Beowulf
TIPS FOR READERS

Seamus Heaney's
spectacular rendition
of Beowulf not only
won the prestigious
Whitbread award in
the UK, but even
managed to beat out
the latest Harry Potter
novel (albeit by a
single vote).  



A MODERN TWIST . . .

Check out novelist
John Gardner's
re-working of Beowulf
into
Grendel.
The surviving manuscript is untitled, but for at least two
hundred years we have known it as Beowulf.   Its origins cannot
be dated with any precision -- perhaps it came as early as the
8th century or as late as the 11nth century -- but it remains the
the great English national epic, its proper setting is Scandinavia,
and betrays the continental origins of Anglo-Saxon culture.  
Beowulf is a heroic epic in the great tradition, and draws on
historical matters, imaginative inventions, pagan traditions and
Christian morality, and Old Testament overtones.  Indeed, the
antagonist Grendel is described as a descendant of Cain --
although some have suggested that the Judaeo-Christian
elements are a later insertion.  But the various elements of the
work coalesce into a powerful epic that continues to
reverberate in contemporary literature.