January 02, 2008

Beowulf: Everything really, really old is new again

Beowulf is back. Again. No, I'm not talking about the recent movie version, which came hard on the heels of the film Beowulf & Grendel (and its "making of" documentary, Wrath of Gods, which I've heard is supposed to be quite good).

I was reminded by Mary Lee's recent post of a few recent items I wanted to mention. Mary Lee at her blog A Year of Reading posted a review of the two recent children's versions of the tale nominated for Cybils this year in the graphic novel category,

Beowulf Monster Slayer: A British Legend by Paul D. Storrie and Ron Randall (Lerner)

Beowulf, adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds (Candlewick Press), who has tackled Beowulf before in true comic format. Hinds, by the way, takes on Shakespeare next (here and here).

And last month at Geek Dad, Michael Harrison had a post, Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Beowulf?:
This weekend, my wife and I went to see the Robert Zemeckis-directed, Neil Gaiman/Roger Avary-scripted Beowulf film. Needless to say, we didn't bring the kid along.

But this got me thinking about ways to introduce the little guy to epic stories of ancient heroes. When I was a kid, I was all about Greek mythology, and I took my first baby steps through the lavishly illustrated pages of the glorious D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. What about something like that, but for Beowulf?
Michael's suggestios include the new Gareth Hinds title, above, as well as Michael Morpurgo's recent retelling (2006, Candlewick), illustrated by Michael Foreman; and also the cartoon Grendel Grendel Grendel, narrated by Peter Ustinov; Michael mentions a bootleg DVD and I see it's also at Blockbuster online.

Other 2007 offerings for children:

Beowulf: A Hero's Tale Retold by James Rumford; this New York Times review from last June compares the Gareth Hinds, Rumford, and Morpurgo versions; and an interview with Hawaii author Rumford in The Honolulu Advertiser is here.

Beowulf: A Tale of Blood, Heat, and Ashes, retold by Nicky Raven, and illustrated by John Howe; this one is Candlewick's third entry (at least) on the subject, the selling point for this one being that John Howe was a lead artist for the Lord of the Rings movies.

Beowulf: Grendel the Ghastly, Book One by Michelle Szobody and Justin Gerard. From Portland Studios, which is new to me, and which has this interesting blog entry on the book, with references to G.K. Chesterton.

A special mention for one of my more favorite picture book retellings for younger children, the quite gentle The Hero Beowulf by Eric A. Kimmel, and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); and don't forget that Dover has a coloring book of the tale, for drawing while listening along.

And, saving the best for last, Camille at Book Moot had a post not too long about the best way "to experience Beowulf" -- via Benjamin Bagby, and the news that Bagby's Beowulf, performed at Helsingborg, Sweden, is now on DVD; here too.

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Updated to add: Monica at educating alice notes in the comments below, "I also did a post on this sometime back in which I provided a couple of links to articles that might be of interest, one by Morpurgo in the Guardian and the other comparing LOTR and Beowulf in Salon." Thanks, Monica!

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