Beowulf is Still Important Today

Most editors would cringe at the thought of having a 3182 line poem coming across their desk. And more so if the poem's lines were written in Old English and in the alliterative-style. Although, by modern standards this "poem" would seem daunting and, most likely, would be turned down over and over again, the epic poem of Beowulf is still considered an important work today and the most important work of Anglo-Saxon literature. In fact, this piece is the oldest surviving work and also the oldest of any vernacular English literature.

Unfortunately, no one knows who wrote this work, but it is estimated to have been written between the 8th and probably early 11th century. The poem was almost lost forever when a fire broke out in the 1731. It was part of a medieval collection put together at the time by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton at the Ashburnham House in London. Although it survived the fire, the epic poem of Beowulf did not make any significant impression until the end of the 18th century. In 1815 Beowulf was first translated from its original format into Latin, then later on into Danish, but it wasn't until 1820 that Beowulf was actually translated into the first modern language.

The epic tale of Beowulf would make any fantasy writer today green with envy. The poem takes place in the 5th century (right after the migration of the Saxons and Angles to England) and follows a hero by the name of Beowulf who resides in Geats, Scandinavia. During this time Beowulf defends the king of the Danes (HroĆ°gar) from the further attack of a giant, monster-like creature referred to as Grendel. If this isn't enough action, after Beowulf kills the monster, its mother also attacks. Once again Beowulf is able to slay the motherly-beast, then returns home to Sweden, where he later becomes king All is well in his kingdom for about 50 years until a dragon shows up. As usually our hero rises to the occasion and kills the dragon; however, he sustains a fatal injury which ends his reign.

Although this poem was written purely for entertainment purposes, scholars have been able to pinpoint actual historical events that coincide with people, places and traditions of that area and time period. This not only makes Beowulf a literary triumph, but gives us a closer look into some aspects of this era.