Beowulf Papercut Book Cover

The ancient North. A hero. A monster. One epic battle. A story passed along in time.

Beowulf.

It’s been studied and translated, and studied and translated again. It’s stood the test of time and inspired fantasy heavyweights of the likes of William Morris and J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s inspired movies, TV episodes, and maybe even songs, I’m not sure. I recently have been re-watching the old TV series Star Trek Voyager (yes from the 1990’s!) and they even had a Beowolf episode where Ensign Harry Kim gets trapped in a Beowolf Holo-novel and the Doctor has to go in and fight Grendel to save him. It was great. But my point is— however many thousand years later from the origins of this story, this is a story we still love as humans. And if Star Treks is any indicator, our future space-traveling race will also still love it.

I knew of the basics of the story of Beowolf from pop culture, but didn’t realize that the fight against Grendel is not the only monster that Beowolf fights. He also defeats Grendel’s mother, and at the end of the epic poem, he defeats a dragon, although also dies at the attempt. The poem uses alliteration, which I found very appealing. It was much easier to read than the Illiad, but that probably has something to do with the fact that this epic poem, unlike the Illiad, was originally written in Old English— much closer to our English now than Greek. This not only makes the poem translate easier, but the original poetry of the alliteration translates easier too. It makes it a beautiful read— so much so that I found myself very quietly reading it aloud to myself so I could hear how it actually sounded.

As a Tolkien fan, I quite enjoyed seeing the original inspiration for Tolkien’s novels. I think Beowolf is something I will read again, but maybe a different translation, just to see the differences.

Have you read Beowolf? Did you enjoy it?



About the Papercut:

This Papercut book cover has been my most complicated piece yet to date. It took me 10+ hours to perfect the drawing, 26 hours to cut both layers out, and then about 5-6 hours just to glue the layers together. This is the longest time I’ve spent on one piece and also it had the most complex cuts I’ve done given that I needed to be precise so that the green layer matched up to the top grey layer. However, I am so pleased with the result, so it was well worth the effort.

The story is Norse in origin, and Norse design has many similarities to Celtic designs— especially the complex knot designs. I wanted to incorporate these wonderful knots but also include scenes/items from the story. In the end, I decided to do a shield with a depiction of the monster Grendel and Beowulf fighting him with a sword. Beowulf didn’t defeat Grendel by the sword, but as a Viking warrior, he looked incomplete without it. A scroll holds the title and outside the shield is a section of loose knots with dragons, snakes, Viking ships, and Viking weapons intertwined within. This section is then surrounded by another section of a complex Celtic/Norse knot deign by my own making. These intertwined knots where what took me so long to draw! They were difficult to figure out how to draw and where to have the lines go under or over each other. But my patience served me well, and I’m very proud of the result.

The design is very complicated and intricate, but I wanted it that way. Not only to push myself as an artist, but also because medieval literature tended to be illustrated lavishly and I wanted my work to reflect that. I choose a medieval-looking calligraphy font for the title, and decided to cut each letter out individually as a top layer so that it was more readable.

All in all, I am so proud of my more difficult make yet. I enjoyed working with the intricate layers and look forward to doing more layers in the future.

What do you think?

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