Bro! If the idea of reading Beowulf gives you traumatic flashbacks to high-school or university English lit classes, you need to check out this new translation.
Maria Dahvana Headley wrote The Mere Wife, a contemporary adaptation of the poem, but even after it was published back in 2018 she found she couldn’t let the story go.
So, she set about translating the text, in full, and produced this incredible feminist interpretation The amazing team at Scribe were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
Headley says, in the introduction she penned for this edition, that Beowulf is “a poem about willfully blinkered privilege, about the shock and horror of experiencing discomfort when one feels entitled to luxury”, and an “intricate treatise on morality, masculinity, flexibility, and failure,”. This Old English poem (first scribed sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries) could hardly be more timely.
Headley incorporates distinctly modern phrasing and slang to make the text more accessible for today’s audience. Even though Beowulf: A New Translation is undoubtedly easier for a novice to read than, say, Seamus Heaney’s translation, it would be good to familiarise yourself with the plot beforehand to make sure you don’t miss anything (I summed it up in this post, if that helps).
I’m so glad I got to read and thoroughly enjoy this one for fun, instead of study.