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Beowulf

(Legends from the Ancient North)

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  199,058 Ratings  ·  5,506 Reviews
The earliest extant poem in a modern European language, "Beowulf" is an epic that reflects a feudal, newly Christian world of heroes and monsters, blood, victory, and death. This repackaged Signet classic Includes a Glossary of terms.
Paperback, Bilingual Edition, 213 pages
Published February 17th 2001 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 975)
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Jonathan Farley I learned Old English especially to read it. I dip into it regularly and probably reread it at least once every two years or so.
Holly I found listening to the audio book to be very entertaining and relatively quick (about two hours). I listened to the version by Seamus Heaney.…moreI found listening to the audio book to be very entertaining and relatively quick (about two hours). I listened to the version by Seamus Heaney. Personally, I found his Irish accent to add to the story even though it was more a Northern European tale than English. (less)

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Michael
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
*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 M
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”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 r
...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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 a ...more
AJ Griffin
Jul 02, 2007 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
...more
James
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 so
...more
Seth T.
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Alex
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: literally all white men
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. Beowulf started it, right? And then
...more
Simona Bartolotta
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, in-english
"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 it tells about, when it was written and what it seeks to portrait, of the debate about it bein
...more
J.G. Keely
May 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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,
...more
Loretta
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! ...more
Michael
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aubrey
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 E ...more
Francisco
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Riku Sayuj
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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.
Roger Brunyate
 
The Book I Thought I Knew

1. A Confession. This made a big splash it first came out in 2000. I bought it mostly for duty, but didn't read it. After all, I had studied the text in the original at University; I could even recite the opening. Surely I just needed a nudge, and it would all come back to me—so why bother with a translation?

Oh, the arrogance! When I opened this, and saw the original text on the left-hand pages, I found I could not make it out at all; I had even been misremembering the
...more
Wanda
Beowulf is an interesting window into the past—specifically where Christianity and older pagan religions overlapped. It was fascinating to see the older, warrior culture being lived with an overlay of Christianity. But deeds of bravery and being able to hold your liquor whilst on the mead-bench were still valuable commodities! Modesty was not yet a virtue—a warrior was expected to declaim his exploits (a la the Norse god, Bragi, from whom we get the English verb “to brag.”)

Although I was familia
...more
João Fernandes
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norse-literature
If Beowulf was a High School flick, or Blockbuster Income Idea #165 , by Hollywood

Hrothgar and his band of jocks are throwing a pool party at his new crib, and of course he didn't invite Stereotypical Hollywood Hero #5, the awkward, rejected, acne-ridden Grendel.

Grendel is hurt and tries to take revenge on the drunken, loud cool kids by calling the cops on them. Heorot PD is a bunch of incompetent idiots, so Grendel gathers all his strength and courage, goes to Heorot and beats the shit out of
...more
David Sarkies
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy Buffs
Recommended to David by: My book club
Shelves: fantasy
The original fantasy epic
21 May 2015

I am surprised that it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book, particularly since it isn't all that long, and also that I have been a long time fan of the fantasy epic. In fact this was one of Tolkien's major inspirations for his Lord of the Rings trilogy (and I do emphasise one, since he drew on lots of sources in crafting his fantasy epic – in particular the Nibelungenlied). Anyway, as I suggested this is pretty much your typical fantasy no
...more
Steve
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've read this multiple times. One of the true, original bad asses. 6 stars.

OK. Very briefly (in part because I've been very busy), the Heaney version is THE version to read if you're looking for accessibility. Who would have ever thought that such a rough and tumble read would come out so smooth? And from a poet who is all knots, rough rhythms, and peat moss. But it is. What I particularly liked were the various important speeches. Clarity is key with this version, but with lots of nice poetic
...more
Ashley Daviau
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little worried that this would be dry and boring but Seamus Heaney really does a fantastic job with the translation and it was a pleasure to read. The story is pretty epic, from one battle to another against evil and had me thoroughly engrossed. I’ve been wanting to read this for ages and I’m glad I finally did, it’s a classic and it really was a great read. It reminded me a bit of Lord of the Rings with its epic battles and I’m all for that!
Mario
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, own-read
It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.


