The Saga of Beowulf

The Saga of Beowulf
R. Scot Johns
Fantasy Castle Books

Beowulf has the distinction of being one of the earliest pieces of fiction in the english language. Though Old English bears little resemblance to the english that is spoken today.
The Saga of Beowulf by R. Scot Johns is a novelization of the saga. This book is a satisfying way to get into the story of Beowulf. Johns has taken the story and made it accessible for the average reader.

Beowulf is a hero in a time when clans and families of the north are constantly feuding and even the gods are worn out. He is a Geat, but sails to Daneland to avenge the death of his father at the hands of the ogre Grendel. He is also sailing because he isn’t welcome at home since he failed to protect his Queen, and the King’s present wife is still in love with him.

In Daneland Beowulf finds a land ravaged by Grendel for the last twelve years. There are few men left. In this hard time the weak don’t last and the wolves are circling. Yet facing Grendel is only the beginning of Beowulf’s saga. There is bravery and cowardice, honesty and treachery, all of it described with richness and power.

Johns has captured the feel of the saga in his work. The story is populated by characters who are complex and tormented by their fate. There is some of the fatalism of the norse tradition, but the heroes at their best struggle against it to shine brightly, if briefly against the dark.  This  book is worth a read because it is one of the defining works of our language and culture, and because it is a terrific story told with great skill.

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