Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney - Book Review

Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney - Book Review

Write on: Thu, 12 Nov 2020 by  in Archive Read 3531
“I’ve never known fear; as a youth I fought/ In endless battles. I am old, now,/ But I will fight again, seek fame still,/ If the dragon hiding in his tower dares/ To face me”

This is the first time that I read a translation of the original version of Beowulf. I am very familiar with the story, having read the brilliant children’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s, and also the animated 2007 movie with Ray Winstone (a great film). And this did nothing but strengthen my love for the story.

Beowulf, the epic poem, was an incredibly interesting and enjoyable read. The form as an epic and the prose immersed me into the Norse world and swept me along what is a riveting story infused with fascinating Norse culture and the fantastical idea of Monster VS Man. I know that this edition is not completely authentic to the original, as Heaney put his own poetic spin onto it. This makes Beowulf a more accessible read for any reader. I now loom forward to finding time to read perhaps Tolkien's translation of this epic poem.

“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done.”

The manner in which fact and fiction, history and mythology, are mixed in this poem is fascinating. On the one side we have the classic gritty Scandinavian world of war and conflict between the clans of the Geats and Jutes and Danes and so on. And then we have monsters such as Grendel, which allow Beowulf to rise to the status of hero that has become so famous.

Beowulf himself as a character is interesting, as he is an incredible warrior who’s skills are exemplified through his bravery. But, despite this poem being written in a culture far different than ours, his honour, dedication to duty and courage are compelling traits that still make us route for his character as opposed to his enemies. 

“I shall gain glory or die.”

I love Norse Mythology and Scandinavian history, hence part of the reason I loved this tale. But that is not all. It is an accessible poem that contains themes of heroism, tragedy and everything in between within its prose, which in itself is smooth and stirring. Anyone who enjoys historical tales, mythology or anything linked to such things, I believe that you will love the epic story of Beowulf, which has resonated through the ages.



Last modified on Monday, 23 May 2022 15:45

William is from Sussex, UK.

He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.