I mentioned before that the girls asked me to read Beowulf to them.  Odd choice?

Well, it contains heroes, monster, dragons, and all the other adventurous things that they normally love.

I promised I would share some more of what we are doing- and so I shall.

Beowulf the Epic Poem

The story of Beowulf is actually an epic poem written around the 8th-11th centuries.  It was lost for centuries, and not widely known about until around 1815.

The story of Beowulf is bloody and full of strange monsters, but its historical significance make it well worth the read.

There are three “chapters” or main parts of the poem:

  1. Beowulf defeats Grendel
  2. Beowulf seeks out and fights Grendel’s mother
  3. Beowulf returns to his homeland and later defeats a fire dragon

Historical Significance of Beowulf

The poem was written by an Anglo-Saxon about a much earlier time- 500 A.D. to be exact.  The poem is significant in that it tells a tale of a mostly pagan culture in a Christian worldview.

Only a single manuscript of the poem survived.  It gives us a glimpse into the world of both the Anglo-Saxon era in which it was written, and also the Scandinavian culture of its content.

Reading the Story

There are several great versions of Beowulf that would be suitable for children.   You can find paraphrases of the text written into short story form.

We chose to use a translation of the poetic form since I already had a copy and it is useful to hear the verse and get a feel for the tone of the poem.  This is the version we are using:

We are almost finished with the second “chapter” of the poem.  We stopped where Beowulf is presumed dead by Hrothgar.

Unit Study Resources

It is difficult to find a lot of resource material on Beowulf for children. Here is what we have found so far:

I have created some of my own notebooking pages to go along with our reading.  This first set covers “chapter one” of the story:

Click the button above to download the set.

So far, the girls have enjoyed Beowulf.  They are asking a lot of questions about some of the vocabulary.  Here is some of the words we discussed tonight:

  • dismal
  • in a trice
  • cumbrous
  • smote

Even Gus is getting into the action parts!

Check out what more families are learning over at Grateful for Grace!  Just click on the button below and feel free to link up your own posts.

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12 Responses to Beowulf Poetry Unit Study

  1. Eric says:

    Those are some precocious kids! I didn’t get into Beowulf until high school myself (Seamus Heaney’s translation, mostly).

    J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a famous academic essay on the poem (link) — I’d say it might be a bit beyond them, but what do I know? 🙂

    • Aadel says:

      They certainly have their tastes in literature and history topics! They latched onto the Hundred Years War and now they are interested in Viking culture.

      I mean- what kid knows who the Black Prince was? I love their enthusiasm though- it makes our reading times so much fun.

      I will check that link out- thanks!

  2. Mindy at Grateful for Grace says:

    How fun!! What a wonderful unit. I especially like the notebooking pages.
    We read it last year (the purple one you show) with TOG Y2. They really liked it.

    Thanks for joining the link party! I will be checking out your blog. (Oh, could you please include a link back to the link party?)

    • Aadel says:

      We like that book too! But the version we are currently using is from Bethlehem Books and it really makes the poetic verse come alive.

  3. Jimmie says:

    I love how you are not “saving” the classics until they get older. Wonderful!

  4. […] been creating a set of notebooking pages to go with each of the three parts of the poem.  You can download the first set from my blog- These Temporary Tents. More resources: A Clipart […]

  5. […] we completed our first notebooking pages for our Beowulf study. (and I also got a new camera- can you […]

  6. Julie Finn says:

    The kiddos would probably also like to hear an excerpt of the book being read in the original Old English–lots of scholars do it (including me, in grad school!). Through Youtube, perhaps?

    The scholar Nigel North also does historic recreations of probable Anglo-Saxon music. I once heard him actually sing Beowulf while accompanying himself on a lute archetype, much as Beowulf was likely originally sung. There might be CDs of his work available.

    Last resource: the helm that’s on the cover of the Seamus Heaney Beowulf translation (which comes from the same time period) is in a museum in York, England. They might have a web site with additional resources.

    • Aadel says:

      That sounds awesome! I love hearing Shakespeare in the original Old English- Beowulf would be extra grand! Thanks for the tip!

  7. Debi Huang says:

    I was an English major in college & Beowulf definitely had something to do with igniting my interest. How great for your kids to have your support & encouragement in discovering it.

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