A venerable legend gets a total makeover with this new graphic-novel series that does for early Europe what the Astrix series did for Rome.
Kid Beowulf, Vol. 1: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajarda. Andrews McMeel, 2016, 223 pages
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
The last few years have seen several adaptations of the story every high school student encounters in English lit: Beowulf, hero of the Danes and his legendary battle with the carnivorous monster Grendel. This new graphic-novel series is not just an imagining of the hero’s childhood, but a re-imagining of the whole premise, with Beowulf and Grendel as twin brothers. How that comes about is complicated to say the least, taking up two-thirds of this introductory volume before the babies (one white, one green) are even born. Their parentage includes a dollop of dragon and a modicum of monster.
The opening pages present the traditional story in rhyme before promising to tell how it all really happened, then we are plunged into ca. 450 A.D. Denmark and introduced to characters with names like Hrothgar, Shild, Ingeld, and Yrs. The author provides a list of characters in the back, so it might be helpful to look at that first–also check out the maps and names of tribal groups that later became Swedes, Danes, and Germans. The series proposes to take our heroes, Beowulf and Grendel, to foreign parts in Europe, Asia, and Africa, there to encounter the legendary heroes of those cultures. Up next: France and the Song of Roland. Like the Astrix series, it should be educational as well as fun, and the author/artist includes drawing tips for those handy with a pencil.
Cautions: Supernatural (ghosts), Sensuality (Hrothgar, the boys’ grandfather, abducts their grandma from her lawful husband. The product of that union, Gertrude, schemes to get even by seducing the son of a Scandinavian king. Sexuality is implied, not shown.)
Other Beowulf reviews and posts: Doug Wilson’s “verse rendering,” Boys of Blur, Betsy’s post on Legend, Worldview, and Contemporary Narratives.
Overall rating: 3.5 (out of 5)