Beowulf could be an essential part of the culture of the Klingon Empire. Instead, it is part of our own. A bizarre tale of Beowulf's three battles against varying monsters, it is set amongst a background of blood feuds, ancient nationalism, and the honour of the battlefield. The origin of the tale is not English, but is Scandinavian in origin and must have been part of the culture of the Scandinavian or Danish invaders who settled here somewhere between 700-900 AD.
Somewhat strangely, the story was probably originally conceived in pagan Scandinavia, but at the time of the original poem, England had been converted to Christianity. The writer has felt bound to place the poem in the framework of Christianity, and the tale sits unhappily in this structure. These are the mead-hall denizens of Thor and Odin, yet they thank God for his Almighty Grace. If you've ever wondered how Christianity ever gained predominance in this country, this book surely hints at what a weak foundation it was built on.
This is not a book to read and put aside. This is a book to read and re-read, because it exists on different planes. The first time you read the book you are engrossed in an absolutely gripping yarn. Seamus Heaney's translation (apart from the infliction of occasional Ulster dialect) is absolutely commendable, and is key to the relentless pace of the book.
It is in re-reading it that you can indulge yourself. Find your favourite passages and re-live the compelling tension of the battle scenes, or get to grips with the politics of who killed who in ancient and fragile kingdoms. But whatever you do revisit The Father's Lament (commencing Line 2444). This is hundreds of years ahead of its time in terms of poetic tragedy.
In short, this is not only a most readable book, but one which provides us with a time warp of our values and culture more than a millennium ago. Nothing else like it exists.