Beowulf (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Beowulf, by Anonymous, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & ...

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Beowulf (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Beowulf, by Anonymous, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Widely regarded as the first true masterpiece of English literature, Beowulf describes the thrilling adventures of a great Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century. Its lyric intensity and imaginative vitality are unparalleled, and the poem has greatly influenced many important modern novelists and poets, most notably J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

Part history and part mythology, Beowulf opens in the court of the Danish king where a horrible demon named Grendel devours men in their sleep every night. The hero Beowulf arrives and kills the monster, but joy turns to horror when Grendel’s mother attacks the hall to avenge the death of her son. Ultimately triumphant, Beowulf becomes king himself and rules peacefully for fifty years until, one dark day, a foe more powerful than any he has yet faced is aroused—an ancient dragon guarding a horde of treasure. Once again, Beowulf must summon all his strength and courage to face the beast, but this time victory exacts a terrible price.

New translation by John McNamara. Features an original map and genealogy chart.

John McNamara is Professor of English at the University of Houston, where he teaches the early languages and literatures of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with a special focus on their oral traditions. He is the co-editor of Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John McNamara is Professor of English at the University of Houston, where he teaches the early languages and literatures of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with a special focus on their oral traditions. He is the co-editor of Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs.


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Read an Excerpt

From John McNamara’s Introduction to Beowulf

Even more perplexing is the question of values and beliefs in the poem. The world of Beowulf is the world of heroic epic, with its legendary fights among larger-than-life figures, both human and monstrous, its scenes of feasting in great beer halls presided over by kings, its accounts of bloody feuds trapping men and women alike in cycles of violence, its praise of giving riches to loyal followers rather than amassing wealth for oneself, its moments of magic in stories of powers gained or lost—and over all, a sense of some larger force that shapes their destinies, both individual and collective. Readers have often looked upon this long-gone heroic world for a glimpse of a pagan past in Northern Europe before Christianity was brought by foreign missionaries, yet the poem is filled with references to the new religion and the power of its God. This tension between the ancient past and what was, in the time of the poet, a new worldview disturbed many romantic and nationalistic critics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They sought in Beowulf the origins of Germanic, including Scandinavian, culture—or at least clues from which that culture could be reconstructed. Yet many were for the most part frustrated, for they saw the epic of Northern antiquity “marred” by the intrusions of foreign beliefs and values, such as the Christianity imposed by missionaries from the Mediterranean South, and equally “marred” by the fantastic fights with monsters in the center of the poem, while the historical materials that most interested them were placed on the outer edges. In this view, the poem simply was not the poem that it should have been.

However, the great work of Friedrich Klaeber, and especially the influence of Tolkien, cited above, would change all that. In recent times, scholars have not only stressed the Christian element as integral to the poem as a whole, but they have spent enormous energy in ferreting out its sources and functions. All of which brings us back, not just to the question of the poet, but more importantly to the question of the audience. After all, the poet was composing the work for a community that already shared certain core values, though those values appear at times to emerge from a moment of cultural transition between the memory of the old and the power of the new. So, once again, we are faced with complexity, and attempts to reduce Beowulf to some single, or at least predominant, worldview cannot explain the creative tensions in this complexity.

Yet there are further questions about audience. Did it consist, as some scholars have proposed, of people so well versed in Christian teachings, and even in learned theology, that it would have been a monastic community? The answer is by no means clear. We do have the famous letter from Alcuin to the monks of Lindisfarne (797) enjoining them not to include secular heroic narratives in their entertainments. But we also have the even more famous story of the poet Caedmon in Bede’s History of the English Church and People (731), which shows the members of the monastery at Whitby singing narrative lays, while accompanying themselves on the harp. Their lays must have been secular since it was only after the miracle of Caedmon’s poetic inspiration that Christian biblical narratives were set to traditional Anglo-Saxon poetic forms. Such a community would not only house scholars, as well as monks with considerably less education, but also the monastic familia was made up of all the lay people—men, women, and children—who occupied and generally worked the lands surrounding (and dependent on) the monastery.

Our modern view of medieval monasteries has been shaped by later reforms, in which walled structures often shut reclusive monks in cloistered protection from the temptations of the larger world. But in Anglo-Saxon England, the monasteries were generally open to the social world, and the Rule of St. Benedict lays great stress on the need to extend hospitality to all who come to the community. We also have depictions in monastic works, such as lives of the saints, of storytelling events that included monks and laypeople alike. Thus, even if one were to claim that Beowulf was aimed at a monastic audience, it is clear that such an audience would most probably include many who were not monks. And, of course, one need not postulate a monastic audience at all in order to account for the Christian element in the poem. For the dominant ethos of the poem is a celebration of the values of heroic society, and while the poet-narrator’s comments often reflect a Christian point of view, the heroic values in the poem are in themselves primarily secular. Or do we have, once again, a complex creative tension between the two?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 373 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 373 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    Spellbinding!

    For a book this small, it is thicker than a series. The story will captivate you from page one and hold your attention in gravely strong hands. I remember reading Beowulf as a child in school but could not remember it's allure and the reason for the epic effect when hearing the name 'Beowulf.' Now I remember. Unlike the movie (which was grade A mythology in my opinion) Beowulf the book portrays a character unlike any other that I've read about in any other epic novel. I was simply blown away. Read it if you dare.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2006

    Great story!

