Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #2

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Escribano.jpg.

All righty! This update will be much quicker than the last. Unfortunately that’s because not much progress has been made.

I still need to go through the poem double checking that the rest of the overused “then”s are necessary and changing those that aren’t, clear away the issues my editing has turned up, and then re-reading the whole poem aloud to clean up any outstanding issues.

But that’s just for the poem.

I also need to pull out all of my commentaries and make sure that they’re all error-free and easy to read.

That might seem like a lot. But, honestly, I expect this part of the editing to take much less time than the poem itself, since when I was making my original posts I think the commentaries generally saw much more attention than the scraps of the poem I was posting.

As for the timeline? Two weeks ago I had written that I was thinking this book would be finished and ready by the end of February. That’s starting to feel ambitious, but I’m sticking with it. Though, being completely real, the end of February might just be when the pre-orders start.

All that said, back to the editing! Thanks for sticking with me through this final stretch of what’s turned out to be a very long, quite educational, and warmly rewarding project.

Susan Signe Morrison’s Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife

St John writing a book

Along with a number of movie adaptations, Beowulf has been novelized here and there. John Gardner’s Grendel stands out, but Susan Signe Morrison’s Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, takes adaptation a step further.

Instead of just retelling the story of Beowulf from Grendel’s mother’s perspective as the title suggests, Morrison goes all in with her titular character. In fact, the novel begins with a fisherman’s wife discovering the child that grows up to be the fearsome woman of the moors. So, much like Gardner’s Grendel, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, is much more about its central character than retelling the Beowulf story from a viewpoint other than the titular hero’s.

Along with her focus on the life of Grendel’s mother (which Morrison extends beyond the fight with Beowulf), Morrison has written her novel in a way that’s highly reminiscent of Beowulf‘s style. Morrison includes a great deal of alliteration, parataxis, and a few of the characteristic digressions that fill out the original poem. These last two elements are put to good use, I think, but the alliteration sometimes comes across as more comical and sing-song than Morrison may have intended. Nonetheless, her prose offers a great example of how modern novel prose can be crossed over with Old English usage and style. The care with which Morrison blends these two styles is just what I’d expect from a professor of English.

If you’re curious to find out more about Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, check out the book’s website, or its page on Amazon.

What do you think of people creating whole lives for side characters in old stories? Leave your thoughts in the comments!