What is the difference between the epic and the movie Beowulf?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There have been many filmatic adaptations of the epic tale Beowulf. Here are the following adaptations of the epic:

  • Grendel, Grendel, Grendel (1981)
  • Beowulf (1999)
  • Beowulf and Grendel (2005)
  • Grendel (2007 made of television movie)
  • Beowulf (2007)
  • Beowulf: Prince of the Geats (2008)

Perhaps the most commonly used adaptation is the 2007 film featuring Angelina Jolie and produced by Robert Zemeckis. This film is very different from the epic tale.

In the 2007 filmatic adaptation, the idea of light and dark are swapped from that of the movie. Angelina Jolie, who portrays Grendel's mother, is depicted in golden light, much unlike the creature who lives in the hell-like lair in the original text. Beowulf, in the same way, is "altered." Beowulf is not the warrior for God as he is in the epic text. Instead, he commits covets Hrothgar's wife and is depicted as a dark character (as a "dark wolf" if I am not mistaken).

Next, the idea of Christian and Pagan ideology is different. In the text, Hrothgar celebrates God. He even built Heorot to celebrate God's power. In the film though, Hrothgar denounces Christianity. He states that he would rather stay Pagan as his ancestors were.

As for another adaptation, the 2005 version called Beowulf and Grendel, Grendel is not a monster. Instead, he is a child whose family has been murdered. Grendel is after revenge. In the text, Grendel is angry because he is in exile because of his ancestor's sin, not his own.


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