The Further Adventures of Beowulf, Champion of the Middle Earth

Written by Brian M. Thomsen (ed.)
Review by Ann Chamberlin

This anthology contains a prose translation of the Beowulf epic by John Earle, comprising more than a third of the whole. New fantasy short stories by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb, Lynn Abbey and Wolfgang Baur, in which the ancient hero takes on dark elves, a Titan, trolls, a wraith and the master Tolkien himself, make up the rest of the offering.

John Earle made his translation of the epic in the 19th century. Far be it from me to criticize early sources, but I suspect the reason for its use here is that this translation is now in public domain (and available on the Internet). I like other translations better. The attempt to maintain the lyrical kennings keeps wanting to be the poetry of the original; it seems ill-suited and clumsy in prose. The aura of the tried-and-true must have made the editor think he could sleep through this third of the book. I joined him.

Grubb’s “Beowulf and the City of the Dark Elves” was my favorite of the “Further Adventures,” with a great anthropological study of these creatures. “Geat-folk would not accept a woman’s rule, but they respected her wisdom” in Abbey’s “Beowulf and the Titan” I thought a good way to get around the perpetual problem of modern mores in the past—if a little out of point-of-view focus. Baur’s “Beowulf and the Attack of the Trolls” showed a lack self integration attributable to haste in the construction. Greenwood produced some memorable kennings in “Beowulf and the Wraith,” but the four stories ran into each other, all of the pattern “hero fights supernatural foe and wins.” I found the snippets entitled “Beowulf and the Master of His Critics,” imagining a meeting between Guy Burgess and J. R. R. Tolkien and spliced in between stories, served no purpose beyond a self-conscious “how clever am I” gratification.