Current Read Aloud- Beowulf


We have been reading this since Monday, and are getting through it very swiftly, thanks almost entirely to the children begging for just one more page.  That’s the problem. you see, when your children know you’re a complete sucker for a good book.  I often read until I am hoarse.

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon heroic epic set in 5th century Denmark.  Beowulf, prince of the Geats, attempts to destroy first Grendel, the foul fiend; his mother, the hideous sea-hag and finally a monstrous sea dragon.  As always Micheal Morpurgo reels you in from the very first paragraph.  I really enjoy his writing, find him very natural to read aloud, and given the complexity of the original poem I think he’s done a fab job making Beowulf accessible to his young readers.

This all said, we are studying Beowulf for our Anglo-Saxon literature and I’ll not be using this copy.  I always like the children to tackle difficult literature by getting a full grasp of the story in its entirety before requiring any in-depth study from them.  This approach has enabled us to study Gilgamesh, the Iliad and Odyssey, and the Aeneid, all at relatively young ages.  Beowulf is no different.  I suspect they will all be fighting over who gets to read this edition on their own after I finish.  I will, of course, encourage this.

We will be doing our in-depth study of a few of the passages from a translation by Seamus Heaney.  I want to teach the children about the Anglo-Saxon boast and introduce them to the idea of Kennings as a literary device (also reviewing alliteration- there is A LOT of alliteration in Beowulf!).  In Morpurgo’s version, although included to a degree, they are fairly watered down and I think the children will understand more from Heaney’s translation.  I know, however, that Heaney’s translation will make far more sense to my guys and they will enjoy the study more, thanks to Morpurgo.

Our whole family would recommend this as a really good read!



  1. I sort of struggle with the watered-downed-ness of some picture book versions, even when they are beautifully written, so I can appreciate your sentiments. We’re currently reading The Children’s Homer, and I’m pretty sure that being very familiar with Black Ships Before Troy has helped my girls follow the storyline better.

    Thanks so much for linking up to RAT!

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