Dragon Slayer (The Story of Beowulf) – Rosemary Sutcliff

Beowulf is the ultimate in adventure stories it was written somewhere between the 8th and 12th centuries. The poem itself has 3,182 lines. I had heard of Beowulf and had even been read a brief except from it by my English Literature teacher a couple of years ago, but I’d never read the whole story in full so when I found Rosemary Sutcliff’s interpretation I was delighted and picked it up immediately.

Rosemary Sutcliff was a wonderful author, I remember her works with great fondness from my childhood. She wrote fabulous historical fiction for children but the depth and quality of her writing make her very good to be read by any group. I do recommend people start reading her in the pre-teens and early teens, but if you haven’t read her works before then now is a very good time to start.

I’m actually meant to be reviewing Dragon Slayer and not Beowulf so here we go. Dragon Slayer is the story of Beowulf for young people. Beowulf feels obligated to help out the Danish king Hroðgar as he has helped Beowulf’s father pay weregild. He and his men spend the night in the hall Heorot and he kills Grendel, a marauding monster. Grendel’s mother takes offence at this and Beowulf finds himself battling and killing her. He eventually becomes king of his people and at a great age he battles a dragon, killing with the help of Wiglaf but the cost is too high and Beowulf dies.

What a great story and I know understand why they had to make a movie out of it as it is exactly that sort of story. I enjoyed it all the way through. Rosemary had a way with words and could make any scene sound alive. I couldn’t quite visualise Grendel or his mother, but there are some line drawings which go a long way to help. This book gives a fabulous insight into the period it is likely to have been set. I express it in that way as there is a lot of argument as to when it was actually composed. Whether it was composed when it was written or whether it was oral history passed down the ages. As with a lot of her books I would recommend it for pre-teens to early teens who are okay with violence and gore.

5 thoughts on “Dragon Slayer (The Story of Beowulf) – Rosemary Sutcliff

  1. tashword

    I might check out some of her books for my daughters then – they devour books liek their Mother!

    Is Dragon Slayer a sequel or the first book?

    1. suzsspace

      It’s actually the entire book. The poem is rather long and Rosemary Sutcliff excelled in bringing these fabulous stories down to a length children can handle. It’s why I thought I’d start with this before reading someone else’s version of Beowulf.

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