Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Beowulf - J's Review

I intended to read a different version of this graphic novel, but neither my local comic book store nor my local library had it in stock, so I went along with what they had, paying careful attention to NOT get the version based on the recent film, but instead, this version based on the historic novel.

If you somehow escaped High School English without reading Beowulf, I'll get you up to speed. Beowulf is the longest surviving Anglo-Saxon poem in existence, and what a poem it is. It tells of events, both real and imagined, dated to the time of Scandinavian King Hygelac, around 450 - 600 AD. The poem itself is about 1000 years old, and current theories believe that the most recent of the ancient scribes was Christian, and probably added the more Christian aspects of the tale, such as Grendel being from the line of Cain. Beowulf has been an incredibly influential tale throughout the years, most notably influencing the 'middle earth' of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Beowulf is the story of a brave warrior, Beowulf, who is called upon to fight a monster, which has been terrorizing a small kingdom and relegating its inhabitants to a life of fear. He conquers the monster, Grendel, with his bare hands, proving his strength and cunning. He then goes on to vanquish Grendel's mother, who bears no resemblance at all to Angelina Jolie, other than her oddly large breasts and small waist (hey, this is still a genre born from comic books). Beowulf's adventures continue from there, ending with him becoming a warrior king in his own right, and eventually, his passing.

I can't say I loved this book. It was pretty much a straightforward telling of a classic tale, and I think it did a fine job at it, but thus far, I have found the more contemporary graphic novels to be much more compelling. I'll recommend it, but not with an imperative to get out and buy it now, but more of a, yeah, if you're in the mood, go for it.


Rhinoa said...

Funnily enough I just finished reading the poetry version translated by Seamus Heaney which I really enjoyed. I haven't seen the film, but I did like the book so will keep an eye out for the graphic novel.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Rhinoa, I think the Heaney version is the one that inspired this version, actually. :)