Beowulf


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Beowulf prepares himself for battle; he is presented with a sword, Hrunting, by a warrior called Unferth, one of the Danes who had most vocally doubted Beowulf's prowess.


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After stipulating to Hrothgar what should be done in the event of his death, Beowulf then dives into the lake to do battle with Grendel's mother. There, he is swiftly detected and attacked by the monster. Unable to harm Beowulf through his armor, Grendel's mother drags him to the bottom of the lake. There, in a cavern containing her son's body and the remains of many men that the two have killed, Grendel's mother and Beowulf wage a ferocious battle.

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Grendel's mother at first gains the upper hand. Hrunting, the sword given to Beowulf by Unferth, proves to be useless against the creature. Grendel's mother moves in for the kill, but again Beowulf is saved by his mighty armor. Beowulf spies a mighty sword lying in a heap in the monster's lair a sword so heavy, the poem tells us, no other warrior could have lifted it and, grasping it quickly, Beowulf beheads Grendel's mother.

Traveling further into the lair, Beowulf discovers Grendel's corpse; he severs the head, and with the heads of the two creatures he returns to Heorot the warriors who had been waiting at the surface of the lake having given up, presuming that Beowulf had been killed. He is given many gifts by an even more grateful Hrothgar, and at last peace returns to Denmark and Heorot. Many years pass after the defeat of Grendel and his mother. Beowulf returns home to Geatland and eventually becomes king of his people.

One day, late in Beowulf's life, a man steals a golden cup from a dragon's lair. When the dragon sees that the cup has been stolen, it leaves its cave in a rage, burning up everything in sight. Beowulf and his warriors come to fight the dragon, but only one of the warriors, a brave young man named Wiglaf, stays to help Beowulf, while his other companions flee in terror. Beowulf, in accordance with the tradition in Anglo-Saxon stories of wyrd, or fate, has a premonition of his death. He realizes that he will not survive his encounter with the dragon, and the poem takes what is perhaps one of its most remarkable turns, describing in a series of extended metaphors Beowulf's feelings as he faces death.

Brave and heroic to the end, Beowulf does not flee; he faces the dragon alone in battle, and manages to kill it with the aid of Wiglaf. Beowulf, however, has suffered serious wounds from the battle; he will be dead within minutes.


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  • Beowulf (Old English version).

Beowulf calls Wiglaf and the other warriors to him; he chastises those who fled—many of them were Beowulf's most trusted veterans and allies, and yet when they faced the dragon they were still afraid—he praises Wiglaf for his courage and loyalty, and then succumbs to his wounds. The dragon's treasure is taken from its lair and buried with Beowulf's ashes. Wiglaf, who is outraged that his fellow Geats let their king go into battle alone, closes the poem with a speech of his own, prophesying the downfall of the Geats for their cowardice, and lamenting the loss of more heroic days.

According to Seamus Heaney's acclaimed translation, Wiglaf speaks as follows:. Beowulf is the longest poem that has come down from Old English, one of the languages ancestral to Modern English. It is seen as a lament for the lost days of heroism and battle, as well as an encomium, a song of praise, for a great, lost king. It begins thus:. Old English poetry such as Beowulf is very different from modern poetry. It was probably recited, for few people at that time were able to read.

Instead of pairs of lines joined by rhyme, Anglo-Saxon poets typically used alliteration—a technique in which the first half of the line the a-verse is linked to the second half the b-verse through similarity in sounds at the beginnings, rather than the endings, of words, as follows:. Old English poetry does not have meter in the traditional sense. Most other poetry, including the poetry of the medieval ages as well as most of the classical Latin and Greek poems, follow strict forms where the number of accented and unaccented syllables is always the same. In Anglo-Saxon poetry, however, the syllables are not counted at all; some of the lines in Beowulf run quite long while others are short.

Beowulf (Old English version) by Anonymous | Poetry Foundation

The meter of the poem is defined by its accented syllables only: Each line contains four accented syllables, three of which alliterate and one of which does not. In addition to this, each line includes a pause, called a caesura the term is Latin, not Germanic ; although other forms of poetry, particularly Latin, also include such a pause, the caesura in Beowulf and in Anglo-Saxon poetry in general is irregular; it does not always fall at the middle of the line. All these technical aspects make Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poetry rather difficult to translate, with some authors taking more liberties than others with the form.

The rhythm of Anglo-Saxon poetry, when read aloud properly, is altogether different from the more regular rhythms of most other poetry. Due to the focus on alliteration rather than rhyme and the rather harsh consonants of Old English in general, Beowulf reads quite forcefully in the original, sounding almost more like a battle-chant than a poem.

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This, of course, is consistent with the rather war-like tone of the poem, and of the culture of the Anglo-Saxons in general. Beowulf also makes liberal use of kennings, an Old English technique of metaphor, where simple things are referred to by complicated names. For example, a poet might call the sea the "whale-road"; a king might be called a "ring-giver"; and a battle might be a "blade-dance. The name Beowulf itself may be a kenning for "bee-hunter," that is, for "bear. The style is quite similar to other ancient poetry, most notably Homer , whose Homeric formulas repeated words and phrases used to describe certain characters and objects that vary based on the length of the line are remarkably similar to Old English kennings.

It may be easier to understand the poem's verse-forms through a more substantial sample. Here follows a quotation from an early scene, where Beowulf first introduces himself by name:. And Chaucer, but that might have been partly because I thought it was hilarious that we were studying such bawdy material at BYU. 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 forward and was absolutely entranced by its brilliance.

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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. 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 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 forward more than I love the actual Beowulf poem. I need to check out J. Tolkien's Beowulf translation one of these days. View all 31 comments.

Jul 02, AJ Griffin rated it did not like it Recommends it for: assholes, dickless pieces of shit, dumbfucks, douchebags. 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 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.

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. View all 62 comments. Mar 11, James rated it really liked it Shelves: 1-fiction , 4-written-preth-century. Beowulf is thought to have been written around the year AD, give or take a century. And the author is the extremely famous, very popular and world renowned writer Got you there, didn't I?

LOL Probably not It was first really published in the s, using the Old English version where many have translated it, but there are still so Beowulf is thought to have been written around the year AD, give or take a century. It was first really published in the s, 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 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. So pick one whose style you like and go to that version. It's a translated book Makes it worth taking a gander.

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Beowulf (modern English translation)

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. I mean borrowed 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.

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