A Review of Robert Nye’s Beowulf

If you like the Lord of the Rings, you might be interested in this novel, set in ancient times about good versus evil and an unlikely hero. Imagine a hero who was short in stature and had the eyesight akin to that of a bat, taking on monstrous man-eaters. The original story was written in the form of a poem found in a manuscript dated around the 11th century. Present day Robert Nye’s Beowulf is therefore a retelling of one of the oldest poems in English literature. The story follows Beowulf’s triumphs against 3 monsters; Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and in his old age, a fire breathing dragon.

The story begins with a little history of the Danes, and how their beloved king, Hrothgar, builds a shining mead hall to host his warriors and noble lords. The merry making and brightness of the hall in the night angers the beast Grendel. When the party guests retire to their rooms for the night and the mead hall falls silent, Grendel makes its way. It’s body was covered in the slimy stink of the swamp and the blood of its past victims, and had a breath like death. Under the cover of darkness, it bore its rage upon the drunken guards within the hall, and devoured them all. The traveling poets were the media back in those days, and they spread the story of Grendel’s hellish deeds everywhere until it reached the Land of the Geats, where our hero Beowulf lives. Beowulf decides to take on the task of killing Grendel,and sets off with a troop of loyal soldiers.

Beowulf, as mentioned earlier, is unlike most heroes we’ve read about or seen. He is described as below average size and has poor eyesight, which all sounds like setbacks to being a hero. However, he had the wisdom to acknowledge and accept these weaknesses, for he knew battles could not be won with just brawn. Instead of hiding away his weaknesses, he put them to use, and in turn made them his strengths. Because of this, when Beowulf is faced with Unferth, the snivelling and obnoxious man in the court of King Hrothgar, he is unaffected by the tauntings and attempts at proving him to be of lesser character. Unferth, who had a dark and twisted mind, enjoyed casting unhappiness and chaos all around, even upon his king. He found Grendel to be beautiful, and longed to be amongst the evils of the swamp, cursing himself for being human. It is ironic considering his literal pissing fear of Grendel when he watched it devour a soldier whole, leaving only the remains of guts and entrails hanging from its teeth. We may just see glimpses of these evil characters around us, and should learn to observe people’s characters and reflect on what they say, for they may just reveal their true selves.
Throughout the book, Beowulf uses rather enlightened and unorthodox methods in disarming his opponents. He practically talks them to their doom. This novel, based on an ancient legend, is a simple and easy read, sharing similar themes with modern-day movies and books. So if you have a vivid imagination and love gory details, I would recommend you picking this one up.

Written by Kimberly Sarah Mathew

BA English Language and Literature, 2nd year.

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