Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem is considered the oldest surviving old English poem, over three thousand alliterative verses celebrating the Great-Dane who protected King Hrothgar, conquered Grendel and was ultimately defeated by a dragon. Though its authorship is unknown, the poem was written between 925 and 1025, preserved as the Nowell Codex, badly damaged in a London fire which housed medieval works collected by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, moved to the British Library where it remains today. [First page of manuscript pictured at right].
The poem's events mix fictional elements with real historic events as the Anglo-Saxons made their journey to England. There are strong Scandinavian connections, with Geatish origins. Enjoy the opening summary of the poem's story, as well as line summaries throughout the verses to better understand the Old English. [We chose the 1892 translation by Lesslie Hall. Illustrations by Frederick Lawrence from The Story of Beowulf by Ernest Kirtlan.]