Update: The translation’s done, now what?

This is the first page from the Beowulf manuscript, in Old English.

The first page of the original Beowulf manuscript, in Old English. Image from http://bit.ly/2jdxSdW.

Last week I finally posted the last part of my Beowulf translation. So I think that this is a pretty good opportunity to get into what happens next on this blog.

More Translations?

First off, for ease of reading and as a means to improve my translation, I’m going to start posting larger bits of Beowulf here next week. In total, I’ve broken the poem down into 15 pieces, and each of these will get onto this blog before I bring them together, do some final editing, and start bringing together an ebook version of my translation.

Once that ebook is out, I’d love to do more translations. Particularly of other epic poems like The Aeneid or some of the more obscure medieval Latin epic works.

Yes, those would all be translations from Latin, and Latin isn’t exactly Old English, but I might also do some other Old English translations.

The Old English Judith, for example, is kind of like a miniature epic story, and some of the shorter poems would be interesting to tackle. But none of these are Beowulf (there is only one, after all 😉 ), so I’ll likely be starting another blog for those projects.

But getting into works other than Beowulf is a matter for the distant future. What non-poetry stuff is coming up soon?


Earlier this year I mentioned putting together interview posts. So far I haven’t done any work on these, but I definitely want to get going on it soon.

If you’ve been inspired by Beowulf or have a lot to say about it, please reach out to me at nsczach at gmail dot com. I have a short list of people to contact for a brief Beowulf chat, but I’m interested in hearing as many stories about the impact Beowulf has had on people as I can.

Beowulf in (Pop?) Culture

Even though I’ve already covered a few topics related to Beowulf on this blog, there’s still a lot to the world of Beowulf. I’m talking adaptations, translations, even a Beowulf festival in Woodbridge Suffolk! It might not be mainstream, but there’s actually a subculture of Beowulf fans out there.

And I want to gather information about that subculture here on this blog. I want to make it less of a blog and more of a hub.



My life right now is cobbled together from various projects. Fiction writing, podcasting and audio editing, streaming, this blog, and the seemingly never-ending search for gigs or work that can both keep my bank account in the black and leave me enough time to follow my passions. Needless to say, I don’t have as much time for this blog as I’d like to.

With that said, I think that it’s most realistic to continue with one post a week on this blog for the foreseeable future. But my hope is that I’ll be able to rotate between the three topics mentioned above.

Admittedly, over the next month I might lean a little heavily on poetry posts, but I’m going to try to get an interview or culture post into the mix as well.

Thanks for reading this update, and for (hopefully 😉 ) keeping up with my translation.

If you’ve got any suggestions for this blog, please feel free to share them in the comments. And feel free to give this post a like if you liked it, and follow the blog if you feel it’s follow-able.


Spanish Beowulf Graphic Novel Gets Translation

Beowulf fights Grendel as depicted by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin's graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf.

Beowulf battles Grendel in Santiago Garcia and David Rubin’s Beowulf. Image from http://bit.ly/2jVrgOn.

It’s not often that I get to post about things as they’re happening on this blog. After all, that’s just not what you come to expect when you write about a poem from over 1000 years ago. But I’ve just lucked out.

Late last year I came across mention of a new graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf. It was touted as the work of writer and translator Santiago Garcia and artist David Rubin. But that short teaser-style mention didn’t say anything about this new graphic novel being a translation. However, that fact is what made it possible for me to post about it on the day that this “new” graphic novel comes out.

At least, according to Amazon. So if you’re reading this today or later, the English translation of this Beowulf adaptation is now available!

Unfortunately though this seems to be the least publicized graphic novel that I’ve come across (is that common for translations in the comics world? Let me know!). The most informative piece I could find about it was from 2014.

In this Comics and Cola article by Zainab, we’re told that this adaptation is a straight retelling of the Beowulf story with modern comics techniques. Also, it’s not just a retelling of the often covered Beowulf vs. Grendel section of the poem, but all three sections are retold. What’s more, along with the violent and at times brutish art style, Zainab suggests (via a Google-translated description of the comic from an unnamed source) that Santiago and Rubin have brought the melancholic resonances of the poem to their version as well.

The last full graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf that I’d seen was Gareth Hinds’ three part retelling. In that version, Hinds did a decent job focussing on Beowulf himself, but the Santiago and Rubin effort seems like it’s got more of a focus on the broader themes of the story while also drawing distinct characters.

José Luis del Río Fortich echoes that sense of the Santiago and Rubin adaptation in his article on bleedingcool.com. Unfortunately, though, the biggest difference between his coverage and Zainab’s is mostly in the different panels that he showcases (aside from a direct comparison between the graphic novel’s violence with Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah’s movies).

Nonetheless, despite the lack of information about it, the Santiago and Rubin Beowulf adaptation is something that I want to see more of. The words of the poem convey its melancholy and energy quite easily, but seeing those words rendered mostly into dialogue (which the original is relatively scant on) and the monsters and their lairs imagined in full colour is always a treat.

What’s more important to you in a graphic novel: Story or art style? Let me know in comments.

A balanced Beowulf translation: J.B. Kirtlan

The cover for J.B. Kirtlan's 1913 translation of Beowulf.

Cover of J.B. Kirtlan’s 1913 Beowulf translation. Image from: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/50742

This is another busy week for me, so I want to take this opportunity to bring your attention to a different kind of Beowulf adaptation: translations!

In particular, I want to share the translation that the Legends Myths and Whiskey podcast used for their Beowulf: A Mythosymphony (a reading of the story with original music and some commentary in between). This is J.B. Kirtlan’s 1913 translation.

The most notable thing about this translation is that it’s in prose rather than poetry. Though this might seem to ruin the effect of the original a bit, I think that Kirtlan’s prose makes the story pop for an audience who might not be comfortable with reading line after line of alliterative verse.

At the same time, though, since it was written over 100 years ago, the language is somewhat dated as Kirtlan throws words like “byrnie” and “banesman” around without any kind of explanation. A quick internet search will reveal the meanings of these words, but that might detract from the story for some. Likewise, he’s written with a bit of an “Olde Englyshe” affectation as he changes word order and spelling to look more archaic than the English of 1913.

Luckily, however, Kirtlan keeps the story’s pace going strong and even with the quirks of the language used, manages to tell an entrancing rendition.

All in all, Kirtlan’s is a pretty balanced translation in that its prose format keeps the story moving (even through asides), while its free use of older words maintains the flavour of the original.

Here’s a link to several formats of the complete J.B. Kirtlan translation online (via project Gutenberg). You can judge for yourself, but I think this is a translation that brings Beowulf into the modern age while also retaining some of the original’s old-ness and mixing in some turn of the century philology as well.

When it comes to a story as old and foreign-seeming as Beowulf, what do you think makes an ideal translation?