Book Award Finalist

Delighted to be chosen as a finalist in Adult Fiction

Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife (Top Hat Books, 2015) has been selected as a 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Award finalist in the category of Adult Fiction.

‘A fascinating look at the life of Grendel’s mother. Powerfully written and enchanting.’  The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Here are some comments by readers for the award.

‘Absolutely fascinating. I enjoyed the original Beowulf; this has added a whole new angle to it. Well-written too with a fab cover.’ Male reader, aged 54

‘This is truly excellent. A range of complex characters framed in a richly written text. The author’s vision of Grendel’s mother is powerful, pulling the reader in. The plot is complex, often graphically written. I very much enjoyed it.’ Female reader, aged 41

‘Mythology is ever-present in this fantastical tale of Grendel’s mother. Going way beyond the poem, this well-written story brings life to this character, so much so, she’s almost the hero.’ Male reader, aged 73

‘Brimhild from childhood all the way to her demise. Fascinating. An excellent book to have in any college/university library. The classical language style also works well for a book of this nature set so long ago.’ Male reader, aged 55

‘I was thoroughly enchanted by this.’ Male reader, aged 68

This book has been a blessing! Thank you, Beowulf author[s], whoever you were!

“We don’t talk enough about assonance”: Teenage Insights into “Beowulf”

John complains, “We don’t talk enough about assonance.” So true.  I imagine all 14-year-olds have the same complaint at home.

By pure coincidence (or is it???), he is studying in 9th grade the same material I am teaching this semester: Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and John Gardner’s Grendel.  In school when discussing Beowulf, they learned about alliteration, caesura, and kennings, those compact, compound metaphors like “whale-road” or “seal-path” for the ocean.  In John’s class, they came up with “Couch potato.”

Reverent Couch Potato. Note the potato. And the couch. And the reverence. Performed by John C. Kilfoyle.

Reverent Couch Potato. Note the potato. And the couch. And the reverence. Performed by John C. Kilfoyle. Not the beatific coach potato below.

And “eye candy.”

Eye Candy. As performed by John C. Kilfoyle.

Eye Candy. As performed by John C. Kilfoyle.

They saw the meadhall as a place of sanctuary violated by Grendel, and women as peace-weavers. As one of their projects, they can write their own boast.  After all, in Anglo-Saxon culture it seems that you can boast as long as you can fulfill that arrogant vow.

His fellow students commented on how John can pronounce the king’s name.  It’s Hrothgar, which can be a mouthful.  Fortunately, John has studied German, so that helps with the sound of Old English.

In John’s class, they broke up into 5 groups, each one examining a different aspect of the work. This is what each group came up with.

  1. John’s group compared Hrothgar, Beowulf, and Wiglaf as kings (or potential king in the case of Wiglaf).  Hrothgar was ideal king, they decided.  He takes the glory, but gives it out too.  John points out the king should be humble.  Being humble is not the warrior’s job.  Beowulf is a good king, but still had the warrior’s instinct after 50 years, so killed the dragon.  Pride had overtaken him. Wiglaf has both warrior and kingly instincts.
  2. Did Beowulf goes on a hero’s journey according the hero cycle model?  This group decided that he doesn’t quite, since pride is his downfall in the last third of the poem.  Pride helps the warrrior, but proves his downfall against the dragon.  As a king, pride is what kills him. A good flaw becomes a bad flaw.
  3. Group 3 examined Beowulf’s transition from warrior to king.  While his warrior past ultimately kills him, he became king in the first place because he’s the last good man standing.
  4. This group did a literary analysis comparing how the 3 authors influenced the story: the monk scribe, the scop (minstrel or poet-singer) within the poem, and Seamus Heaney the translator. They decided the monk added God; the scop made it all grander than it was; and Heaney word choice moved us.
  5. Several speeches were chosen for the groups to analyze: from Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Wiglaf.  The students considered how the speeches reflect each character.

I think it’s amazing that a high school (9th grade!) has such sophisticated activities and material for its students. Thank you, LASA!

Beatific Couch Potato. Note the potato. And the couch. And the beatitude. Performed by John C. Kilfoyle.

Beatific Couch Potato. Note the potato. And the couch. And the beatitude. Performed by John C. Kilfoyle.


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