What Do You Want Our Beowulf To Be?


Somehow, somewhere, you must have come across the name ‘Beowulf.’ Even if you know absolutely nothing about it, there is a very slim chance that you have managed to go through your life in education without hearing the word. Perhaps your curiosity spurred you on to search this mysterious thing on Wikipedia or perhaps you waited until you were forced to learn about it. Maybe you weren’t even forced to learn it and continue to think of it as some piece of literature from the past.

Well my intention with this post is not to give a lesson on it since I know very little about it myself as I have only began studying it. Instead, I would like you to answer the question my title poses but to do this you need to know what it means. Beowulf is an epic poem that was written around 750-1000, the scholars have yet to agree on a specific year but interestingly, the actual manuscript of the poem only became popular in the last hundred or two hundred so years. So why has its importance leapt to amazing heights?

You see, we only have about 5% of the literature from the times of Beowulf. Who knows what we have not been able to read of its time? Perhaps if Beowulf were to be compared to other works of its time, its status may simply be like today’s Biff and Chip stories or The Hardy Boys. Fun but hardly a masterpiece. The problem is, we have very little to compare Beowulf to and it is from Beowulf that we get some ideas of society during that time.

So the question is; if you had to pick one book from today’s time which would be the only book to remain from this era a thousand years later, which book would you want it to be? Which book best portrays a sense of our society and culture? Not academic writing or theoretical work, I am talking about creative writing, books, poems or plays.Β 

A slightly less grave thought to contemplate is imagine if a book like Fifty Shades of Grey was to be the one that survived, what would that tell people about our society? Would it be an accurate portrayal?Β 

Hmm perhaps that thought is quite a grave one after all.

Drop Your Thoughts, Until Next Time

A Worried Student

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21 thoughts on “What Do You Want Our Beowulf To Be?

  1. I love Beowulf (am actually using it as a basis for a unit this semester). But The Book that defines my era… that’s a toughie. I’m going to have to go with “The Great Gatsby.” I know that it wasn’t written during or about my generation; however, it describes “us” almost perfectly.

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  2. Wow…. there really isn’t anything that comes to mind. Tough tough question. As with most stories from Beowulf’s time… They all started as stories that were passed down from the campfires.. Stories that interested everyone.. Stories that sparked enough interest for you to memorize it. Eventually when the Roman’s got to England and brought Christianity they had the monks copy the most popular stories down hence, Beowulf. So… what would be passed around today?? damn good question.

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  3. Oh, Lord, I would be horrified if 50 Shades were to be the only book to survive from today.
    I have to be honest, I would have a very hard time choosing a book to represent what today is like, as the majority of what I read is either written or set in another (past) time period, or is set in a completely different fantasy world.
    I suppose if I had to choose I would pick something like one of the Narnia books. It’s not quite this time period, but it is still set in this century and does represent war-time Britain fairly well, for the parts where said location is actually relevant.

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  4. that’s the impossible question! There are many and many contemporary books that I love and think of as ‘the best’, but even this list of my own is constantly changing – growing or vice versa. But to choose the one, which would be IMO the best in this case… Maybe the best in each genre could help a bit. Anyhow, just a mind-blowing book series – Millennium trilogy. Although, while Millennium would IMO do a better job at telling the story of our days, I’d still be kind of terrified with the prospect πŸ˜‰ So maybe something ‘lighter’, say, from YA shelves, like Benny Imura series set during zombie apocalypse by Jonathan Maberry then πŸ˜‰

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      • maybe you should πŸ™‚ Anyhow, just had an awesome idea, if Discworld series by Terry Pratchett were set on our Earth and in our times instead of fantasy world and it’s non-existent timeline, then pretty much anything from the series IMO could just make the cut for this coveted epic epos to leave for the future generations we’re looking here for πŸ˜‰

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  5. I was just about to suggest “DSM-5” prior to you exempting academic works. I amuse myself to consider some obscure cross-over online fanfic would survive among the ashes of our civilisation.

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  6. I am a huge fan of socioeconomist Malcolm Gladwell and his writing so I’d have to sat that I hope his writing would survive because his work provides a lot of insight about society and individuals today. The other part of me feels like a work that tells the story of a modern hero, which is why I’d agree with Willow River and a book like the Narnia series as well. Maybe even though they take place mostly in a fantasy world, they still display the morals and ideals of our society today, in the same way that Beowulf does. This was a great question! Thanks for making me think and the discussion that has resulted so far!
    Maggie

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