Analysis of 2 Translations of Beowulf
Grendel’s Description Comparative Analysis Beowulf is a great piece of Anglo-Saxon literature that can be, and has been, translated in multiple ways. Of the many outstanding translations, two of which are by Burton Raffel and Seamus Heaney, different ways of writing are portrayed. Grendel’s description is written quite differently in both translations. Heaney’s translation is more similar to the Anglo-Saxon style of writing than Raffel’s translation.
In Heaney’s translation, he uses a kenning to describe the Danes whereas Raffel uses simple wording to get the same story across. Heaney calls The Danish people “Ring-Danes” to get his translation to be closer to the Anglo-Saxon’s style of literature. This use of a kenning causes the reader to be more familiarized and to better understand how the story was originally written or, rather, originally composed. Raffel, on the other hand, plainly calls the Danes “warriors” to make the passage clear and easy to read.
By translating Beowulf this way, Raffel is simplifying the writing and turning it into a more modern style of writing by not using kennings, therefore, taking away from the original story’s metaphorical aspect and straying way from the Anglo-Saxon style of literature but making it more understandable to the less than advanced reader. Another way Heaney nears the Anglo-Saxon style of writing and Raffel digresses from it is the use of poetry and poetic devices in the translations. Heaney uses alliteration in nearly every line of his translation.
For example, in line twenty five, “blundering back with the butchered corpses,” repeats the letter “B” three times. He translated Beowulf by making sure the same meaning is transferred into the new language, (English), and also made sure that the writing’s style was also transferred. This makes even the translation sound like a poem that can be sung just as Beowulf would have been many years ago. Raffel, on the contrary, does not use alliteration or other poetic devices as much.
In line four, alliteration is present by repeating the “H” in “hall” and “harp’s,” however, this isn’t the case in many lines. An example would be, line one, “A powerful monster, living down. ” By doing this, Raffel is turning what was initially a complex poem into a short story, setting it up in a way that is very similar to any modern novel. It is quite clear that Heaney’s choice of diction is far more complex and sophisticated than Raffel’s choice of diction, which is very simple.
Heaney uses many words that may be hard to comprehend due to the fact that they are not often used in conversations or even in many other writings. An example of a word that Heaney uses in his translation that may not be understood right away is “prowler. ” This word, which means stalker, is a word that may not be comprehended by someone with a weak vocabulary. It intensifies the story greatly, however, by allowing the reader to visualize Grendel sneaking up on his prey, showing that he has a deceitful personality.
Raffel, on the other hand, simply describes Grendel’s actions. He skips from Grendel being a “powerful monster” to him growling due to the excessive noise from the hall. Grendel’s personality is not explained or stated as in Heaney’s translation. By Raffel missing this little piece of information about Grendel, the reader has an easier time comprehending what is currently occurring, though it is slightly less informative.
Heaney and Raffel’s translations are both phenomenal works of literature. Heaney, however, concentrates more on how poetic and similar the translation is to the original writing to give the reader an idea as to how the original story was composed. Raffel strays slightly away from the poetic Anglo-Saxon writing style and simplifies Beowulf, making it easier to read. Both of the translations tell the same story, however, how the tale is told can impact the reader in different ways.