Translated by John McNamara
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 dragon 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.
John McNamara is Professor of English at the University of Houston.