Beowulf (poem)

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The name Beowulf refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Beowulf (disambiguation).
First page of Beowulf

Beowulf is the conventional title of an Anglo-Saxon epic poem.

Tolkien and Beowulf[edit | edit source]

John Howe - Beowulf Battles Grendel's Mother

J.R.R. Tolkien was a prominent Beowulf scholar; his Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics was a turning point in the modern study of the poem, moving the focus from its historical to its literary significance.[1] Tolkien also left two substantial unpublished manuscripts concerning Beowulf. The first, a more substantial version of the previously mentioned critical essay, was edited by Michael D.C. Drout and published as Beowulf and the Critics.[2] The second is a partial poetic and full prose translation of the epic, including commentary.[3] The latter was a minor media sensation on its 'discovery' in 2003 and was also to be prepared for publication by Drout, but as of 2010 this was not forthcoming.[4]

On 22 May 2014, HarperCollins published Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, taken from the unpublished manuscript kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.[5]

An excerpt from Beowulf, rendered by Tolkien in Valmaric script, was published with commentary in Parma Eldalamberon 14.[6] A similar excerpt from Beowulf, rendered by Tolkien in his Qenya Alphabet, was published with commentary in Parma Eldalamberon 20.[7]

Influence on the legendarium[edit | edit source]

Tolkien looked highly upon Beowulf, and it both indirectly and directly influenced his own imaginative work. The episode in The Hobbit where Bilbo steals a cup from Smaug's hoard, for example, is a conscious homage to a similar theft in Beowulf.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]


  1. Heaney, Seamus (2000). Beowulf, "Introduction". New York: W.W. Norton. pp. ix–xxx.
  2. Michael D.C. Drout, Beowulf and the Critics.
  3. Beowulf: Translations by J. R. R. Tolkien. Updated 2003-01-05. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  4. Michael D.C. Drout, Wormtalk and Slugspeak: Beowulf Basics. Updated 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  5. Rhona Beare, "A Mythology for England", in The Silmarillion: Thirty Years On (ed. Allan Turner)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Qenya and The Valmaric Script", in Parma Eldalamberon XIV (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), pp. 90, 120, 122
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Qenya Alphabet", in Parma Eldalamberon XX (edited by Arden R. Smith), pp. 67, 70
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 25, (dated February 1938).