Bea Wolf - Weinersmith and Boulet

Don't tell anyone, but this is actually a present for a friend ('s daughter), and I read it before handing it over!

I never meant to get into the Beowulf. Old English epic poetry isn't supposed to be my thing, especially with all the macho heroics involved. And then discovering it was considerably supported by Tolkien, and well, whatever. However, the Headley Beowulf, taking a fresh perspective, really got me interested. So apparently I'm reading other translations now.

Bea Wolf is a (hardback) comic book retelling of part of Beowulf by the author of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. How could it not be awesome? It's slightly odd that Weinersmith only provides the words, but... the art of Boulet is fantastic, and honestly fits the content so much better than the SMBC art style. The result is a rather lovely book.

The story is told from the perspective of rebellious children facing the wrath of the serious and boring Mr. Grindle, and the ever-present threat of growing up. And somehow this is a surpsingly good fit for the simplistic macho posturing of Beowulf, with the generation upon generation of violent men converted into weird kids.

Making this book a subset of the original story is an excellent idea, both in terms of keeping down the complexity, and carving off the tragic and self-destructive elements of the poem (which Headley, taking the feminist view, rather seems to revel in, to my enjoyment). The result is focused, but certainly not short. A great balance.

I've praised the art, but what about the words? Well, turns out Weinersmith is good with words. There's plenty of alliteration and kenning, giving it that Beowulf feel. The sweets and toy swords are both a funny translation of the treasures and weapons, and yet somehow just as real as the versions people died over. There is a gravity to his childhood.

All in all, I found this a lot of fun, and really hope those receiving it enjoyed it as much as I did. Shush, don't tell them I read it!

Posted 2023-05-06.