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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

This Penguin Classic is performed by Royce Pierreson, star of Line of Duty, Our Girl and The Witcher. This definitive recording includes an introduction by Michael Alexander.

Beowulf is the greatest surviving work of literature in Old English, unparalleled in its epic grandeur and scope. It tells the story of the heroic Beowulf and of his battles, first with the monster Grendel, who has laid waste to the great hall of the Danish king Hrothgar, then with Grendel's avenging mother and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland. 

Through its blend of myth and history, Beowulf vividly evokes a twilight world in which men and supernatural forces live side by side. And it celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in a transient world.

©2003 Michael Alexander (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Alexander's translation is marked by a conviction that it is possible to be both ambitious and faithful [and]...communicates the poem with a care which goes beyond fidelity-to-meaning and reaches fidelity of implication. May it go on...to another half-million copies." (Tom Shippey, Bulletin of the International Association of University Professors of English)

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  • Tad Davis
  • 10-04-21

Excellent translation and reading

Of all the translations that are available, my favorite remains the one by Stephen Mitchell. But the audio version of Mitchell’s translation is marred by a weak reading, courtesy of Mitchell himself, who simply doesn’t have the voice for it. Royce Pierreson does have the voice for it, and he does a fine job with Michael Alexander’s (also) excellent translation.

The language is somewhat heightened —dignified, like the story itself — but not in any way archaic or obscure. (One exception: to capture the flavor of Old English, Alexander does, like many translators, preserve some of the kennings of the original: for instance, calling the ocean “the whale-road” or describing Beowulf as “unlocking his word-hoard” when he’s about to speak. (I can’t think of a single translation of the poem that doesn’t keep that last one.) On the whole it goes down smoothly, and the tragic end of the poem comes across with the sadness of an ice-bound ship.

And as always with the Penguin titles, the introduction — here read by Roy McMillan — adds considerable value to the audiobook. The introductions have always been one of the highlights of the Penguin classics, and it was a smart marketing decision to include them.

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