I have just completed the reading of Beowulf, which was translated by Burton Raffel.
Beowulf is an extremely exciting and fascinating story about a character who lived in medieval Europe. The shocking thing for me about this work was to find out that it is the earliest poem in a modern European language. Beowulf is to the English what Homer and the Odyssey were to the Greeks. Although this is the earliest poem, it is still fun and exciting to read. I didn't believe that a poem which has been around for more than twelve centuries, could keep my interest. I was wrong. The book is filled with more blood and guts then the average summer horror flick. After the battle with Grendel, the monster which has been ravaging the Danish countryside and killing countless men, Beowulf makes sure that all people know that he had injured the great monster. It is translated that, "...no Dane doubted the victory, for the proof, hanging high from the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster's arm, claw and shoulder and all" (Raffel, 49). It was the shocking use of detail and exciting battles that was left with me when I finished the book. I guess all books, regardless of their age can still be fun and entertaining to read.
Good literature has a very precise definition for me. I judge a piece of literature on three different criteria, 1) does it have memorable characters, 2) does the work take me to a place and let me experience things that I have never experienced before, and 3) will the work stay with me long after I have completed reading it. This is the criteria on which I judge a book and according to this, I believe that Beowulf should be considered "good" literature.
I always ask myself, when I am done reading a book, did the book have memorable characters. In Beowulf, the characters were memorable. A minor character in the book, the king of the Danes, named Hrothgar, is a character who sticks out greatly in my mind. Hrothgar was a...
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