Friday, July 07, 2017


What gives you joy? What brings you into the present? For me, storytelling does this in bucket loads.  You have to present to listen to stories otherwise you lose the thread of what's going on, you cannot remember the story. Some stories are hard to listen to, but often I listen to a bunch of stories together, or I listen to single stories that are not hard to listen to.

Beowulf is one of my all time favorite stories. You know, like some people say Pride and Prejudice is theirs, Beowulf is mine! I have five versions of it, and there are a couple of other re-telling in some childhood books of myths and legends I own and love. I have two young person translations/re-tellings, one by Michael Morpurgo which pulls you in like no other revisit I have read, and the other by James Rumford who only uses Saxon words. This renders the language very blunt and edgy, but I love it. This is quite the opposite of Morpurgo's poetic style of writing and are great to compare. The other versions I have are David Wright's prose translation, Burton Raffel's translation, Michael Alexander and of course Seamus Heaney's definitive (for me) bilingual verse translation. In collections I have Kevin Crossley-Holland's superb translation, James Riordan and Brenda Ralph Lewis' young readers version of the tale, and I recently  found an 'updated verse translation' by Frederick Rebsamen, which I have yet to read. And I have, of course, seen the movie directed by Robert Zimeckis, with screen play written (along with others) by Neil Gaiman. This is a 'based on' movie and has some very interesting ideas and concepts in it, but is not the 'proper version of Beowulf! The movie is good entertainment.

Odds Bodkin has recently released a live recording of Beowulf. It is a recent acquisition for me. Like all of his work, it is deep, funny, and brilliantly told. Odds' version is entertaining and pulls you in so you cannot back away from it and sticks very closely to the story. There are parts where he uses the exact wording and phrases from the translations which pop out for me. The humour he injects into the story is artful, and respectful to the original. I have listened to it several times. In fact I am at the point where I cannot start it unless I have the time to finish it all. I cannot stop listening to the words and music which flow so wonderfully throughout the hour and twenty minutes or so it lasts.

If we lived in those days of Grendel, swords, and mead halls, and spoke current English, this telling by Odds would be the quintessential telling. I am not usually a fan of live recordings, but this is one of those performances that truly benefits an audience. The musical accompaniment on guitar, never drowning Odds out, pulls you along, fills your ears and body leaving you totally immersed in the man's words and fully within the story.

If you like epics and like Beowulf, you should get a copy of it! It's wonderful. It's not for kids though!


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