Beowulf, Seamus Heaney

Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England. Beowulf relates the exploits of its hero, and his successive battles with a monster named Grendel, Grendel’s revengeful mother, and with a dragon which was guarding a hoard of treasure. – THE BRITISH LIBRARY.


I read this book as part of my course, in my Beginnings of English module which focuses on Old English Anglo-Saxon literature. There are many versions of this old text available, but I chose to read Seamus Heaney’s translation. As I had studied him before I knew him to be an exceptional writer, and I also especially liked how he wrote in verse, like the original manuscript the story is taken from.

The story is traditional Anglo-Saxon, full of heroics, monsters and fighting.  Heaney maintains the pace very well, and I found myself engrossed in the story all the way through! It was also really easy to read: I finished it in the two train journeys it took me to get home and back (so about 3 hours) without any struggle to comprehend what was happening.

I would definitely recommend this version to anyone who is looking for a good, true translation of this well-known tale. (Heaney wrote his modern interpretation by directly translating and using the original manuscript, so it has a feeling of authenticity about it), or if you are looking for a heroic, feisty story written in an alternative but fascinating form.

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