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review 2018-10-12 04:15
Beowulf (Audiobook)
Beowulf - R.K. Gordon,Unknown,Robertson Dean

The only thing I knew about Beowulf was the three-episode arc on Xena that dealt with the legend in their own special Xena way. Then there was that weird episode of Star Trek: Voyager, which pretty describes every episode of that show, but it's the one where the doctor is Beowulf. So I've been meaning to read the original - or as close to the original as we can get - for years now.

 

The prose is lush and descriptive with a minimal use of words, and Robertson Dean did a great job performing the piece. It was bit hard to follow though at times, since there a lot of unfamiliar names and many of the words don't mean the same thing they mean nowadays, if we use them at all. I'm definitely going to have to read this with my own eyeballs one day. I'm sure I'll get more out of it when I do.

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review 2018-01-13 02:07
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney,Anonymous

The oldest epic poem in English follows the feats of its titular protagonist over the course of days and years that made him a legend among his clan, friends, and even enemies.  Beowulf was most likely orally transmitted before finally be written down several centuries later by an unknown Christian hand in Old English that today is readily accessible thanks to the translation by Seamus Heaney.

 

The epic tale of Beowulf begins in the mead hall of King Hrothgar of the Danes which is attacked by the monster Grendel for years.  Beowulf, upon hearing of Hrothgar’s plight, gathers fourteen companions and sails from Geatland to the land of the Danes.  Hrothgar welcomes the Geats and feasts them, attracting the attention of Grendel who attacks.  One of the Geats is killed before the monster and Beowulf battle hand-to-hand which ends with Beowulf ripping off Grendel’s arm.  The monster flees and bleeds out in the swamp-like lair shared with his mother.  Grendel’s mother attacks the mead hall looking for revenge and kills one of Hrothgar’s long-time friends.  Beowulf, his companions, Hrothgar, and others ride to the lair and Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother with a giant’s sword.  After another feast, the Geats return home and fifty years later, Beowulf is King when a dragon guarding a hoard of treasure is awakened by a thief and goes on a rampage.  Beowulf and younger chosen companions go to face the fiery serpent, but all but one of his companions flees after the King goes to face the foe.  However, the one young warrior who stays is able to help the old King defeat the dragon though he his mortally wounded.  It is this young warrior who supervises the dying Beowulf’s last wishes.

 

This is just a rough summary of a 3000 line poem that not only deals with Beowulf’s deeds but also the warrior culture and surprisingly the political insightfulness that many secondary characters talk about throughout the poem.  The poem begins and ends with funerals with warrior kings giving look at pagan worldview even as the unknown Christian poet tried to his best to hide it with references to Christian religiosity.  Although some say that any translation deprived the poem of the Old English rhyme and rhythm, the evolution of English in the thousand years since the poem was first put down in words means that unless one reads the original with a dictionary on hand, this poem would not be read.  Heaney’s translation gives the poem its original epicness while also allowing present day readers a chance to “hear” the story in their own language thus giving it new life.

 

Beowulf is one of the many epic poems that have influenced storytelling over the centuries.  Yet with its Scandinavian pagan oral roots and Christian authorship it is also a melding of two traditions that seem at odds yet together still create a power tale.  Unlike some high school or college course force students to read the Old England or so-so translated excerpts from the poem, Seamus Heaney’s book gives the reader something that will keep their attention and greatly entertain.

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review 2017-12-29 15:48
The Further Adventures of Beowulf: Champion of Middle Earth edited by Brian M. Thomsen
The Further Adventures of Beowulf: Champion of Middle Earth - Brian M. Thomsen,Ed Greenwood,Jeff Grubb

The Further Adventures of Beowulf does what it says on the cover.  The book starts off with an interesting introduction discussing the legacy of the Beowulf text and Middle-Earth.  This is followed by 'The Deeds of Beowulf' translated into prose by John Earle in 1892.  This prose version is rather old fashioned (i.e. stuffy and stilted) and has a few issues with sentence structure, which could have used cleaning up and clarification by an editor, or better yet, the inclusion of a better prose (or verse) version or even just a summary of the Beowulf story. 

 

The book then provides 4 fantasy-tales, by 4 different authors, involving the adventures of Beowulf after his run-in with Grendel.  These 4 fantasy adventures are written in a style that reminds me of a typical pulpy Sword & Sorcery/ Forgotten Realms Novel, but each short story is rather interesting, or at least entertaining.  The 4 further adventures of Beowulf are:

-Beowulf and the City of the Dark elves by Jeff Grubb;

-Beowulf and the Titan by Lynn Abbey;

-Beowulf and the Attack of the Trolls by Wolfgang Baur;

-Beowulf and the Wraith by Ed Greenwood 

 

Each chapter/story is followed by a short (rather pointless and silly) interlude (Beowulf and the master of his Critics) which doesn't fit and could have been left out.  The book also includes a rather useful (especially for scholars of Beowulf) "partial, annotated bibliography of the Beowulf cannon" through to current times.  This is useful if you want to find other Beowulf stories in text or film.

In short, this is an entertaining, but not spectacular, fantasy anthology featuring the further adventures of Beowulf that could have used improvements with some of the other material.

 

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review 2017-12-19 22:16
This is bona fide angst
Grendel - John Gardner

I have to assume that a large majority of you studied the epic poem, Beowulf, when you were in high school. If you recall, this is often cited as the oldest example of an epic poem in Old English and it tells the story of the hero, Beowulf, who comes to aid a king who is plagued by a monster known as Grendel. It goes on to discuss Beowulf's homecoming and his continuing adventures (with a dragon no less). All I remember of the poem was a fight in a cave. (Clearly I was unimpressed with this work's historical lineage.) So it might come as a surprise that when I saw Grendel by John Gardner I was intrigued by discovering that it was a kind of retelling of the poem in narrative format...from Grendel's point of view. Straight out of the gate, this was an absolutely bizarre piece of literature. I came away from it thinking that it was too cerebral for me (Farewell hubris!) because there were many times I felt like I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I think part of this lies with the narrative style which mixed Old English language (like the original) with contemporary phraseology (curses galore, ya'll). I was nearly tempted to reread Beowulf for reference. (Spoiler alert: I didn't.) This is a philosophical novel that ponders the nature of existence and what it actually means to be 'good' or 'evil' because for something to be truly 'good' there needs to be a corresponding 'evil' to balance it...right? Grendel is a classic example of an antihero but boy does he jaw on and on and on about his place in the universe. I found him bitter and whiny but I don't know if that's due to characterization or if it's the author's 'voice' projected onto the character. I guess I'll have to decide if I want to read more of Gardner's works to find out the answer. It's hard for me to sum up my feelings on this one other than to say it wasn't an especially enjoyable time and I don't know who I'd recommend this one too because it's very niche. It's a 3/10 for me.

 

What's Up Next: The Great Questions of Tomorrow by David Rothkopf

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Mine Own Executioner by Nigel Balchin (and also Scythe which apparently I'm never going to finish)

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-26 10:08
Another version of this ancient tale – well-illustrated
Beowulf - David Rubín,Santiago García

 

 

A new rendering of the story of Beowulf and Grendel and the events subsequent to Grendel's defeat, this works well. Bloody and with a high body count, it tells of the Norse legend with a lot of illustrations of battle and fighting.

 

Not bad at all for what it is.

 

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