The central figure in the Old English epic
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
Beowulf: An Online Text (Gummere trans. 1910)
An Online Text in Old English
of the Shuttle: Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Links
History of English and American Literature: Beowulf
- The Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain
History: A Select Bibliography