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(Counting this one, I own nine different editions of the poem.) Tolkien, most famous for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was also a noted scholar of Old English, so an edition of the famous Anglo-Saxon poem by him carries some rather high expectations. R., Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2014, hardcover, .17* [Discuss this post] I’ve finally obtained and read a copy, and I must, sadly, state that this is a book that no one should buy.
Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf was to be published, edited by his son Christopher, I was excited.
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Any discussion of Beowulf criticism invariably begins with a reference to Tolkien. Baker introduces his recent collection of essays by saying that Tolkien's "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" "continue[s] to be influential" and is "still worth the student's attention" (xi).
But many scholars think that the poem itself was written significantly earlier than the manuscript: some believe it was written around 750, others in the 800s or 900s. At least a few of the events mentioned in appear to be historical, and if so, they occured around the year 515, so the poem could be seen as being set in this time period or a more general, mythical "heroic age." What is the story in the poem (as distinct from the story in the film)?
Anglo-Saxonists widely acknowledge their dependence upon Tolkien for the ground broken by his 1936 essay, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics." Without Tolkien's intercession, Beowulf may never have come to be treated as the work of art it is.
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, due in part to the Peter Jackson film adaptations and in part to the publication of Michael D. Drout's variorum edition of Tolkien's Beowulf and the Critics, both popular and scholarly audiences have come to understand the role that Old English literature, particularly the Beowulf poem, plays in Tolkien's literary worldview.
Then you can send me emails that say "You know, you over-simplified that situation," and I'll have to agree).
What is is long a poem (3182 lines) written in Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon), the ancestor of the Modern English that we now speak (if you want to hear spoken Old English, go to anglosaxonaloud.com).