Last week, I finished reading Beowulf, the tale of the daring Viking war-lord who stepped up to save the lands ravaged by Grendel, a dark and fearsome monster. The story was very gripping and exciting and the poetry was really nice. You have to read it out loud to yourself in a quiet place to really get the feel of it, though.
I think that my favorite part of this book was the fight with the dragon at the end. It was wonderfully described and I love the heroic Wiglaf who comes out to help his king just as he is about to give in. I thought it very interesting, too how the dragons wrath is aroused by the theft of one small cup from his treasure hoard, stolen by an unimportant slave. Does that incident sound familiar to any of you?
One thing about the story that was very interesting is that the poet speaks constantly about God, even though the poem was apparently written in very early times, perhaps as early as the historian Bede lived. Some critics have tried to suggest that these allusions to God were added later by monks but this seems very unlikely to me. The whole story is centers around the existence of the Wielder.
I was struck by the names used for God in the book. He is referred to as the Wielder, Father Almighty, Life-Lord of men, King, Measurer, and Shaper. It strikes me as incredible that people today suddenly have decided that they no longer need the Measurer, King and Life-Lord. They think they can make it on their own, yet all throughout history the presence of this Almighty is unmistakable. Even the natives of the most obscure races found something to worship, be it rock, tree, sky or sun. How can people today just throw out this constant Presence as though they are so much smarter than all of the ones who came before?
I think there is something about the original, though, that translation destroys, because Rebsamen has invented dozens of compound nouns as if trying to seize the feel of the work. Here is a list of some interesting ones that I had never heard before:
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes action\adventure books or poetry. I read the translation by Frederick Rebsamen but I had already read a simpler version of Beowulf first. If any of you would like to read the easier version first so that you can learn the story-line, here is a free, online edition.