Beowulf Stephen Mitchell

Publication date:
21 Nov 2017
Yale University Press
264 pages: 210 x 140mm
2 b-w illus.

A widely celebrated translator’s vivid, accessible, and elegantly concise rendering of an ancient English masterpiece

If the definition of a superhero is “someone who uses his special powers to fight evil,” then Beowulf is our first English superhero story, and arguably our best. It features not one, not two, but three monsters. It is also a deeply pious poem, so bold in its reverence for a virtuous pagan past that it teeters on the edge of heresy. From beginning to end, we feel we are in the hands of a master story-teller.
Stephen Mitchell’s marvelously clear and vivid rendering re-creates the robust masculine music of the original. It both hews closely to the Old English and captures its wild energy and vitality, not just as a deep “work of literature” but also as a rousing entertainment that can still stir our feelings and rivet our attention today, after more than a thousand years. This new translation—spare, sinuous, vigorous in its narration, and translucent in its poetry—makes a masterpiece accessible to everyone.

Stephen Mitchell’smany books include Tao Te Ching, which has sold over a million copies, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Gilgamesh, and The Iliad.

“Eloquent . . . conveys a true sense of the original.”—Harold Bloom

“Stephen Mitchell’s new translation of Beowulf is elegantly wrought, highly accurate, and fully annotated. It is a compact and remarkably readable version.”—Eric Weiskott, Boston College

“Stephen Mitchell comes as close to fulfilling the translator’s task as anyone at work today. He admirably balances two imperatives: to maintain fidelity to the text while rendering it available to the English we speak today. Mitchell’s reader-friendly version of Beowulf honors the narrative and will extend the readership for this foundational work of English literature.”—David Lehman

“A most readable, energetic, and colorful translation of this savage epic.  Mitchell’s sprightly, animated lines maintain the verbal torque and metrical vigor of the original, allowing both the gore of slaughter and the glory of heroic deeds to shine through more vividly than ever.  An amazing achievement.”—Billy Collins