Book Review: Beowulf, A New Telling, by Robert Nye

beowulf_coverBeowulf is believed to be the first piece of English literature ever to be written. It was originally composed as an epic poem. This version was adapted in the form of a short novel.

In the beginning of the novel, Beowulf travels to the land of the Danes, to visit the king, Hrothgar. Hrothgar’s hall, Hall Heorot, had been under attack from Grendel, an evil monster, for many years. Because of this constant threat that no one had yet ceased, Hrothgar was indifferent of Beowulf’s arrival and declaration to fight Grendel.
However, Hrothgar would soon find that Beowulf is no ordinary hero. To fight Grendel, he uses no sword and does not formulate a plan. Will Beowulf still be able to defeat the monster without these vital things?

After the death of one of Hrothgar’s men, and the mysterious disappearance of Unferth, another of Hrothgar’s men, Beowulf follows Grendel’s mother’s sickly spoor into the Fen, an evil, swamp-like area on the edge of the Hall. To fight Grendel’s mother, he has to dive deep into a bottomless pool, with blood bubbles floating to the surface. Deeper and deeper he swims, until he is grabbed by Grendel’s mother.

Beowulf then tries to repeatedly hit the monster, to no avail. He feels helpless at the hands of this monster. Is it still possible for Beowulf to kill this hideous monster? Or will his fear paralyze him?

Despite his reputation in the land of the Danes, Beowulf does not feel he belongs there, and journeys back to his homeland. Once there, he is asked to be king, an offer which he declines, not wanting to take the throne when there is still an heir.

For the next few years, he lives peacefully tending bees like he did as a child. However, when the young king is killed, he must take the throne. He leads the country into a time of peace, during which he continues to tend his bees.

However, one fateful day, a slave wanders into the mountains seeking treasure in a prince’s burial chamber. This causes the firedrake to become enraged and swell to an enormous size, preventing the animal from exiting the burial chamber. Once the firedrake calms his temper and ventures outside, the monster wreaks havoc on the nearby houses, setting them on fire.

Beowulf, being king, knows he must take action. This time, with help, he formulates a plan to defeat the firedrake. He sets his bees in front of the entrance to the cave and steps inside to carry out his plan. Will Beowulf’s strategy work? Will he survive his last exploit?

Before reading this book, I had not heard anything good about the story. However, I thought the book was suspenseful and a good read overall. I would rate this novel a 9 out of 10.

– Leila S., 8th Grade

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Beowulf, A New Telling, by Robert Nye

  1. An excellent, precise summation of an age-old tale! It’s definitely great to see that you enjoyed Beowulf, especially considering that it was written about a millennia ago! I had some trouble with the vocabulary used in the translation I read, but found the story engaging nonetheless. It is a great vehicle to transport the reader into another age.

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