University of Rochester
Gardner Papers

The Other Side of the Beowulf Story

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SEQUEL TIME? With a PhD in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval studies, the novelist John Gardner knew his way around the story of Beowulf, the Scandinavian saga that was adapted for a new movie last fall. Home to the John Gardner Papers, the University’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation houses one of the largest collections of the late writer’s letters, journals, and manuscripts. The collection includes a 139-page typescript that would be published in 1971 as Grendel, Gardner’s retelling of the 1,000-year-old epic from the perspective of the first monster that Beowulf slays on his rise to glory among the Danes and Swedes. The typed manuscript contains Gardner’s edits, changes, and revisions, many of which are reflected in the published novel. “When I talk to students today, one reason they have heard of Gardner is because of Grendel,” says Phyllis Andrews, the curator of Modern English & American Literature Collections. “It’s still on college reading lists. And I’ve talked with plenty of readers who know Gardner’s Sunlight Dialogues or October Light, and some know On Moral Fiction.