Tuesday, May 10, 2016

39:120 Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition by Seamus Heaney

One of the oldest epics known to man, this verse translation by Seamus Heaney is widely considering one of the best.  The story itself is a basic epic with our hero Beowulf coming to help the Danes by putting himself up to try and defeat Grendel, a monster who is coming into their meadhall every night and killing their warriors and leaving them no peace. Being a hero, he defeats Grendel and then has to go hunt down and defeat Grendel's mother as well when she starts taking revenge for her fallen son.  Beowulf's life is fairly quite after these exploits but in his later years, a slave steals some treasure from a dragon and Beowulf once again feels that he must save his people from the new danger though it will likely cost him his life.  In the end, only one of his men was brave enough to face the dragon with him and Beowulf on his deathbed after the battle makes that man his heir.

It is amazing to me how many of our stories fit into this narrative, even now which goes to show the lasting power of the old epics.  This translation is easily accessible and made more lovely by the pictures included that either help set the mood or show relics similar to what is being referred to in the story.  I've got Tolkien's translation as well and I'm looking forward to seeing how it compares (although it's unfortunately not illustrated in the same manner, bummer).

Page count: 260p/10,465p ytd/260,542p lifetime

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