Okay, sit still. I have actually a lot of things to say about Maria Dahvana Headley"s brand-new book, Beowulf, and also I"m gonna try to speak them all appropriate now.

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The an initial thing I need to tell you is the you have to read it now. No, i don"t treatment if you"ve read Beowulf (the original) before. No, ns don"t care if you loved it/hated it, if it traumatized you, if it ruined and/or energized the English language for you, or damaged you for translations or whatever. Ns don"t treatment what girlfriend think of as soon as you think of beowulf in any type of of its numerous other translations because this — this — version, Headley"s version, is one entirely different thing. The is its own thing. A amazing thing that probably shouldn"t even exist, except that the does.

It is Beowulf, mostly. Beowulf, kinda. That is Beowulf down to the heat numbers, and also tells the story that Beowulf and also Hrothgar and Grendel and also Grendel"s mom and the dragon and Wiglaf and also everything.

Except ...

Except that Headley has actually made the modern, no in type or layout or content, yet in temperament. In language. "Language is a life thing," she to write in she introduction. "And once it dies, it pipeline bones. I dropped part fossils here, alongside some newborns. I"m together interested in modern idiom and also slang together I am in the archaic. There are various other translations if you"re searching for the courtly romance and also knights."



Truth: Beowulf would"ve been a vanity task if that wasn"t created by Headley, and also if Headley hadn"t make a splash back in 2018 through The Mere mam which was, in itself, a retelling the Beowulf set in 21st century suburbia and also focusing (largely, yet not exclusively) ~ above Grendel"s mother. It would"ve been a thesis. An scholastic passion job read by no one but Beowulf nerds, love or hated virtually in a vacuum.

Instead, Headley"s Beowulf is a huge release — discussed, debated, talked around (as it have to be) since it has everything: Love, sex, murder, magic, dungeons, dragons, giants, monsters. It pour out blood by the bucket and gore by the gallon, makes heroes, slays villains and serves as an instruction manual for toxicity masculinity, circa 700 AD.


Bro! call me us still know just how to

talk about kings! In the old days,

everyone knew what men were:

brave, bold, glory-bound. Only

stories now, yet I"ll sound the

Spear-Danes" song, hoarded for

hungry times.


Yeah, she starts that all v "Bro."

Bro.

Bro!

I mean, that"s ridiculous. And also brilliant. And genius-level washed-up barstool-hero trolling all at the very same time. "Bro" to take it the place of Behold! and Lo! and What ho! due to the fact that Behold! and also Lo! and (especially) What ho! space all silly and also stilted and stupid and do not — no a solitary one of them — have the social heft and emotional dwarfism and Bud light swagger of "Bro," due to the fact that "Bro" is the braggart"s call, the throat-clearing of someone that wasn"t, girlfriend know, there, yet heard around it from part dude who totally was.


It is thousand-year-old slam poetry, "Hamilton" for the Geats and also Skyldings — full of blood and honor, within jokes and also historical digressions.


And that is the emotional level in ~ which beo wolf works. Has always worked, really, however absolutely works in Headley"s newest version. That is bragging. The is urban legend. The is that man who when threw three touchdowns against State informing the story again — 5 beers deep on a Tuesday night — before hey-buddy-ing the bartender because that his sixth.

That"s what beowulf always was. One epic city made to be shouted end the howls of mead-drunk Spear-Danes together they toast the fallen and also lovingly beat each other to sleep. That is thousand-year-old slam poetry, Hamilton for the Geats and Skyldings — complete of blood and honor, inside jokes and historical digressions.

Headley takes liberties. She has actually reasons (and explains them in comprehensive intro) and she has the appropriate (having studied beowulf as closely as anyone), and so she tinkers v focus and also with the weight given to smaller personalities (Unferth going toe-to-toe v Beowulf, trying to put the lie come the tales currently told the him, becomes among the poem"s most memorable scenes — an epos mead-hall lab battle), and re-humanizes Grendel"s mother into a grief-stricken mommy demanding a blood-debt for she murdered son. Monstrous, yes. However no much longer a monster.


It rolls. It requirements to it is in spoken, to it is in shouted and spat. To be taught as the point that it is — the Marvel movie the its time.


Which is all fine. Which is all together it have to be. Because there is no real Beowulf. Not anymore. It has been translated and re-translated. Academics have actually tussled v the language because that ages. Also the original (not the original-original, yet the original document upon i beg your pardon all various other translations are based) to be a group project. 2 scribes, working through the 3,182 currently together, fighting each other in the margins, crossing the end each other"s words and replacing them.

So Headley"s variation (translation? transcription?) is just as real and twice as an important right currently as any other. That sings directly through, the alliteration and also temper of it vitality (as it need to be) and also roaring (as it have to be), favor Beowulf, introducing himself to Hrothgar:


I"m the strongest and also the boldest,

and the bravest and also the best.

Yes: I typical — ns may have actually bathed in

the blood of beasts,

netted 5 foul ogres in ~ once,

smashed my means into a troll den

and come out swinging, gone

skinny-dipping in a sleeping sea

and make sashimi of part sea monsters.

Anyone that f***s with the Geats? Bro,

they have to f*** through me.


It rolls. It demands to it is in spoken, to be shouted and also spat. To be taught as the thing that the is — the Marvel movie of its time.

I always liked beo wolf a small for what that was: history, foundational myth, epic poem of swords and dragons, source material for paintings on the political parties of vans. Yet Maria Headley"s Beowulf ns love for exactly what the is: a psychotic track of gold and blood, stylish as hell, nasty and brutish and also funny all at once, mad and also bad and also sad and also alive now in a means that these words simply haven"t been for more than a thousands years.

Jason Sheehan to know stuff about food, video clip games, books and Starblazers. He is right now the restaurant movie critic at Philadelphia magazine, yet when nobody is looking, he spends his time writing books around giant robots and ray guns.

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story From the Radiation Age is his latest book.