28 May, 2015

A. Keith Kelly on Alfgar's Stories from Beowulf

A. Keith Kelly just reviewed  Edward L. Risden, Alfgar's Stories from Beowulf (Witan Publishing, 2013), at Medievally Speaking:

Revisiting the Middle Ages in order to find inspiration for the creation of something new is not a rare technique among authors.  Revisiting the Middle Ages to create something new that also seems like it is an authentic part of the Middle Ages, however, is a bit less common.  The latter is precisely what Ed Risden endeavors to accomplish in his book Alfgar’s Stories from Beowulf—and with notable success.  In this relatively short book—it comes in at 134 pages—Dr. Risden offers readers four original works of fiction (with a smattering of poetry embedded throughout), each connected in various ways to Beowulf.  “Grendel’s Mother” retells Beowulf from the somewhat removed and intensely personal perspective of the more celebrated monster’s mother.  “Lay of the Last Survivor” is the tale of a man devoted to a blood feud that leaves him bereft of hearth, kin and even his humanity. “Scyldingasaga” serves as a prequel to Beowulf, reaching back to the exploits of the hero’s renowned ancestors, Scyld and Beow.  The final tale, “Freawaru’s Lament,” expands upon a story hinted at in Beowulf about a woman whose peace-weaver marriage leads to life-long tragedy and grief.  The four tales are framed by the character of Alfgar, who is a poet, or scop, in the service of a monastery around the year 1000 (he asserts that his grandfather served King Æthelstan).  He is regaling a young monk in the scriptorium with stories that are a marked departure from the Christian tales prescribed by the abbot.  The young man listens eagerly and even consumes valuable parchment to record Alfgar’s words.  There is the suggestion that Alfgar may be the teller of Beowulf itself, and the young monk the reason it survives in manuscript form.  The interaction between these two characters bookends the tales, serving as Prologue and Epilogue. Continue to the full REVIEW….