Beowulf is considered the finest heroic poem in Old English. It celebrates the character and exploits of Beowulf, a young nobleman and warrior, as he proves his superhuman strength and endurance. He also represents the ideal lord and vassal, rewarding his men generously and accomplishing glorious deeds to honor his king.
The narrative falls into two parts. Beowulf first rescues the royal house of Denmark from two marauding monsters; then, after having ruled his people for fifty years, he is called on to combat a dragon that is terrorizing the countryside.
The poem combines mythical elements, Christian and pagan sensibilities, and actual historical figures and events in a narrative that ranges from vivid descriptions of fierce fighting and detailed portrayals of court life to earnest considerations of social and moral dilemmas. Remarkable for its sustained grandeur of tone and its brilliance of style, it is presented here in an authoritative prose translation by Robert K. Gordon.
Why we think it's Essential: The oldest epic in the English language was passed down for hundreds of years as an oral tale, so there is no better way to experience the saga of Hrothgar and Beowulf and Grendel than by listening to it. Robertson Dean's narration is lively and admirable, and the production makes it more powerful than a 10th century bard ever could. Chris Doheny
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Clear and exciting narration
- Tad Davis