For my first week back at Uni I had to read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf so I thought I would do a review for it as I enjoyed it so much. I must admit that even though I study Literature, I don't really enjoy the stereotypical literary texts. I find them boring and dull, I much prefer my young adult supernatural books. The main part I like about studying Literature is the nerdy side, the analysing and researching. I love to research the books even if I don't enjoy reading them. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when I found that I actually really enjoyed Beowulf.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Beowulf, it's an Anglo-Saxon epic about the warrior, Beowulf and his three fights with the monsters Grendal, Grendal's mother and finally a dragon at the end of his life. I must admit that I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was because I was looking at it from a Literature students point of view. I loved the use of imagery to contrast the darkness surrounding the monsters and the light coming from the places and characters that represented good. I thought that the religious imagery present at certain points really added something to the poem despite it sometimes being a little more hidden. I liked how it jumps forwards fifty years so we can see how Beowulf's courage changes from being justified, to being foolish and is what ultimately leads to his death. It made for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The poems account of a heroic society and how important reputation is, is extremely interesting as at some parts it may seem as though Beowulf is simply bragging yet that is just how things were in their culture. The representation of masculinity is also intriguing in that we see how heroism and loyalty are held above all else and we see different levels of this within the characters. The role of women is also interesting as well as the portrayal of monsters, as Grendal's mother is justified in revenging her son however because she is a monstrous beast of a female, she is demonised for it and killed.
Beowulf is a fast paced poem, filled with action that reflects life during the dark ages. I honestly couldn't put it down, it was extremely engaging and interesting. Atmosphere was built easily and you could really imagine what was going on and you believed in the character, Beowulf. I would really recommend this to anyone who's looking for some light reading. It's a well told story of a warrior's world that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Let me know if you've read it and what you thought, or if you're going to read it!