Starting the week after next, the League will be hosting the Beowulf & Grendel Book Club*. Everyone and anyone is invited (nay, encouraged!) to participate.
For those not familiar with either work, Beowulf is an epic story of heroes and monsters, written by an unknown poet sometime between 700 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Set in ancient Scandinavia, the poem follows the hero Beowulf through three separate adventures: His battle with the monster Grendel, his subsequent battle with Grendel’s mother, and his battle decades later with an unnamed dragon.
Grendel is a retelling of the first of these adventures through the eyes of the book’s eponymous monster. In less than ten score pages Gardner wrestles with such lightweight subjects as the nature of good and evil, man’s true nature, the power of storytelling and myth, the transformative properties of beauty and art, the relationship between religion and God, and the general meaning of life, the universe and everything.
The book club will take place over a six-week period. The first three week’s we’ll tackle the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf; we will then take three weeks to go through John Gardner’s Grendel. If you have limited time, fear not. My version of Beowulf is about 200 pages, but half of those are the untranslated Anglo-Saxon; that means a very doable 35 pages or so a week. Grendel is about twice that length, but not being an epic poem it should read faster.
Our first “meeting” will begin on Friday, February 1 and will continue throughout the weekend until the discussion dies down. We’ll meet each subsequent week after that.
First assignment: Read Beowulf, lines 1 – 1007 (Pages 3- 67 in the Norton paperback edition of Heaney’s translation)
If anyone wishes to recommend supplemental books, essays, media, etc, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
* The actual goings on might still end up being at Mindless Diversions. But we’ll have intro posts with links on the front page, so you will still be able to access it here.