Well that was a surprise. I didn't expect at all to like this book (well, epic) at all, especially because I read it for university, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I liked the characters, the plot, the setting and I especially liked the fantasy element to the story. I'm just happy that I enjoyed something I had to read for university, because that doesn't happen very often.
Riku Sayuj
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We want Tolkien! We want Tolkien!

I demand that this be made a top priority, instead of spending millions trashing good books by making movies of them.

The coolest thing about Beowulf was the tracing of Tolkien's imaginative journey as I read it. Maybe someday I would like to write a short review story on the morphing of Beowulf into a hobbit...
Mara
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love Beowulf and the fact that this pretty short epic inspired so many of my favourite books. Since the moment I read this for uni, it's been one of my favourite poems and I think everyone should at least read this once and realize that this is the start of fantasy, right here.
Terence
[Fourth read - Tolkien, ISBN 9780544570306]: Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf is not the translation that he would have wanted to appear in print. It’s the latest revision of a project he had been working on his entire professional life, published by his son, Christopher, along with notes and commentary (the latter of which, unfortunately, end about 2/3’s of the way). It’s presented in prose of a highly archaic nature but anyone familiar with the Old Professor’s work (e.g., The Lord of the Rings ...more
Skyler Myers
"Men-at-arms, remain here on the barrow, safe in your armor, to see which one of us is better in the end at bearing wounds in a deadly fray. This fight is not yours, nor is it up to any man except me to measure his strength against the monster or to prove his worth. I shall win the gold by my courage, or else mortal combat, doom of battle, will bear your lord away"

PROs:

* Good story

* Likeable characters

* Perfect length

* Amazing language

* Influential

CONs:

* Names of all the tribes and people can ge
...more
Rise
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
On page 109:

So. In the midst of this fiendish fun-book.
Monsters flit to and fro, the hungry blokes.
Heaney's translation exhales and breathes.
It brooks no comparison mayhaps,
Old English’s boon is drinking in its words,
Delivering blow by blow as swords clash
Bilingually, the movie grays beyond
Compare to the verses that believe
In the breast where the chain-mail protects
Our hero’s blood, and flesh, the chain-mail cloth
Is everything to the brave wolf’s safety net,
The adventuring prince Beowu
...more
Trin
Jun 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, classics
This epic poem becomes even more astonishing if you read it aloud in a valley girl voice. ("So. The Spear-Danes? Like, in days gone by?")

On a more serious note, I love Heaney's theory of the Irish as the cold and rejected Grendel prowling outside the warm fires of England's Herot. Who doesn't sometimes feel like the exiles of the world?
Alice-Elizabeth (marriedtobooks)
Purchased as a freebie on Kindle!

Beowulf has such a fascinating story behind the history and speculation over who wrote it. That was enough to keep me interested in finishing the poem. I normally love reading poetry but I struggled with this one. There were various repeats over and over of certain words that started making the writing a bit repetitive. The pacing at times was choppy, but for an old look into the old English language, I'm thrilled that this poem has survived for so long and can b
...more
Pink
Aug 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much better than I was expecting. I thought I'd be bored, but in fact it was a really quick and gripping read. I really enjoyed this translation, which was just the right level of comprehension for me, with poetic style, while still retaining the main elements of the story. Others may prefer a more faithful old english translation, or even a prose edition, but for a novice like me, I think this was a great place to get to grips with the story. Beowulf was the hero I'd been led to believe, but ...more
Greg
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Yeah, yeah it's a 'classic' of literature and all that but what would make this better is if a movie was made of it with some big name talented actors reduced to playing second string to some crappy CGI, now that would be entertaining!!

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Other books in the series

Legends from the Ancient North (5 books)
  • The Elder Edda
  • The Saga of the Volsungs
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“It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
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.”
132 likes
“Behaviour that's admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.”
89 likes
More quotes…