The Saga of Beowulf
R. Scott Johns
Fantasy Castle Books, Oct 2008, $16.95
Early in the sixth century at Heorot, the victors have won many battles, but none as sweet as defeating the forces of Heruli; they built this great hall to celebrate their conquest. However, now the Danes led by intrepid King Hrothgar and his uncle King Edgtheow the Great face their most dangerous foe ever in their great mead hall. Their single adversary with his claws and teeth rip asunder the once mighty berserker warriors. The monster dines on his victims. A frightened survivor Hrothgar who knows first hand the ogre offers a great reward for the death of Grendel. From across the sea Bear Wolf called Beowulf arrives at the Dane Hall occupied by Grendel the monster. Beowulf challenges the beast in his new lair and kills him. However, though many sing ballads honoring the great Beowulf for his heroism that saved the Danes, he is not done. Grendel’s as monstrous mother Griselda seeks vengeance. He kills the troll-hag before leaving to go home and eventually become a king with many more epic battles including with an invincible dragon.
This is an excellent novelization of the great epic poem that authors like Tolkien paid homage to. The story line stays true to the poetry and to the hero, but also provides deeper insight into the champion, his times, and his otherworldly opponents for instance the paternal side of Grendel (nice twist). Mindful of the terrific Seamus Heaney translation, fans of epic fantasy especially of the original poem (and its modernization) and even those who skipped the reading in high school for the Cliff Notes will relish R. Scot Johns’ superb novel rendition of THE SAGA OF BEOWULF, although last year’s movie version was fun, the SAGA OF BEOWULF would make a fine adventure series of movies along the lines of its “offspring” The Lord of the Rings (is Peter Jackson looking for his next fantasy adaptation?)..