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Beowulf: A New Telling Mass Market Paperback – March 15, 1982

4.1 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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The Rose and the Dagger
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The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking "The Wrath and the Dawn," a sumptuous and epically told love story. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

He comes out of the darkness, moving in on his victims in deadly silence. When he leaves, a trail of blood is all that remains. He is a monster, Grendel, and all who know of him live in fear.

Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, knows something must be done to stop Grendel. But who will guard the great hall he has built, where so many men have lost their lives to the monster while keeping watch?

Only one man dares to stand up to Grendel's fury --Beowulf.

From the Inside Flap

He comes out of the darkness, moving in on his victims in deadly silence. When he leaves, a trail of blood is all that remains. He is a monster, Grendel, and all who know of him live in fear.
Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, knows something must be done to stop Grendel. But who will guard the great hall he has built, where so many men have lost their lives to the monster while keeping watch?
Only one man dares to stand up to Grendel's fury --"Beowulf.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 94 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (March 15, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440905605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440905608
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.3 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert Nye has rewritten the Beowulf saga into a nice little stand-alone fable, but it is so far from the original text that it is a disservice to new readers. Nye had his own idea of what the theme of Beowulf should be, but the original text does not support his theme, so Nye rewrote it until it did -- and then he crams the theme down the reader's throat as though it's the central point of the entire Beowulf saga. Nye's theme is that we should embrace our weaknesses and thereby make them our strengths (huh?), and he demonstrates this through Beowulf's nearsightedness and disproportionately short legs, neither of which are in the original text.
Nye's liberties with the original include making the Dane warrior Unferth a villain -- in the original, Unferth is at first jealous of Beowulf's courage until he sees it first-hand, at which point his jealousy turns to respect, and Beowulf respects him in return. In Nye's version Unferth is a treacherous villain throughout -- for example, in the original it is Grendel's mother who kills the king's friend Esher, but in Nye's version Unferth stabs him in the back. According to Nye, Unferth is then killed by Grendel's mother; in the original Unferth gives Beowulf his own sword to fight Grendel's mother, and this is the scene where Unferth and Beowulf become friends. Nye took a great supporting character and turned him into a cardboard villain.
I could go on listing ways in which Nye damages the saga, but I will instead cut to his most heinous crime -- Beowulf versus the dragon. In the original text, Beowulf gathers a band of his best warriors along with his friend Wiglaf to battle the dragon. When they see it, the warriors turn and run away in fear, and Beowulf attacks the dragon with only the loyal Wiglaf behind him.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rather than offering my own opinion of this book, I will give you a few brief quotations describing the major characters and allow you to decide for yourself if this book is worth reading. Author Robert Nye describes the character of Beowulf as "weak and sickly" in his youth and "below average size" as an adult. He also describes Beowulf as "short sighted." He claims that Beowulf "admits to his weaknesses" and is "not given to boasting." This begs the question: what Beowulf is Nye talking about? The real Beowulf, the one that we know from the epic 7th century poem, was none of these things. We are told that he was neither small nor weak, but rather he possessed the strength of 30 men ("thirty men's might in the grip of his hand").This is how he was able to overpower his adversary, the demon Grendel, when no other man could challenge Grendel. The original Beowulf boasted quite often. Apparently, Robert Nye has his own idea of how a "hero" should behave. Instead of arrogance in Beowulf we see humility when he says, "He was a better swimmer than I" in reference to his dramatic swimming race against Breca. The problem here is that Beowulf did not lose this race with Breca. He won! But Nye's Beowulf cannot be all-powerful and still be humble, meek and peace-loving. We know from the original story that Beowulf cut off Grendel's head after he was dead, so he could offer it to the Danes as a trophy. This action was apparently too harsh for Nye. Instead, he tells us that Beowulf cut off Grendel's head in self-defense after Grendel momentarily came back from the dead!

The character of Unferth has also been dramatically altered. He is portrayed as both pathetic and evil, a drunkard full of contempt for Beowulf and his people.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In many ways, this Beowulf is a lot of fun for kids. The writing is direct and clear (although there are plenty of vocabulary stretchers). The action is fun. Beowulf's heroism is unquestionable.

But, I don't understand why one would publish a Beowulf retelling and stay just close enough to the original to be confusing (as opposed to John Gardner's wonderful Grendel, which told the story from the monster's perspective). The most disturbing divergence was making Unferth a petty bad guy in enamored of evil. In doing so, Nye sacrifices much of the nobility of the original.

I don't know if there are other kid-friendly tellings of this story. But, I would look for one of those, first.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a particularly arresting retelling of one of the great seminal works of Western literature. In our Performance English Program (CRDG The University of Hawaii), we use it as an entry-level introduction to this classic at the 7th grade so that when students re-encounter the story in the more conventional translation by Burton Raffel at the 12th grade they are predisposed to enjoy it in spite of its considerably greater difficulty. Students have been known to ask if they could skip assemblies so they could continue our in-class oral reading of the Robert Nye version without interruption. Lively narration, wonderful characterizations, great imagery. This story lives
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an English teacher, I do not like reading abridged and "translated" versions of books; however, Robert Nye does capture the essence of the story in a way that holds students' attention. Furthermore, his version allows me to engage the students in occasional excerpts from the unabridged text, thus allowing for meaningful experiences in critical analysis.
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