    The story of Beowulf is spellbinding and the Barnes and Noble classics series is a wonderful series. However, if you want to really enjoy Beowulf you must read the translation by Seamus Heaney. It really is the ultimate translation!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    BEOWULF: AN AMAZING STORY

    This book was an amazing read. IT captivates you from the moment that you read the first page. You can relate to the characters, and the author does a great job describing the events in the book. You are able to place your self in the characters body and you can see what he/she is seeing through their eyes.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2006

    Beowulf: An English Literature Classic

    Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem, its origin remaining undated (conjecture abounds as to the period in which it was written), is a supreme example of classic literature. Yes, the epic poem has dragons and demons and some other mythological creatures humans have devised over the centuries however, what astounding story comes without a brilliantly powerful antagonist (or, in Beowulf's case, arch-nemesis)? Footnotes add flavor to this delightful, classical, easy-read epic poem. For readers, English majors, and people seeking a literary thrill, this Anglo-Saxon classic stresses the importance of bravery a genuine understanding of life and death, and that each will visit every mortal being and, finally, the poetic splendor of honor by valor.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Epic Tale

    This book is a classic and heroic tale, a timeless piece for any book collection or personal library.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I can't believe more people haven't read this book.

    I got this book before realizing that my 12th grade english class was going to read some of it (out of the literature book). I would have gotten it after knowing anyways because I hate reading stuff out of the literature book (they always simplify everything (such as telling you that Beowulf was written in 900 A.D.; when the actual exact time it was written is a mystery). This is a great book! The background information on characters or objects or places provided in the book are excellent and well-presented. The introduction gives information that will greatly help you to understand the book (characters, ideals, literally devices used, etc.) And, (to top it all off) the size of the book is very convinient to carry around on the go.

    Thank you,

    NickTP

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2007

    awsome

    a very good book. i bought it cause a friend recommended it. i loved it, just dont go see the movie it is entirly diffrent from this.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2006

    A thrilling read!

    A great classic! The tales of Beowulf's struggles make this book a quick read. I read the abridged version in my English class, and I immediately wanted to know the whole story. This edition was extremely helpful in explaining the difficult parts. It is easy to see why this was a favorite of Tolkien! If you are looking for a story filled with action and adventure, this a perfect choice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2005

    A outstanding new Beowulf

    This Beowulf is remarkable for its transparency: instead of an intrusive translator-persona competing with the original, McNamara's energies are entirely directed toward polish: finding the better word, the more harmonious cadence, the more evocative phrase. In so doing, he not only gives the reader a superior view of the letter and spirit of the original, but a superior feeling for Beowulf's poetic intangibles.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2000

    He has done a wonderful job.

    The original Beowulf was written in Anglo-Saxon, probably around 600 AD. (So it's not really that ancient-- not compared to Rome or Egypt.) Burton Raffel has done an excellent job translating it. The lines are almost musical, and they flow well. The storyline too, is fascinating. It's about a time when warriors were heroes, and cowards and mere murderers were despised. Being a fair maiden, I have a partiality for heroes who slay monsters! All books have 'tastes,' and I think this one tastes good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2008

    Heroes, Monsters, and Other Good Things

    This book, or poem, is indeed good. It has a complex hero who eventually becomes a king. But just as, if not more, memorable, are the monsters he faces. Grendel, his mother, and the dragon, are all captivating in their own right. One might consider them a metaphor for everyday 'demons'. It also has a religious subtext(as in God made and controls all things). Furthermore, it includes some 'stories-in-stories' so it doesn't just focus on fighting monsters. And yet...I couldn't help but feel sorry for the monsters just a little bit. You may feel differently.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2007

    Awesome Book

    A friend gave me this book to read, it is interesting. I recommend this book, goes well on a chilling night and warm fire.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A victory and a paradox

    Although the hero of this story, Beowulf also becomes the victim in a most peculiar way. Read and find out how.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2007

    A reviewer

    Beowulf is an interesting character. His strength is comparable to that of Hercules. He is self righteous, believing that god itself has given him this power, and guides him upon what he should do with it. But the intentions of which he uses his gift are of a more greedy purpose. Not just to fulfill gods will. But to use his gift to create a name that would last through the sands of time, being remembered for as long as the earth may age. His accomplishments were great, and contained nobility when he dealt with any enemy. Going into a battle with an unfair advantage was unsuitable to Beowulf. His reason partly ego, partly noble, proving that the beast he had slain had been on their own terms. This great warrior purged lands of tainted creatures, created by mans evil, but knew not the limits of his age, or his responsibility to the Geats. This would lead to the downfall of him, and his people. He set off to fight a mighty dragon. Something like his battle with Grendels mother. Which he had barely survived in his youth. Refusal to heed the warnings of those close, allowing his ego to condemn him. But assistance from a loyal follower kept him from dying in vain. Nevertheless the draw between Beowulf and the dragon led to the condemnation of his people. Although his kingdom contained hardy warriors, and great riches. Without the leadership of Beowulf and the fear contained within his allies the Geats could not withstand the numbers which plagued them after his death. His people slaughtered, throne devoured, and allies turned. Not due to the greed of which the dragon held the treasure, not to save innocent lives of which the dragon had taken, or to secure a future for his people, but to keep the preservation of his name.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2006

    Great telling of the Anchient

    This Book is great. The telling by Mcnammara is awesome and he does a great job to bring you into the story. Always filled with action and undying loyalty and chivalry this book is a sure hit for any adventure enthusiast.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    Mlp

    Good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Beowulf

    Beowulf is an excing and acient poetry book from 12 b.c. I recomend this book to amyone who loves a good adventure.

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  • Posted July 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Although this tale revolves around the eponymous protagonist's a

    Although this tale revolves around the eponymous protagonist's acts of heroism and bravery, it also delves into the qualities which mark a good king, and it is rooted in a Christian point of view and morals.  Its repeated excursions into snippets of history seem to remind the  reader that no man's actions exist in an isolated vacuum.  This is a very complex and deep book, highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    "Very good"

    The best book in the world

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    ????Should I read this?

    Do you guys think I should read this? I read the reviews, didn't like it. If they want me to read this, then they should put a sample on for me to read

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 373 Customer Reviews

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