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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Beowulf for Dummies !
I first read Beowulf, as did countless high schoolers over the years, in my senior English class; the experience was less than memorable, due in part to my teacher's insistence on using an Old English text. When I entered college the most vivid imagery I still had was of Grendel entering the mead hall and tearing the diners limb from limb.
Had I been able to also...
Published on July 5, 2010 by TJam

versus
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Second half of the book is misprint
Please note that the book I was sent to had a different story part way in the middle. Please watch out!
Published 23 months ago by RN4Gas


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Beowulf for Dummies !, July 5, 2010
By 
TJam (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read Beowulf, as did countless high schoolers over the years, in my senior English class; the experience was less than memorable, due in part to my teacher's insistence on using an Old English text. When I entered college the most vivid imagery I still had was of Grendel entering the mead hall and tearing the diners limb from limb.
Had I been able to also read the text in modern English in that senior class, I would have been well-prepared to tackle the OE with a deeper understanding of how this great work acts as a foundational text for all British literature from Chaucer to the Renaissance and beyond.
Burton Raffel's clear translation allows the reader to establish a connection to the allegorical and mythological constructs without having to resort to a "Beowulf for Dummies," just to get a passing grade. I am using this book in a graduate class in Horror Text and Theory, and though I am now able to read the OE with more fluency, the accessibility of this translation situates the text in a more viable position for discussion and critical analysis in an arena populated with 20th and 21st century horror. I would recommend Raffel's Beowulf to anyone as their entree into Old English Lit.; to be read along side the original text. It takes the "horror" out of ready Horror.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more poetic than heaney's translation, May 18, 2010
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This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Raffel's translation of "Beowulf" to me seems more vivid and poetic in its language than Seamus Heaney's now more famous one. The images he provides stand out as clear and beautiful pictures, making a deep sensory impression where Heaney's poetry seems to employ at times more abstract, at times more mundane, less inventive language. This is not to say that Heaney's translation lacks poetic beauty--it certainly does not. Yet, browsing both editions, comparing various passages, I found that Raffel's rendition almost always struck a deeper chord with me, appealing to the senses and the imagination more strongly. Raffel's translation is not available in the same beautifully bound, larger-print, dual language edition as Heaney's, yet I still find that it gives me greater reading pleasure. As to accuracy, I do suspect that Raffel might be granting himself somewhat more poetic license than Heaney does, and yet, neither translation strays significantly from the original. I prefer Robert Fitzgerald's poetic, somewhat less accurate translation of the "Odyssey" to Richmond Lattimore's for similar reasons.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Choice for HS Classroom, September 5, 2012
This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Now that I have used both the Raffel edition and the Heaney edition, I would recommend Raffel's for the high school classroom. Raffel's edition offers a major difference that works wonders for the 9th and 10th grade psyche: short chapters. The narrative is chunked thoughtfully and facilitates reading assignments. Raffel does a great job with the syntax and though the diction is a little less interesting, the poem doesn't suffer too much there. Lastly, unless you are going to do a lot of work with the Old English available in the Heaney edition, the side-by-side format hampers class discussion, causing kids to flip more pages to find support.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Translation, September 10, 2013
By 
Kristen Slosser (Flint, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Raffel's translation is the most readable, easiest to understand, and most honest translation available. I do not begrudge Seamus Heaney his poetry, but I find that Beowulf has already had to undergo glosses of other types in its recordings without further flowery alterations being performed on the text. The original composition/song would have been understandable and engaging for any of the warriors, villagers, or foreign guests of the Anglo-Saxon tribes: it should be equally as accessible to modern high school students and twenty-somethings. Raffel achieves this, and this translation is a steal while it remains available. If you are interested in Heaney's version of Beowulf, spend the extra money: but know that you are buying Heaney, not Beowulf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasantly surprising translation, June 11, 2011
The Barnes & Noble Classics line offers a lot of classic (or at least old) works at very reasonable prices. They manage to do this by using, by and large, editions that are out of copyright. By reducing the production costs of the books, they can reduce the price for the customers.

This approach is excellent for works that were originally written in English. B&N gets a modern scholar to pen an introduction, and maybe some notes. These are attached to the freely-available text and sold at a low price. You could download a copy for free and read it (and this would probably be the preferred method if you have an ereader device), but for those who still read paper books, you pay a small price ($5-$10) and get someone to typeset and bind it for you.

