Beowulf & Grendel: The Truth Behind England's Oldest Legend

Overview

The legend of Beowulf and Grendel is one of the founding works of modern Western literature. It tells the story of the monster-slaying hero, Beowulf, who frees the feasting hall of a Danish king from the 12-year tyranny of the hideous creature Grendel. For decades, scholars have assumed that the warrior Beowulf was based on an actual historic person, but that Grendel was the work of imagination. In Beowulf and Grendel, John Grigsby reveals the true basis for Grendel's battle with Beowulf. Grigsby explains how a ...
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Overview

The legend of Beowulf and Grendel is one of the founding works of modern Western literature. It tells the story of the monster-slaying hero, Beowulf, who frees the feasting hall of a Danish king from the 12-year tyranny of the hideous creature Grendel. For decades, scholars have assumed that the warrior Beowulf was based on an actual historic person, but that Grendel was the work of imagination. In Beowulf and Grendel, John Grigsby reveals the true basis for Grendel's battle with Beowulf. Grigsby explains how a cult migrated to England from Denmark and Germany, bringing with it a practice of human sacrifice. It is the violent suppression of this cult in the fifth century that underlies Beowulf's fantastic deeds. Fusing historical research with literary study, Grigsby presents a compelling case for the true-life roots of a classic work of art.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781842931530
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.78 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Different Viewpoint

    John Grigsby's interpretation of the Beowulf legend is quite interesting. I used it in the recent Book Club study. The point he makes in this book is that the underlying theme -- never picked up on until now -- is that of Danish transition from a pagan fertility tradition that required the ritual murder of a king by his brother, who then would be killed in the same way the following year, etc. to the establishment of a dynasty. Hrothgar's real crime, according to Grigsby, was that he refused to follow tradition by letting himself be killed at midwinter after Year One of his rule by Grendel and, instead, intended to have his children inherit the kingdom. The origins of Grendel and his mother are examined, from links to ancient Greece all the way to modern times: in one part of England, you find the word Grendylow, for instance, in connection with the legends of the lake-hags that take the unwary to their deaths. Also, Grigsby reveals the true origins of the words "nightmare", "hag-ridden", and "haggard" and their connection to Grendel's mother. A very interesting book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    Pulling it all Together

    In his book, Beowulf and Grendel, John Grigsby has woven together an enormous amount of information covering a vast expanse of time and fit it all into a comprehensible picture. He begins with the ancient worship of agricultural goddesses in Scandinavia and northern Europe, continues with the development of Odin worship and creates a plausible historical context for the events of the Beowulf Poem. There are interesting excursions into other world mythologies, fairy tales, even bog mummies and the book includes photos and drawings of artifacts that bring the facts to life. I happened to read Grigsby's research shortly after seeing Gunnarson's movie by the same title. It really brought the story into focus and greatly enhanced my understanding of the themes. Easy to read yet backed with lots of academic references, this book is essential for anyone interested in Norse mythology, the Beowulf Poem or the myths at the foundation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    For LOTR enthusiasts as well!

    I purchased this book after having the opportunity to see a screening of the new movie Beowulf and Grendel- directed by Sturla Gunnarson at the Vancouver IFF. It's a great movie that really sparks one's interest in this oldest poem in English Literature. Mr Grigsby's book really fills in the blanks about pre-Roman Northren Europe's history and mythology. His background info gleaned from archeology and folklore lead one to understand why JRR Tolkien was so interested in this poem. Having read this book I really look forward to seeing this movie again. For that matter I have a new view of LOTR as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2005

    This was book that tied it all in for me.

    Having seen the Sturla Gunnarsson film at its World Premiere in Toronto September 2005 was quite an honor for me and it was then that Beowulf had indeed cast it's spell on me.The film with it's breathtaking background of Iceland and great cast (Gerard Butler, Sarah Polley etc.)made me want to futher explore the Beowulf I had read many times in high school. I found John Grigsby's book to be well written and very easy to follow and the information just flowed off the page. It really help for me to link the film, the poem and his book together. It is a real must read for all Beowulf fans as well LOTR fans. You will not be disappointed.

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