© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Of Monsters and Shmoopers.

Beowulf vs. Grendel: it's a tale as old as time. Well, it's a tale as old as somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries—still pretty impressive.

You probably know Beowulf as a monster story, but this epic poem is way more than just blood and guts. Beneath all the armor, there's a story that influenced pretty much every Western work that came after it. Go ahead and dive in.

P.S. Take this course on its own or combine it with our other literature units to create one monster of a curriculum.

Here's a sneak peek at a video from the course. BYOP (bring your own popcorn).

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Beowulf

Of Monsters and Shmoopers.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 2: Lost in Translation

Beowulf starts like this:

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.
(Heaney ll. 1-3)

Or actually, maybe it starts like this:

Listen! We—of the Spear-Danes          in the days of yore,
of those clan-kings—    heard of their glory.
how those nobles      performed courageous deeds.
(Slade ll. 1-3)

But it might also go something like this:

LO, praise the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
(Gummere ll. 1-3)
A golden gilded mirror.
Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who's the fairest Beowulf of them all? (Source)

So which is it?

Well, that depends on whose translation of the poem you're reading: each translation is just one interpretation of the poem. That's how it's possible to get three wildly different versions of even the first three lines. So yeah... imagine how many differences you'll see between translations of this three thousand line poem.

But wait a second. How come the smarty-pants scholars who study this stuff for a living can't come to some agreement about how to translate the foundational epic of English literature?

Head on over to the first reading for some answers.