Excerpts from my collection of Beowulf translations

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...a comparative library presenting excerpts from over 100 English language translations of the epic poem Beowulf.

Five particular sections of this legendary tale were chosen as points of comparison, allowing a consistent side-by-side evaluation of every edition. This allows you to choose the author whose style and content most speaks to your needs as a reader.

The original text was in the form of an epic poem, but translations have been made as both poem and prose. Some authors abbreviated the story and in those cases not all sections are available. Translations are accessible in the menus on the left side of the page. For your convenience, the translations may be browsed by section, author, or date of translation. Note that some authors have more than one translation.

As a brief historical outline, the Thorkelin translation of Beowulf was into Latin, the 1820 Grundtvig translation was into Danish, and while the 1826 Conybeare translation was in English it only consisted of parts of the poem. The first complete English language translation of Beowulf was published by J. M. Kemble in 1837 (although his first partial translations were published in 1833 and 1835).

There have been many translations of Beowulf into German (which is not surprising, given that Anglo-Saxon is a Germanic language -- there were, at one time in the 19th century, more German translations than English ones), as well as translations into Danish, Swedish, Italian, French, and other languages (the best list of early translations might be that of Chauncey Brewster Tinker).

The original Old English version of the story is included in about a dozen different books. There is an indicator in the book comparison table as to whether each book has the Old English text, a modern English translation, both, or neither. The various Old English editions do not always agree precisely on how to spell the Old English words in the story, and you will see, when examining the various images of the manuscript on this site, that the letters which actually appear in the manuscript do not always match the letters in the Old English printing of the text in books. It seems that modern printing of the Old English text is done to allow modern readers to pronounce the words properly, rather than to precisely emulate the manuscript.

For those interested in knowing more about the source manuscript and its translation from an actual author, Ben Slade runs the best original-material Beowulf website (and best dual-language online edition of the poem) at

In this site's top menu, you will find additional information related to the Beowulf manuscript and its translation, including alternative media versions such as movies and comics.

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