ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Beowulf: A Modern English Translation Part 1

Updated on January 30, 2019
Guckenberger profile image

Alex majored in Spanish while in college, obtaining his degree with honors. Al speaks two languages and makes learning language a life goal.

Peoples of a Former Era



The story commonly know as "Beowulf" fascinates me. I have memorized some of it. I can read it in the Old English (or, Anglo-Saxon) that it was once written in. The reader should note that Old English is not Elizabethan English. Elizabethan English is a manifestation of Early Modern English. The Old English alphabet applied letters that we do not use anymore, and sometimes scribes used letters from the runic alphabet to make certain sounds from the spoken language of the Angles (who initially used runes to write their sounds). England is Angle Land, or the Land of the Angles. English is Angle-ish. The Jutes and the Saxons were among other well-known tribes who spoke various forms of the Old English language. I will also be adding my own transcription of the original text herein, as too many artistic liberties have been taken in all other transcriptions that I have seen. Please keep in mind the arduousness of transcription; it wasn't fast nor easy! I will further note that the letters "H" and "r" have changed over the last thousand years. I use the modern equivalents in the transcription at the end of the article, because they (the two letters) are fairly close to the strokes of the Anglo-Saxons (and, because the letters do not seem to completely exist in current day font). Without further ado; here is the beginning of my translation of "Beowulf".

The British Isles


The Story Known As "Beowulf"

What we Spear-Danes,
in [the]* year [of the former] days:
[Then the] people kings [were],
[when] glory [was] heard,
how the [royals known as] athelings;
valor [they] fashioned!**

The Modern Flag of Great Britain


The Story Known As "Beowulf"

Often, Shield Sheffing,
[amidst] enemies [in] bands,
[a man of] many nations...
[on the] mead seats,
[he] denied [with] terror [the] earl***,
since erst [he] was destitute [and] found [that way].

Is this your first time reading this story?

See results

The Story Known As "Beowulf"

He thus [in] consolation dwelt,
[and] waxing under [the] heavens;****
[was] remembered [as one who] got.
So that [to] him, each [of] those neighboring folks
over [the] whale's***** road******
[who] heard shall tribute gild;
that was [a] good king!

End Notes

*Note that I place words in brackets to help the translation. In these brackets are words not based on literal translation, but added in Modern English to help the reader of the day comprehend the epic.

Roughly Where the Sutton Hoo Ship Was Found Buried Under the Earth

suffolk england:
Suffolk, UK

get directions

**The original manuscript uses a period instead of an exclamation mark. I use the latter for the sake of translation from the early context into something similar that the modern reader may relate to. It should further be noted that the exclamation mark was absent in Old English.

Recitation Of Beowulf In Old English With Music

***It is far from unheard of for modern transcriptions of the Old English in the Beowulf story to apply the word "eorlas" here. This is a plural form of the word. However, in the Nowell Codex the word used here is "eorl". "Eorl" is singular, and thus I translate it as "earl".

****Once more, please keep in mind that many graphemes are added for the purpose of the comprehension of the story for the modern reader.

*****Possession is applied for the assistance of the Modern English reader.

******The "whale's road" is likely a large body of salt water. That is to state, "the ocean" or "the sea".

Transcription Of The Piece Called "Beowulf"

na inᵹear daᵹum. þeod cyninᵹa
þrym ᵹe frunon huđa æþelinᵹaſ ellen
fremedon. ofτ ſcẏld ſcefinᵹ ſceaþena
Þreaτum moneᵹū mæᵹÞum meodo ſeτla
of τeah eᵹſode eorl sẏđđan æreſτ ƿearđ
fea ſceafτ funden he Þæſ frofre ᵹebad
ƿeox under ƿolcnum ƿeorđ mẏndum Þah
ođ Þ him æᵹhƿẏlc Þara ẏmbſiττendra
ofer hron rade hẏran ſcolde ᵹomban
ᵹẏldan Þƿæſ ᵹod cẏninᵹ.

© 2018 Alexander James Guckenberger


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Guckenberger profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      13 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

      It's not easy to translated. The photocopies of the original are very foreign to modern English. Thanks Nicky for caring about something that is very important to me too. :)

    • Sybil Nighs profile image

      Nicky Hunt 

      13 months ago from Manila, Philippines

      Thumbs up for this article! Very few people will attempt to write about Beowulf.

    • Guckenberger profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      16 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

      Congratulations! Achieving a bachelor's degree is something to be very proud of. And, English is a fascinating topic.

    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 

      16 months ago from Richmond, VA

      I majored in English and Literature in college and have a B.A. degree in it. Therefore, I am familiar with Beowulf and enjoyed reading this article.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)