The adaptational character of the earliest Beowulf for English children: E. L. Hervey’s “The fight with the ogre”

Ward, Renée (2021) The adaptational character of the earliest Beowulf for English children: E. L. Hervey’s “The fight with the ogre”. In: Beowulf as Children's LIterature: Studies in Adaptation for Youth. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781487502706

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This chapter introduces to modern audiences the short story “Roderic’s Tale: The Fight with the Ogre,” by Eleanora Louisa (Montagu) Hervey (1811-1903), a forgotten but prolific and well-known children’s writer in the nineteenth century. This previously unrecognized and unexamined tale, which appears in Hervey’s volume The Children of the Pear-Garden (1878), may, in fact, be the earliest known adaptation in English for children of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, as it predates more widely recognized early adaptations, such as those found in W. S. W. Anson’s Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages (1883), Mara L. Pratt’s Stories from Old Germany (1895), and Clara Linklater Thomson’s The Adventures of Beowulf (1899). “The Fight with the Ogre” speaks directly to the nineteenth century’s heightened fascination with and concern for heritage, history, and empire. Hervey renders Beowulf an highly condensed narrative, one which effaces much of the original’s material that grapples with questions of humanity, identity, and otherness (racial, behavioural, and religious); ignores narratorial digressions (genealogies and contextual tales); eliminates the final battle between Beowulf and the dragon; and employs a heavily Christianized tone. Presented as an entry in an ornamental gift book, the story includes an illustration of Grendel as far more human than the original poem or Hervey’s adaptation suggest. Additionally, the story-telling framework positions the male child as the precursor to the adult patriarchal head and provides instruction on how he should rule himself and his household. These elements ultimately contribute to a paratext that illustrates the doubleness of readership and commercialization that heavily characterized children’s literature during the Victorian era.

Keywords:Beowulf, Children's Literature, Eleonora Louisa Hervey, Medievalism, Victorian Literature, Anglo-Saxonism, Grendel, Grendel's Mother, Victorian Nationalism, Gift Books
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q200 Comparative Literary studies
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q322 English Literature by author
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q321 English Literature by period
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:25960
Deposited On:04 Oct 2017 13:11

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