“Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary” by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)


In addition to creating the first fantasy epic, inventing a complete and insanely, thoroughly detailed world, and even making up its own language and alphabet, as well as teaching for decades, the great J. R. R. Tolkien also wrote a translation to the famous epic Old English poem “Beowulf.” Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien, reveals this translation in its entirety for the first time, and so much more.

Tolkien completed his first translation of “Beowulf” in 1926, but he was by no means done with the poem. Over the ensuing years and decades he continued to make changes and updates and lectured greatly on the epic alliterative poem. Christopher Tolkien presents this ideal translation from Tolkien, and then includes his father’s vast commentary painstakingly collected and organized. The book features notes on how Tolkien translated specific words and stanzas with plenty of additional notes. Included are also lectures and lecture notes Tolkien gave on the epic poem. Finally, the great author even penned his own poem (in both modern and Old English) that acts as a precursor to “Beowulf” as a sort of fairytale written in the same style, but not within the history.

Compared to Seamus Heaney’s very well known and popular translation of the same poem, Tolkien goes for a much more literal adaptation, where some of the moving alliteration is perhaps lost, but the true sense of the poem and the meaning the author or authors were intending is possibly better comprehended. With the description and vocabulary, Tolkien does a great job of making the reader feel as if they are there at Heorot with Beowulf and Hrothgar and the comitatus. He uses an older language of “doths” and “thines” because of the time he is writing in, but also to give a sense of age to the poem, which can be a helping or a hindrance for the reader. Nevertheless, Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf is a very welcome one that will be enjoyed by many and likely taught and studied in future medieval and Old English classes to come.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Guest Post: A Timeline of the Great Undead War

After a surprise attack on London and New York, the Germans introduced a new type of gas—corpse gas—a revolutionary weapon that resurrected the bodies of the dead.

For those who survived the killing fields of France, the danger has only just begun. Veteran Major Michael “Madman” Burke and his company have just been assigned a daring new mission by the president himself: rescue the members of the British royal family. But Manfred von Richthofen, the undead Red Baron and newly self-appointed leader of Germany, is also determined to find the family.

In the devastated, zombie-infested city of London, Burke and his men will face off in an unholy battle with their most formidable opponent yet: a team of infected super soldiers—shredders—who have greater speed and strength than their shambler predecessors. If they don’t succeed, all of Britain will fall into undead enemy hands.



 June 1914

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria at the hands of a Serbian national.


July 1914

Austria declares war on Serbia.


August 1914

Germany declares war on Russia, then France. German troops pour into Belgium. Britain declares war on Germany. Russians defeated at Tannenburg.


October 1914

Turkey declares neutrality and refuses to enter the war while Japan enters the war on the side of its British allies.


November 1914

Germans stopped at the Marne. Stalemate settles into the Western Front. Hopes that the war will be over by Christmas quickly fade.


December 1914

Germans use zeppelins to begin bombing Great Britain.


April 1915

Second battle of Ypres. Poison gas used for the first time in the war.


May 1915

Lusitania sunk. America contemplates joining the war.


June 1916

First large–scale naval engagement at Jutland. British losses are heavy, but Germany withdraws.


February – November 1916

Battle of Verdun. Inconclusive result after nine months of fighting and nearly 1 million casualties.


July – November 1916

Battle of the Somme. Allies win thin stretch of ground (25 miles) at a cost of 920,000 casualties.


April 1917

America declares war on Germany. American Expeditionary Force sent to Europe to stop the German advance.



July – November 1917

Third Battle of Ypres. Germans deploy T-Lieche – corpse gas – for the first time.


January 1918

Allied forces face shambler brigades for the first time at the Second Battle of the Marne. Allies quickly routed as corpse gas bombardment brings their own casualties back to life to fight against them.


March 1918

First American aero squadron, the 94th, activated at Villeneuve. Eddie Rickenbacker in command.


April 1918

Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, shot down by Allied forces but rises anew as a revenant. Takes command of the Flying Circus.


May 1918 – November 1919

Allied forces lose ground in the face of repeated German assaults. Retreat to within a few dozen miles of Paris.


December 1919

President Harper gives his now–famous “World Belongs to the Living” speech. Allies rally in Europe while the Kaiser is occupied with the East.


April 1920

First use of tanks in support of infantry at the Battle of Cambrai. British troops roll over German machine gun positions.


June 1920

Champagne Offensive begins. Allies push Germans back to the Somme, but just barely. Richthofen shot down for a second time, walks away from the wreckage unscathed.


October 1920

Under Richthofen’s orders, Dr. Eisenberg begins the Geheime Volks project, attempting to create a legion of undead supersoldiers with a unique blend of alchemy, science, and occult arts.


March 1921

American ace Jack Freeman – illegitimate son of President Harper – shot down and captured by the enemy. Captain Michael “Madman” Burke and his Marauders ordered to rescue him from behind enemy lines.

Geheime Volks put into mass production.


April 1921

London and New York rendered uninhabitable when the Germans successfully release a new strain of corpse gas over each city, turning the living into zombie-like creatures with a taste for human flesh. These new creatures are quickly nicknamed Shredders for the speed and savagery of their attacks.

On Her Majesty’s Behalf begins…


Joseph Nassise is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Jeremiah Hunt series, and several books in the Rogue Angel action/adventure series from Gold Eagle. He’s a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

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“Fables Volume 20: Camelot” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2014)

Fables Camelot

To say that the comic book series penned by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Mark Buckingham has reached its twentieth collected volume is quite the astonishing feat, but when one considers that it has won fourteen Eisner awards, and is working its way through its second major storyline that continues to build and become more exiting with each volume, it’s not really a surprise at all.

After things continue to take a turn for the worse in the previous collected volume, Snow White, Camelot seeks to create a new hero to try to turn things around with Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. She takes on the role that she feels destined for, the Paladin of Hope, and what better way to do this than with a new Camelot and some brave Knights of the Round Table. One might also call them the Knights of Second Chances, as Rose Red is willing to wipe the slate clean if they prove themselves.

They travel from all the lands, creatures great and small, humans mighty and miniature, but only the bravest and true will succeed and be selected. Red even offers an old enemy a second chance, which sets her at odds against her sister. Snow White refuses to see her sister from now on, keeping what’s left of her family away from her also, feeling betrayal will inevitably come.

Meanwhile the witches and wizards of Fabletown are trying their darnedest to reassemble the glass shards of Bigby Wolf so he can be whole and alive once more. Side stories in Camelot include that of Bigby and Boy Blue in a sort of afterlife, as well as what Gepetto and Junebug are currently up to, and finally the Boy Blue Band go on an adventure into the Homelands.

For a special twentieth volume, Camelot is a nice long read, with a great main story that is ratcheting up the suspense with what is going to happen next, along with some great side stories. It shows that Willingham has so many stories to tell that the reader never knows what’s going to happen or who’s going to appear on the next page. Fables Volume 20 is a worthy addition to the collection that will be a delight to fans everywhere.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 20: Camelot from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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