Translations of non-English works are another matter. By using an out-of-copyright translation, you miss out on modern scholarship, and you get a translation that might sound archaic (although some readers probably prefer this). I figured this would be the case with Beowulf, so I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that B&N had commissioned a modern translation.

John McNamara has produced a translation that is really quite good. It is very faithful to the original text, but is not literal to the point that it becomes hard to read. On the contrary, it reads very well. No attempt is made to mimic the meter of the Old English, although McNamara does make fairly frequent use of alliteration. To round it out, there is a good, brief introduction and a set of end-notes that help to clarify tricky bits of the poem, or to give some context.

In all, this is a highly recommended translation. If you're looking to read Beowulf for the first time, I would have no hesitation in recommending this version, especially (but not only) at this price. The serious Beowulf student will need extra materials, but then that's true of most Beowulf translations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, if obscure..., February 6, 2007
This review is from: Beowulf (Paperback)
Beowulf easily makes my list of top three favorite literary works--aside from being the defining epic poem of the English language and the most important work of the Old English canon, it is also a thought-provoking tale about the conflict between good and evil, and the role that fate plays in our lives. Simply put, Beowulf is a "must-read."

Why, though, should anyone read the Gummere translation? The Gummere was the third translation of the poem I came across--I read the Burton Raffel translation in high school, and picked up the Seamus Heaney translation as an undergraduate. I love both of those translations, particularly the Heaney--if you are looking for a translation which is a beautiful work of poetry in and of itself, I recommend Heaney's rendering. However, the Gummere translation excels it at capturing the feel of the Old English, and particularly the alliterations which pervade the original Anglo-Saxon text. Gummere also manages to preserve the mid-line pause (lines in Old English poetry are split by caesuras) of the original. The literary calisthenics necessary to pull this off make the Gummere translation a bit more demanding to read than other translations, and this particular version presents the text in giant paragraphs (even though it is a verse translation), but the rewards far outweight the extra investment it requires.

I recently came across a newly-published compilation of medieval epic poetry in a bookstore which included this translation (in line-by-line form). Much as I love the other versions of Beowulf mentioned in this review, I was excited to see that Gummere is circulating. I hope that many more people will read it and enjoy it as much as I do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The epic tale of tales, July 20, 2008
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Monsters defeated by a valiant man who only seeks the priviledge of fighting the greatest foes of his time. In the end, he gives his life as he defeats his enemy. This is a song of larger than life heros who never surrender, and want nothing more than a good fight despite snivelling, hissing cowards who denigrate the heros' efforts.

Some things never change. Sadly, the values and ethos of Beowolf are shared by too few today.

It's not an easy read, but it is a worthy read, for its own sake and to better understand the body of work that continues along the path it laid down.

E.M. Van Court
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, October 10, 2014
This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
"Men-at-arms, remain here on the barrow, safe in your armor, to see which one of us is better in the end at bearing wounds in a deadly fray. This fight is not yours, nor is it up to any man except me to measure his strength against the monster or to prove his worth. I shall win the gold by my courage, or else mortal kombat, doom of battle, will bear your lord away"

PROs:

* Good story

* Likeable characters

* Perfect length

* Amazing language

* Influential

CONs:

* Names of all the tribes and people can get confusing

* Insertion of monotheistic religion into a polytheistic culture takes away immersion

"There was singing and excitement: an old reciter, a carrier of stories, recalled the early days. At times some hero made the timbered harp tremble with sweetness, or related true and tragic happenings; at times the king gave the proper turn to some fantastic tale; or a battle-scarred veteran, bowed with age, would begin to remember the martial deeds of his youth and prime and be overcome as the past welled up in his wintry heart."

Beowulf is a great Epic Poem, the first of the English language (Anglo Saxon, to be exact). It is a quintessential quest: we have a hero who sets off to a foreign land on a journey to battle supernatural foes. On his way he faces difficulty and strife, but is able to overcome and achieve everlasting glory.

The translation of Beowulf is very important; I personally read 3 different translations. I started with an older translation, struggled to understand it, moved on to a more contemporary one, and my experience was improved. About half way through the second translation, I started the relatively new Seamus Heaney translation, and Beowulf become one of my favorite works of literature ever. I am now unable to read the other two translations that I started with after reading Heaney's.

That is one of the things that makes Beowulf so great - the language. It is so over the top and unique; I can't help but to be drawn to it. I will provide one simple example out of numerous possibilities. Instead of simply saying "morning came", Beowulf reads: "The hall towered, gold-shingled and gabled, and the guest slept in it until the black raven with raucous glee announced heaven's joy, and a hurry of brightness overran the shadows."

