Beowulf, a review

Beowulf is an Old English classic that has been translated by many over the years, and I read a translation by Maria Dahvana Headley. In this she states she tries to have the power of a mother come through, rather than being downplayed, and in my opinion she also targets this towards a modern audience more than I’ve heard other translations do.

The first thing that will hit you about this translation is it’s use of “Bro”. As someone who is used to classics sounding stiff and formal, this was definitely not expected and I won’t lie, it took me a little time to get used to. But once I did I found that I really enjoyed this. Given that these tales used to be told around the campfire by people whose job it was to tell stories, this is most likely close to how they would’ve been using language themselves! Don’t get me wrong, there are more formal sounding parts too, but these are supposed to contrast with the lighter tones. I thought it was a really interesting and modern way to convey this in the text.

This was especially interesting for me to read after reading The Boneless Mercies (a Beowulf retelling) and seeing the parallels and differences present in the text. I definitely think I need to reread Boneless now! I also just really enjoyed the story itself. I can see why it lasted through the ages being told around campfires!

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 7, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 6, Enjoyment: 7, which gives a score of 6.86 and a 3.5* rating!

I’m so glad that I ended up reading this translation (thank you so much Kari for the gift!) so this will definitely be bumped up to 4* on my Goodreads rating. It’s, imo, a great translation of a classic that makes it a lot more accessible for more readers!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: violence, death, gore, cursing, blood, murder.

Have you ever read a Beowulf translation? Would you? I’m so glad that I delved in.