Beowulf: The Graphic Compendium: Graphic Narratives 1970-2012

Rebecca Sara Marie Goldenberg, Purdue University


Goldenberg, Rebecca Sara Marie, M.A., Purdue University, May 2013. Beowulf - The Graphic Compendium: Graphic Narratives 1970-2012. Major Professor: Shaun Hughes. Educators, learned readers, and uninitiated audiences are seeking fresh new material on Beowulf that will enthrall and inspire a new generation of readers. However, there does not yet exist a definitive guidebook on which materials are faithful adaptations and which are simply sensationalist approximations. In this paper, I will argue that the ultimate undertaking to recreate the epic for the modern audience is successful in the Beowulf graphic novel. Here I will examine seventeen publications, from 1970 until 2012, in order to determine three main categories: first, those that are faithful enough to uphold the core elements of the original; second, works that will provide the reader with a starting point to later pursue other Beowulf publications; and third, those that adopt the characters out of context and are unlikely to garner an appreciation for the epic. The results of my findings are three strong contenders for the rights to a knowledgeable reader's high estimation. Gareth Hinds illustrated a visually breathtaking and more traditional accompaniment to Francis Gummere and A.J. Church's translations that is sure to enthrall an adult audience. Stefan Petrucha and Kody Chamberlain's version uses narrative paneling and speech balloons to render the language more accessible to the modern young adult audience. Finally, Paul D. Storrie and Ron Randall turn Beowulf into children's literature with bright colors and easily understood language that nevertheless remains true to the epic. All three versions are likely to stimulate the uninitiated reader to pursue other publications on the topic and should be considered appropriately inspirational classroom materials. Because of these publications' vast differences, I will determine each approach's viability as a complementary resource or even an appropriate substitution in lieu of the epic itself. My aim is to rationalize the authors and illustrators' choices in their portrayals of the characters from an educational perspective and to answer the question of whether each publication is worthy of a scholarly pursuit. It is my hope that all of my findings will aid educators, parents, and the casual passerby to find the appropriate means by which they will encounter, and hopefully enjoy, Beowulf through graphic narratives.




Hughes, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Medieval literature|Literature

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