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Beowulf

Narrated by: George Guidall
Length: 4 hrs and 8 mins
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Written a thousand years ago, this long poem is the very first surviving piece of English literature. Join Beowulf, a young warrior, as he achieves glory by fighting and killing three fantastic monsters. This new translation, by the Nobel laureate poet Seamus Heaney, offers modern listeners an accessible, intensely dramatic text. It amply demonstrates why this epic has spread its influence over more than a millennium of literature.

Public Domain (P)2004 Recorded Books

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  • Tad Davis
  • 2013-01-28

Almost perfect

Seamus Heaney's version of "Beowulf" is a wonder, a totally modern translation of the poem that somehow manages to sound like it's been around for a thousand years. For a long time, his translation was only available on Audible in a badly abridged version - badly abridged even though it was read by Heaney himself: enough of the story was cut that some passages were incomprehensible. Recorded Books has had this complete version for several years, and it's finally available on Audible as well.

If we can't have Heaney doing the whole thing, George Guidall is a great alternative: he has a deep, rich, old-soul-sounding voice that works beautifully on this kind of epic verse. (See "Gilgamesh" and "The Inferno" for other examples.) This is, in my opinion, the best version of this work available in audiobook format. Bear in mind, though, that I've been a fan of the poem for many years, and have read at least some of it in the original (in an undergraduate Old English course forty years ago). My recommendation may be less useful for someone trying to get a first-time gist of the story. I honestly don't know how this would come across to someone who'd never heard the story before.

If you want another interesting treat, listen to Guidall giving the other side of the story, in the audiobook version of "Grendel" by the late lamented John Gardner.

136 of 137 people found this review helpful

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  • Ingwe
  • 2013-03-27

One of the greatest tales of loss ever written

Any additional comments?

The way the author tells the story powerfully expresses what it must have felt like when, during those same times, they watched their mighty pagan traditions of honor and bravery set out to sea forever, then to be replaced by the new culture of Christianity.

If you read it, make sure you also read J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Monsters and The Critics." The whole essay brings new insights to the story; my particular favorite part was his metaphorical statement that Beowulf is a story of youth and old age, the rising and setting of life, and the embracing of the dragon that comes for us all.

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Rebecca J. Leamon
  • 2013-04-12

Beowulf as it should be enjoyed!

What a great way to review (or meet!) Beowulf! Heaney's translation is fantastic, and while I'd love to hear a Irishman, a Dane, or a Scotsman read it, Guidall is skilled if neutral. The inclusion of the introduction at the end is surprising (why not include it at the start?) but fantastic, and helps enrich the whole experience. I've read and taught Beowulf before, but I never really enjoyed its story fully until I listened to it. HIGHLY recommended. Yup, even the middle section while they're all boasting and trading loot. Listen to this and skip the terrible cartoony version with Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mom!

49 of 52 people found this review helpful

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  • Vicki Gibson
  • 2017-04-20

Excellent narration by George Guidall

Translated by Seamus Heaney and beautifully narrated by George Guidall. There are two bonus chapters (essays) read by Seamus Heaney about the poem itself and his approach to the translation.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • 2019-01-27

An old poem; a long poem

My view of the history of Beowulf does not agree with the publisher's summary. It is true that the only existing early transcript was written in Old English (a relative of the German language) in approximately 1000 BC, but there is very good reason to believe it was written three or four centuries earlier in what is now the German state of Saxony rather than what is now England. While taking a German 4 course in the spring semester of my sophomore year in 1963 I translated a modern German version of Beowulf into English (that was the full course). The author of Beowulf is unknown.

Beowulf, a Dane,is the protagonist who battled the evil Grendel to Grendel's death. The second battle with Grendel's angry mother is also won by Beowulf. Beowulf's third battle is with the dragon. He then becomes king.

My translation was poor, but good enough for a C- (i was not proficient in German and I took it because it was required for a BS in Chemistry). Seamus Heaney's translation here to modern English is flawless. I listened to this audio book to hear a good translation narrated by the wonderful George Guidall. It did not disappoint!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Hile
  • 2013-04-10

Old and enlightening

This book is well read and does a good job at bringing the text to life. The part that most intrigued me was the essay by the author at the close of the book. His explanation of his translation was fascinating and illuminated the often told story even move.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony Wheeler
  • 2018-03-21

A hero for the ages.

Be sure to stay tuned for chapters 11 & 12. Incredible insight from the translator.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Catherine Puma
  • 2019-01-18

Complex Anglo-Saxon Epic, Well Translated

I could live in this poem for weeks and write many essays exalting different aspects of its contents. "Beowulf" sets the standard for epic poetry in the English language, and Seamus Heaney's translation from the original Anglo-Saxon (aka: Old English) to a modern voice is poignantly refreshing. "Beowulf" may be recognized in popular adaptations for its monster fights, but there are also complicated discussions on honor, duty, legacy, greed, heredity, adoption, jealousy, revenge, piety, justice, goodness, and destiny. This Old English poem about an older Scandinavian culture captures our imagination and ignites the inherent longing for glory.

I tend to read "Beowulf" every few years, and this time I listened to the Recorded Books audio book (available on Audible) narrated by George Guidall. It was performed well, and concludes with a thought provoking essay by the translator. Heaney acknowledges the coincidental growth of "Beowulf"'s importance within the English canon and curriculum, recognizes how Tolkien's "Monsters and Critics" essay reinvigorated enjoyable readership of the poem, and reconciles the creative licenses he takes in his translation. Though most of his choices to avoid direct translation are justified and do not detract from the experience of the tale, it is important to understand when those choices have been made so we can appreciate the interpretation of this text as a continuous exercise. Tolkien's own "Beowulf" translation was published a few years ago; I'll have to read that one next.

While Grendel's reign and his mother's haunt are possibly the most remembered portions of the story, my favorite section is when Beowulf rules his home-country and must defend his people against the slumber-disturbed dragon. No longer is just Beowulf's life on the line, but now in jeopardy are his people's lives, the quality of his landholdings, and his legacy as a good king. The stakes are escalated for the climax, and the detailed descriptions of the battle and beast deliver equal degrees in intensity. "Beowulf" is a vexing marvel that deserves to be studied and fought over for centuries to follow.

Every speaker of the English language should read "Beowulf" in its entirety at least once in his lifetime. This should be required reading for every undergraduate English major and every Swedish or Anglo-Saxon historian. Every lover of fantasy, dragons or Vikings should reap this poem's linguistic spoils. Ideally, Old English studies would be offered in more universities to allow new scholars to delve into this world in its original.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicholas C Cook
  • 2018-10-16

So excited to get an unabridged version of this.

Enjoyed this reading immensely. Really easy to listen to and enjoy the poetry of the piece.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark Irons
  • 2019-06-01

A Classic Piece of Literature

I always love George Guidall’s narration. Absolutely one the best. The new translation is easy to understand and the translator explanation at the end was very interesting. One can see how this work influenced so many others, from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful