but in its place is loyalty, blood, and a breed of mythos that has lost none of its awful potency in the age of climate change and drones.

Others have likely spoken about the lack of women, and it bears mentioning how few of them were worthy of a name in the family trees of the appendix. While good to keep an eye on during general reading, this text is an old and singular survivor of burning and religious condemnation, and what merits it would not have had it been written today will be granted. Much like my recently read 'Oroonoko,' it is a window to the past, and while much referred in academia to the detriment of less European texts, it also sparks a wondering thought: what else was going on in the world back then? What other voices have made their long and torturous way to the present conscious, and how many have yet to be given their due?

My modern age has given me much in terms of technology, but still it malingers in Eurocentric repetition. I doubt I shall live to see the day when Beowulf is joined by twenty or more of its polytongued siblings in halls that give each the credit they're due, but I can begin making my own way towards those waiting, not so foreign strings.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
Want to read
January 25, 2022
Oh, how I wish I had written this poem, which I found reproduced in Henry Beard's Poetry for Cats!

Grendel's Dog, from BEOCAT

by the Old English Epic's Unknown Author's Cat*

Brave Beocat, | brood-kit of Ecgthmeow,
Hearth-pet of Hrothgar | in whose high halls
He mauled without mercy | many fat mice,
Night did not find napping | nor snack-feasting.
The wary war-cat, | whiskered paw-wielder,
Bearer of the burnished neck-belt | gold-braided collar band,
Feller of fleas | fatal, too to ticks,
The work of wonder-smiths, | woven with witches’ charms,
Sat upon the throne-seat | his ears like sword-points
Upraised, sharp-tipped, | listening for peril-sounds,
When he heard from the moor-hill | howls of the hell-hound,
Gruesome hunger-grunts | of Grendel’s Great Dane,
Deadly doom-mutt, | dread demon-dog.
Then boasted Beocat, | noble battle-kitten,
Bane of barrow-bunnies, | bold seeker of nest-booty:
“If hand of man unhasped | the heavy hall-door
And freed me to frolic forth | to fight the fang-bearing fiend,
I would lay the whelpling low | with lethal claw-blows;
Fur would fly | and the foe would taste death-food.
But resounding snooze-noise, | stern slumber-thunder,
Nose-music of men snoring | mead-hammered in the wine-hall,
Fills me with sorrow-feeling | for Fate does not see fit
To send some fingered folk | to lift the firm-fastened latch
That I might go grapple | with the grim ghoul-pooch.”
Thus spoke the mouse-shredder, | hunter of hall-pests,
Short-haired Hrodent-slayer, | greatest of the pussy-Geats.

* Modern English verse translation by the Editor's Cat.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,943 followers
August 30, 2013

Could not consider the experience complete without reading Heaney's acclaimed translation. The acclaim was well deserved. This version was much easier to read, less choked by stylistic anachronisms and more alive in every sense. Gummere's translation has an elegance and presence that intimidates and exalts the reading but Heaney brings it home, makes it as familiar as Homer's epics and somehow makes us at ease with the strange manes and the stranger tides.
Profile Image for may ➹.
471 reviews1,898 followers
September 16, 2021
very interesting history, very boring story… if I ever met Beowulf in real life I would punch him the moment he opened his mouth!
Profile Image for Francisco.
Author 20 books54.9k followers
July 21, 2016
Beowulf - you might have encountered it at a college English class. Your teacher may have written a few of the original lines of Old English on the blackboard and had you try to decipher them. There was probably lots of history taught in that class: the poem was written by an Anglo-Saxon poet some time between the 8th and the 11th century. The poet, a Christian, wrote about events taking place in "heathen" England two or three centuries before. If your English class was anything like mine there was probably a lot of analysis about the "mixture" of world views - the Christian and the Germanic. And all along, you were probably hoping that the teacher move on to something more exciting. But here's why you may want to give this particular classic another try. First, chances are that the Seamus Heaney's translation will convey to you the essential beauty of the poem in a way that other translations couldn't do. And by "essential" I mean that sometimes it takes a poet's sensibility to intuit the right and clear presentation of another poet's meaning. It is not a case of avoiding the literal and the precise but rather the acknowledgment that translation is an art that requires not only scholarship but also creativity and intuition. All you have to do is read Seamus Heaney's introduction and you will know almost immediately that you are in the presence of a man of extraordinary gifts who has taken great care to present you with a work of everlasting beauty. I am not going to tell you about the "plot" of the poem because there is no "plot" other than three battles between a hero and evil represented in various forms. The fact that these representations of evil are "fantastic" only adds to the extraordinariness of this early work. One of the greatest contributions of this edition by Norton is the inclusion of the most incisive critical essays on the poem, including, J.R.R. Tolkien's ground breaking, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics where Tolkien takes on the countless critics who have lamented the poet's decision to portray conflicts between a man and monsters and dragons in lieu of more historical or more realistic encounters between humans. (Tolkien's essay, by the way, will also give you a greater understanding of why Tolkien chose to do certain things in The Lord of the Rings) What Tolkien will remind you of and what you will feel when you read the poem again is that the story of a man fighting battles he will eventually lose but which he must nevertheless continue fighting is as heart-enhancing today as it was in the eight century. Courage, after all, has little to do with the success of the fight.
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316 reviews48 followers
February 3, 2022
Even with translation, this was still a bit of a brain tangler for me!
The translations helped, making it a pretty good read. But what I thought would be an interesting 2 hour book, turned into an interesting 4 hour lesson in literature! But it was well worth it!
I can't wait to start Grendel!
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