The central figure in the Old English epic entitled Beowulf.

Knowledge of this poem is a prerequisite for any realistic understanding of John Gardner's Grendel, even though the character of Beowulf appears only in the final pages of that novel.

In the Introduction to his translation of Beowulf, Irish poet Seamus Heaney explains:

The poem called Beowulf was composed sometime between the middle of the seventh and the end of the tenth century of the first millenium, in the language that is today called Anglo-Saxon or Old English. It is a heroic narrative, more than three thousand lines long, concerning the deeds of a Scandinavian prince, also called Beowulf, and it stands as one of the foundation works of poetry in English.

Many readers (young and old) are sometimes confused by Gardner's characterization of Beowulf in chapter 12. They might turn for enlightenment to the author's own words on the matter, found in his Letter to Miss Susie West and Students.

An heroic scholar might also seek out:

Hutman, Norma L. "Even Monsters Have Mothers: A Study of Beowulf and John Gardner's Grendel." Mosaic 9.1 (1975): 19-31.

Useful Links for Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Background

Beowulf: An Online Text (Gummere trans. 1910)
Beowulf: An Online Text in Old English
Alternative Beowulf Translations
The Anglo-Saxon Homepage
Anglo-Saxon England Index

Voice of the Shuttle: Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Links
Cambridge History of English and American Literature: Beowulf
Angelcynn - The Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain

Anglo-Saxon Archaeology
Anglo-Saxon History: A Select Bibliography

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