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The Word-Hoard Beowulf

The Word-Hoard Beowulf

A Translation with Commentary

By Peter Ramey

188 pp

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“This translation invites the reader to wrestle with monsters buried in the word-hoard of the ancient scops—wrætlic words like ‘matheled,’ ‘Drighten,’ and ‘dream.’ Extensive notes give clues to the layers of meaning with which the poet crafted his poem, transporting the reader back across the whale-road of centuries into a middangeard in which heroes fought under the wyrd of the Metod. A translation for word-warriors eager for dom.”


University of Chicago


“Ramey’s highly innovative translation of Beowulf will expertly guide the novice while still surprising the inveterate reader of this famous work of Old English poetry. Rather than making the text less accessible by including Old English words in a modern English translation, Ramey succeeds at making the text more accessible by allowing the semantic richness of the Old English word-hoard to remain on the surface and letting multiple meanings resonate through the translation rather forcing a single narrow understanding of the original word choice. A particular strength of The Word-Hoard Beowulf is that it allows for varying levels of engagement with the text. The casual reader can enjoy the wordplay of the poem while being alerted at pivotal moments to the Old English terms, without toggling back and forth to explanatory notes. The reader interested in the finer linguistic details, in cultural and theological explanations, in the layered meanings of the poem will find much to enjoy and learn in the richly informative notes. The scholarly student of the poem will discover that Ramey’s method of maintaining Old English words in the translation energizes the familiar poem in unexpected ways.”


University of Missouri-Columbia 


“Peter Ramey’s Word-Hoard Beowulf is a translation for Tolkien lovers, aspiring philologists, and all who are convinced, as were Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, that the medieval period possessed a metaphysical gravity that we have lost. The translation is weighty, muscular, and gives one a sense for the theological density of the original Anglo-Saxon poet’s world.”


author of The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis


“In Peter Ramey’s fascinating translation we come to see our Anglophone world at the moment of its redemption. Here we stand witness to the ransom of its history, language, and literature. The tale of Beowulf becomes, not a pagan hangover, but a Christian inculturation in the tradition of Justin, Clement of Alexandria, and Augustine. In these pages are our deep roots, our identity.”


author of The Fathers of the Church 


“Peter Ramey’s translation of Beowulf is much needed. Engaging more closely with the original Old English than other translations, it enables the reader to experience the true sonorous beauty of the Anglo-Saxon tongue. Ramey’s rendition succeeds triumphantly in uniting the music of the poem to its meaning.”


author of Frodo’s Journey: Discover the Hidden Meaning of The Lord of the Rings

About the Author

PETER RAMEY is Associate Professor of English at Northern State University, where he teaches courses on medieval English literature, Latin, and linguistics. He has published articles on Beowulf and on Old and Middle English in Modern Philology, Philological Quarterly, and other scholarly journals, while also writing for a broader audience in his essays in Public Discourse and Front Porch Republic.

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