Literature: Beowulf resources

Slowly I'm changing over from homework assignments (only a bad memory) to homework and teaching resources. Beowulf is up and running.  

Other than notices when other literary works' sources are available, posts from now on will be generally useless trivia intended to enrich your life and help you retain and/or solidify your literary or language nerd status.

For instance:  Though Beowulf is a part of the English literary canon, all the action takes place in Denmark and southern Sweden, and the British Isles are never mentioned. 

And it was a Dane, not an Englishman, who introduced the epic poem to the English-speaking world. In 1786, Grim J. Thorkelin, having read of the poem's existence, ordered a transcript, duplicated it, and then began a 20-year effort to prepare a translation for publication. 

Ironically, in 1806, the British bombarded Copenhagen, which set Thorkelin's house on fire and destroyed much of his work. Fortunately, the original two transcripts survived, and Thorkelin went on to publish his work. However, the translation was full of errors, and it "so frequently miss[ed] the sense of the original as to be of little or no use" (Arnold).

Meanwhile, in 1731, the original manuscript, housed in the Cottonian Library of the British Museum, had suffered damage in a previous fire. Though saved from the flames, the extreme heat caused the manuscript to become brittle. Over time parts of pages flaked away, and words were irretrievably lost. This is where Thorkelin becomes (*sigh*) our hero: passages are preserved in his edition that are now lost from the original manuscript.

Talk about a hot topic. Your nerd-o-meter should be beeping right now.

(Sources: Beowulf translated by Chauncey Brewster Tinker, 1910, and Beowulf translated by Thomas Arnold, 1876)

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