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Beowulf & Grendel: The Truth Behind England's Oldest Legend Paperback – January 1, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Watkins (July 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842931539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842931530
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,330,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doris Gomez on December 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Grigsby, in his book Beowulf and Grendel has accomplished a monumental feat, pulling together and enormous amount of information, covering a vast period of time, and fitting it into a recognizable whole. He begins with the most ancient worship of fertility goddesses in Sandinavia and northern Europe, continues into the development of Odin worship and creates a context for the events of the Beowulf Poem. There are lots of interesting excusions into other world mythologies, fairy tales and even bog mummies and the book includes photos and drawings of artifacts that bring the facts to life. I happened to read the book shortly after seeing Gunnarson's movie, Beowulf and Grendel and it really brought the story into focus, dangling bits and pieces of storyline formed themselves into a comprehensible pattern thanks to his research. Easy to read, yet backed with lots of academic references it is essential fo anyone interested in Norse mythology, the Beowulf Poem or the myths at the foundation of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book reads a little like a college essay. Some of the author's points are better supported than others. In several cases he assumes the reader must agree with him and no further proof is needed. In some cases no real proof is available because the lack of historical data. However, the author discusses some very interesting topics and writes in an accessible style. If you have any interest in Beowulf or Germanic, Norse, or Celtic cultural roots, this book is certainly worth a look. I enjoyed reading it and was motivated to further explore the topic when I finished the book.
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I've heard of this legend, and wanted to know the facts behind it. Great buy for that purpose.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Grigsby's book is supplemental material for me as a historian exploring genealogy. A (fee-based) genealogy website that I use has detailed entries of the "Anglo/Swedes" back to a possibly semi-mythological figure named "Yngvi King In Turkey" b. 193 in Noatun, Sweden. Going further back, his antecedants are in fact listed as originating from Turkey, Macedonia, Persia and Mesopotamia, and many of them closely related to ruling families in those nations. I have been reviewing the history of this region and period, and there certainly were some displacements of large groups of peoples, especially with the expansion of Roman hegemony. Is it possible that some of these peoples migrated north along already known trade routes to Scandinavia, to become the parent group of the Anglo-Saxons?
Mr. Grigsby makes several references to Scandinavian/Anglo-Saxon rituals, e.g. references to a barley god, which he believes shares some similarities to rituals from the Middle East. Another comparison is to the depiction of a solar disk above a boat, which is clearly reminiscent of Egyptian artwork.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the earliest known history of the English-speaking peoples, and possibly a few others as well.
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As a Beowulf scholar, I'm always interested to read more theories about the truth behind the epic poem. Good read.
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Format: Paperback
A very poor effort. The author displays no deep understanding of (1) the language of the work he undertakes to explain (2) physical circumstances of the text he examines.

The work is sloppy. The main point of discussion concerns the historicity of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's Mother. Grigsby begins with an examination of the genealogy of Scylding dynasty found at the beginning of the Beowulf. He (as many others have) is drawn to the mysterious figure of `Sheaf', and uses the figure to springboard into what is really the main (and tiresomely repeated) theme of this book: that the fight between Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's Mother is the dim echo of a ritual of a corn/fertility god's death and resurrection, encompassing both positive and negative aspects of a Neolithic cult's understanding of divinity.

There is very little material to work with from the era of Beowulf - either its mythological setting or the time the text was composed/copied (Grigsby blandly states it was the 11th century). To fill this very large gap, Grigsby turns to a method largely (and rightly) discredited among the majority of modern scholars, namely, comparative myth. Thus, we are taken on grand tours of ancient Egyptian myths about corn; to Greece where we learn about corn myths; to Stone Age burial mounds that we learn are connected to features recurrent in the corn myths. Grigsby's method is circular: if it fits with the corn cult he posits, it is related to the corn cult. Circumstantial evidence is enough to prove the underlying continuity of this surprisingly resilient cult of the corn god.
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