I can't help but to be captivated by such language, and it is found all throughout Beowulf. The imagery is so realistic and detailed that it paints a thorough picture in my head of what it would be like to live in around 7th century Scandinavia, complete with lute players, mead halls, and wintery landscapes.

Beowulf is set in three parts, each of which, in my opinion, improve upon the next. Beowulf's struggle continually increases, and the states are continually raised. This adds a certain amount of tension that improves the quality of the poem. The third part of the poem, to me, is simply a masterpiece with its numerous allusions to bygone times... I can truly feel the sadness of the old king who lost his eldest son which Beowulf speaks of.

While reading, I couldn't help but to be amazed at how much Beowulf influenced another of my favorite authors - J.R.R. Tolkien. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since Tolkien created his own Beowulf translation. You can find very similar themes in Beowulf and in Tolkien's works - weapons having names, people introducing themselves by naming their ancestors, lofty language, similar names (he even got the name Eomer from Beowulf) and armor/weapon types, etc. In fact, the third part of Beowulf is almost identical to the story of The Hobbit.

One of the few complaints I about Beowulf is that it can be difficult and confusing to follow all of the different tribes and the kings/soldiers of all the tribes. At first, I tried to keep them all in order, but eventually had to give up; many of the names are similar but the people are completely different and even from different time periods. Footnotes certainly help, but it still took away some enjoyment for me. My biggest complaint is the insertion of monotheistic religion (Christianity) into the Norse polytheistic culture of the time. It almost completely destroys the immersion of the story that the great language creates. There are actually entire lines devoted to praising the Christian god and bashing paganism. The characters often credit the Christian god to their victories or struggles, even though he would have been practically unknown to them at the time. It is a bit like watching a movie about ancient Greece and seeing people driving cars in the background of scenes.

Overall, Beowulf is well deserving of its placement in the Western Canon. 5/5

"You are the last of us, the only one left of the Waegmundings. Fate swept us away, sent my whole brave highborn clan to their final doom. Now I must follow them."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Character Insight, September 9, 2014
This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Translator Burton Raffel said that one of the most satisfying parts of Beowulf “is the poet’s insight into people. I agree with Raffel on this point, the character’s deeds and words provide deep insight into the morality and thoughts of each character. One of the most prominent examples of this in the novel is found by examining the character Wiglaf. His actions and words portray his honor and loyalty:

“Then he ran to his king, crying encouragement
As he dove through the dragon’s deadly fumes.”

Wiglaf demonstrates his bravery by charging into battle with the dragon that had beaten his king. Wiglaf shows more of his honorable character when he reasons why he must stay by Beowulfs side. Wiglaf's monologue demonstrates that he recognizes Beowulfs as great man and why the men who fled him are cowards.

“‘I remember how we sat in the mead-hall, drinking
And boasting of how brave we’d be when Beowulf
Neded us, he who gave us these swords
And Armor: all of us swore to repay him,
When the time came, kindness for kindness
--With our lives, if he needed them. He allowed us to
join him.’”

Heroism is something that is wonderfully portrayed in Beowulf. It is a hero’s duty to fight for and protect the people. The unknown author of this text did a wonderful job showing us the characteristics of Beowulf. Even in his dying breath he wanted his people to prosper, and was happy that his death provided this end. He sacrificed his life for his people, which is what a true hero is obligated to do, what every king should do as well. This is why I think Beowulf should receive 4 stars, his ability to show the characters personalities is almost awe inspiring.

“For all of this, that His grace has given me,
Allowed me to bring to my people while breath
Still came to my lips. I sold my life
For this treasure, and I sold it well.”

I perceived this poem as highly insightful into the characters personalities especially in what makes the characters brave. Overall I wholeheartedly agree with Raffels assessment. The only issue I had with the poem is its repetitive characteristics throughout the plot, thus my reasoning for 4 out of 5 stars. Overall, I highly recommend this epic to all. It sets the stereotypical warrior and hero, out to rid the world of evil.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long, Long Ago World-But Not That Far Away, June 7, 2011
This review is from: Beowulf (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
The translation by Burton Raffel in this book is by far the best I have ever read. The book reveals a world that was completely different from the one we live in, however, human nature being the same then as now, we feel as if we know the charcters and wish we could meet them. Highest recommendation.
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Beowulf (Signet Classics)
Beowulf (Signet Classics) by Anonymous (Mass Market Paperback - June 3, 2008)
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