What Do I Read Next?
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 528
- The anonymous Old English poem The Battle of Maldon was composed close to the time the Beowulf manuscript was being transcribed. It recounts the death in 991 A.D of Byrhtnoth, ealdorman (governor) of Essex, and his men while fighting the Vikings. It is filled with the heroic commonplaces of Germanic literature: the courageous and still active old war leader who makes one miscalculation, but dies shoulder to shoulder with his men, the retainers who die one by one standing by their dead lord. Modern readers will see in it formulas of another kind, the voices and characters of the men in the ranks, the career soldier as well as the civilian volunteer. Maldon and its characters could easily be transposed to a Hollywood platoon or bomber crew movie.
- The anonymous Irish epic Tain Bo Cualgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), available in a translation by Thomas Kinsella (1969), is unusual in that it is composed in prose with inset short verses. Like Beowulf it is difficult to date, the language of the oldest version is probably eighth century although some passages of inset verse may be older. The focus of the story fluctuates between two characters, Queen Maeve of Connacht, who begins the war, and the Ulster hero Cuchulainn. During the period in which the Tain and Beowulf were written, England and Ireland enjoyed close cultural relations.
- Felix's Life of Guthlac, translated by Bertram Colgrave (1956), was written in Latin sometime after 714 and before 749 A.D. Guthlac (circa 674-714 A.D.) was an adventurous young Anglo-Saxon nobleman. After successfully leading a war band, he was moved in his early twenties by "the miserable deaths of kings of his race" to enter a monastery. There he read of the heroism of the "desert fathers," the monks who had gone into the wilderness to be alone with God, and decided that he would attempt to be such a spiritual warrior. He became a hermit in the East Anglian fens, living in an old burial mound, which he held against the onslaughts of demons. Although he was a hermit he was often visited by people seeking spiritual comfort. As well as being a constant friend to his fellow humans, animals trusted him implicitly.
- John Gardner's Grendel, published in 1972, is an imaginative retelling of Beowulf from Grendel's point of view. Grendel made the New York Times best-seller list.
- Tom Holt's "Who's Afraid of Beowulf" (1989) is a fantasy comedy which mixes satire, heroic virtues, and computers. The hero, whose generosity of spirit seems to be based on one strain of critical analysis of Beowulf's character, leads his loyal band and a young woman archaeologist from Long Island to save a world which is superficially utterly alien from his own, yet essentially unchanged.
- In the three books of The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), J. R. R. Tolkein's reading and teaching of Beowulf shaped the characters, action and society of his famous fantasy. The influence of Beowulf is strongest or most obvious in the "Riders of Rohan" who play a large part in Book 2, The Two Towers, and Book 3, The Return of the King. Their society and culture is clearly based on the Anglo-Saxon heroic ideal.