Foreign and English Translations and Versions of Beowulf
From 1805 until the present there have been introduced an abundance of paraphrases, translations, adaptations, summaries, versions and illustrations of Beowulf in modern English and in foreign languages due mostly to two reasons: the desire to make the poem accessible, and the desire to read the exotic (Osborn 341). It is the purpose of this essay to present a brief history of this development of the popularity of the poem and then compare some of the translations with respect to some more difficult passages in the poem Beowulf.
In 1805 Sharon Turner included some passages from Beowulf in his The History of the Anglo-Saxons; he increased the text in later editions. In 1815 Grimur Johsson Thorkelin published the complete, though inaccurate, translation of the poem Beowulf. Thorkelin thought that the poem was a translation made in the court of King Alfred. These two citations show how Beowulf got its start towards fame in the modern era.
In more recent years more contemporary Beowulf enthusiasts are publishing a version in Hungarian (by Gyorgy in1994); doing photographic representations of the poem (Swearer, etc. in 1990, etc.); doing a meditative translation (Hudson in 1990); doing an Augustinian translation (Huppe in 1994); a translation based on syllabic meter (Greenfield in 1982); writing a novel, Eaters of the Dead, based on th epoem (Crichton in 1978); retelling the poem as a rock musical (Wylie in 1974); and the list is endless. Each approach strives to reinterpret Beowulf in the local and contemporary idiom (Osborn 341).
Regarding the translation of Beowulf into English and foreign languages, both verse and prose, in 1815 a Latin version by Thorkelin appeared, as well as an Old Norse excerpted translation; in 1820 a Danish verse version; all through the 1800’s and 1900’s various English translations appear, 64 in total; an Italian version in 1833 followed by several others during the 1800”s; an excerpted German version in 1839 by Leo; in 1840 a complete German translation with fifteen other German translations following; in 1877 a French version; in 1896 a Dutch version followed by two others, the latest in 1974; in 1927 a Finnish translation; into Japanese in 1931followed by seven more; in 1934 a Russian translation and a second one in 1975; in 1934 a Spanish translation followed by others since then; in 1937 in Frisian; in 1937 into Bulgarian; 1953 into Scottish dialect; in 1955 into Brazilian; in 1964 into Arabic; in 1966 into Polish; in 1983 into Icelandic; in 1994 into Hungarian (Osborn 343ff.).
Now let’s make a comparison between translations for some passages which translators might show disagreement about because of the lack of clarity or missing fragments of text or abundance of synonyms or ambiguous referents.
After the Danish coast-guard meets and talks to Beowulf, the guard then begins his next speech with a brief...