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Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition Anglo Saxon poem

An epic poem, thought to date back to the 8th century and found in a manuscript from 100AD, full of monstrous creatures, grisly happenings and heroic deeds.

Story

King Hrothgar’s Heorot has been under attack from a man-eating monster Grendel for twelve years. The arrival of a young Swedish prince, Beowulf, changes their fortunes. In battle, Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel and frees the town. But as the warriors rejoice, Grendel’s mother seeks revenge…

Why we chose it

An epic heroic poem, considered by scholars to be one of the most significant texts in English literature, its story of heroes, monsters and dragons has inspired and influenced poets and authors over the centuries.

Where it came from

Beowulf is believed to date back to the eighth century. It is found in a single manuscript from about 1000AD. It mixes fictional, legendary, and historical elements as it traces England’s ancestors in modern day Sweden and Denmark. The poem references real historical people and battles and takes inspiration from myth, folktale, and ancient Greek and Latin epics.

Where it went next

The story has had a huge impact on other poems, novels, films, video games, and even comic books. It has been translated into modern English many times. Editions for children include a 1999 version by Kevin Crossley Holland with illustrations by Charles Keeping and a more recent 2013 version by Michael Morpurgo with illustrations by Michael Foreman. Beowulf was a huge inspiration for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Dungeons and Dragons and even Game of Thrones have been influenced by Beowulf’s battles and glory.

Associated stories

Beowulf is closely related to old Icelandic sagas, classical epics, and English folklore. In its manuscript, it appears with other great monster stories.

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition Anglo Saxon poem