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Beowulf: The Graphic Novel

Bringing a thousand-year-old story to a wider audience

By Maya Finkelstein | February 27 , 2007
Gareth Hinds has transformed <i>Beowulf</i>, the oldest poem in the English language, into a graphic novel. (Photo: Courtesy Candlewick Press)
Gareth Hinds has transformed Beowulf, the oldest poem in the English language, into a graphic novel. (Photo: Courtesy Candlewick Press)

A new graphic novel transforms Beowulf, the thousand-year-old Viking epic, into a book that is fun to read. Candlewick Press will soon release this work, adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds, with the hope of bringing the story to a much wider audience. It will be the first graphic novel published by Candlewick.

Beowulf is the oldest surviving poem in the English language. It is believed to have been composed around 1000 A.D. The epic story has been retold and interpreted many times.

It tells the story of a heroic warrior-prince named Beowulf (Bey-uh-wolf), who battles the gruesome monster Grendel (Gren-dell), his hideous mother, and a terrifying dragon.

According to Hinds, telling the story of Beowulf was “a mixture of paying homage to the hero’s strengths, but also his weaknesses and limitations.”

Hinds was inspired to turn Beowulf into a graphic novel partly due to his longstanding interest in drawing stories.

“I’ve tried writing my own graphic pieces before, but do much better adapting classic stories,” said Hinds.

The graphic novel medium, which is about 30 years old, has its roots in comic books. Hinds explained one of the reasons Beowulf's story seemed like an ideal fit for a graphic novel.

“In a way this is a superhero story that just happens to take place in the time of the Vikings,” he said.

Gareth Hinds
Gareth Hinds. (Photo: Courtesy Candlewick Press)

Hinds described some of the appeal of reading a graphic novel like Beowulf. Many classics are difficult to read, and people can have trouble imagining what the scenes would look like. Graphic novels give the reader the illustrator’s conception of the scene.

This can also be a disadvantage, though. Readers only gets the author’s interpretation of the story; they might have completely different interpretations if they were able to visualize it themselves.

Deborah Wayshak, the editor of Beowulf, offered her perspective on graphic novels. There is a freedom to the medium, she pointed out.

“You don’t have to tell a story in a straight line with a beginning, middle, and end," said Wayshak. "It can be sequential yet out of order at the same time."

Everything about this graphic novel is captivating. The pictures are gripping and full of detail, and the text is easy to follow. If this is your first time reading Beowulf, this graphic interpretation by Gareth Hinds is an excellent way to experience it.

READY, SET, READ!

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About the Author

Maya Finkelstein is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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