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on 26 April 2013
I'm sure this is a great book as it's been around for so long - I snapped it up because it's rumoured to be set where I live - just be aware (I wasn't - D'oh !) that it uses archaic language and ancient terms - the great thing is you can look up words that aren't familiar to you on the kindle version and so far most of them are defined - like `fain' and `whetted'. I bet ancient battle reinactors are right at home with it though. Actually I think I'll download Shakespeare on to kindle now as being able to look up words instantly could make it very readable.
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on 21 June 2013
It's alliterative verse in a 19th century translation, but stick with it if you're at all interested as it's a great story full of historical colour. He slew not one dragon but three, and ruled for fifty years in addition. Yes, it's not easy going at times, but it's worth the effort.
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on 23 May 2013
Not a read for the casual reader but this translation brings the epic adventure to life.
Beowulf must be the best adventure man has ever written!
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on 3 October 2013
This is a great version of it, and I'm really glad I own a copy. Everyone should read this, it's utterly wonderful.
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In ancient Anglo-Saxon culture, a "sceop" was a storyteller. A sceop might not be telling a story of his own, but he tells it with grace, elegance and power.

It seems like an appropriate title for whoever originally wrote the classic story of "Beowulf" -- a full-blooded, rich epic poem about a young hero who is called upon to slay various monsters. That's a tale old as time, but I can only advise people to find a more graceful translation than Gummere's -- it's too clunky and literal.

A creature named Grendel is attacking the beautiful mead-hall of Heorot, sneaking in at night to carry off and/or kill innocent people. King Hrothgar is powerless to stop the monster. But then Beowulf, an already-legendary hero from Geatland, arrives at Heorot specifically to kill Grendel -- and using only his superhuman strength, he is able to arm-wrestle Grendel to death. Not joking.

But that isn't the end of his troubles. Grendel's equally grotesque mother is enraged by her child's death, and attacks Heorot to lure Beowulf out. This time, he'll be fighting on HER turf, and the legendary hero might not survive. And as the years go by, he's faced with a terrible new enemy, one that threatens his homeland and everyone in it...

"Beowulf" is revered as one of the oldest works of Anglo-Saxon literature, and it deserves the reverance. But the poem is a lot more than just an old story -- it's a gripping adventure story, and it's also a glimpse of a culture that was pretty much stamped out with the Norman invasion. It's a culture of boasting, blood, honor, friendship and "ring-giving," where ancient pagan cultures are enmeshed in new Christian beliefs.

It's also an outrageously awesome adventure, with some brilliant fight scenes -- lots of swords, blood and sometimes wonderfully graphic violence. Just look at the awesome scene where Beowulf rips off Grendel's arm, then sticks it on the wall as a trophy. You can practically hear the early-medieval mead-halls erupting with applause whenever that happens.

But it also has some truly beautiful moments, such as the final conversation between Beowulf and Wiglaf. And there are some powerful speeches, such as Hrothgar lecturing Beowulf on what it takes to be a "good king," and the qualities of a great leader.

It also has some truly, amazingly beautiful language woven into the story. It takes a little while to get past the rhythms of epic poetry and the very Anglo-Saxon words and phrases, but there is some truly beautiful alliterative wordcraft ("Untrod is their home;/by wolf-cliffs haunt they and windy headlands,/fenways fearful, where flows the stream/from mountains gliding to gloom of the rocks,...").

Beowulf himself is not the perfect superman that you would initially think -- he's rather arrogant and immature at the beginning, despite his great strength and leadership skills. It's only through his fight with Grendel's mother that he realizes that even he is not invulnerable, and learns the humility to be a good monarch himself.

Sadly, I can't recommend Gummere's translation for people who aren't massive fans of Old English. It's a very dense, literal translation with some odd word choices (Beowulf is the "bairn of Ecgtheow"), and it's hard to really lose yourself in the romantic use of language when you're trying to unravel the proper word sequence.

"Beowulf" is a story of timeless power and beauty, while also giving us a glimpse into a long-gone -- but still influential -- world of wildness, monsters and magic. Try a different translation, though.
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If you want a free version then this is great but if you want the best version of this fantastic epic then get the wonderfully evocative Seamus Heaney translation, or read it in the original Anglo Saxon.
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on 15 October 2014
Although I didn't understand some the words I could grasp what was happening by its excellent flow. Beowulf wins fights and helps a neighbouring town rid of the thief who disturbed the Dragon who causes fire and devastation. Beowulf died trying to kill the Dragon, he is hailed a hero, the dragons remains sink into the lake and Beowulf is cremated with a temple being built to remind them his true bravery.
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on 13 May 2014
For readers of modern poetry, accustomed to more informal, colloquial voices and idioms, Professor Gummere’s 1910 translation of this Anglo-Saxon verse epic might initially present challenges: much more than in the 1999 translation by Seamus Heaney, Gummere attempts to faithfully reproduce in modern English what Heaney called the “grunting consonantal music” of the original’s alliterative structure, and recreate the pulsating rhythms, the compressed – and perhaps to modern eyes and ears – the awkward, unfamiliar syntax and word order of Anglo-Saxon’s inflected grammar.
However, spend just a little time and effort on this translation and one soon becomes ‘acclimatised’ to its unfamiliar mode of expression, its echoing of the original’s cadences; rather than knotty and dense, the verse begins to appear muscular and economical – one begins to feel its power, as well as its strangeness, and one is drawn into this dark, melancholic world of fortitude in the face of fearsome foes.
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on 28 March 2015
Well I know this is a classic but have just spent a depressing weekend with the anglo-saxons. I read the Anglo-Saxon history, then the Anglo-Saxon language book and now Beowulf, which is stirring stuff if you are into battles with dragons and their mothers.

I did read this in Anglo-Saxon at school (those were the days when you had an education!), but it depressed me then and I've discovered it still depresses me today!!
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on 11 June 2014
Beowulf is a great story and tells the story of a hero to the people of tribe in Europe. The story has to be read a couple of times to fully graft the meaning from the story, and gives the reader the opportunity to reflect if such a story could be true. Written by an unknown monk the original story has been translated into English. Comparing this to the movie the book is much better and gives the full story.
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