One Writer’s Journey

November 7, 2014

Hear Beowulf in Old English

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am

Maybe I’m just a huge word nerd, but sometimes I really get a kick out of hearing something read aloud in the original whatever.  In the case of this recording of Beowulf it is Old English.

Every now and again, I can pick out a word but it is usually a throwaway — then, shall, or something like that.  Of course, that’s assuming that I’m getting anything at all out of this.  I could also swear that I heard nanny goat and I’m 98% certain that Beowulf was never ever accompanied on his adventures by a nanny goat.

Why then bother to listen to anything like this?

Have you ever tried to describe another language?  It is impossible to do if you haven’t, at some point and time, heard the language.  It probably helps if you speak it but that isn’t always going to be the case when we are discussing a historic but dead language like Old English or Middle English.

But it is an amazing thing if you do a good job.  I was, and still am, an Amy Tan junky.  In The Joy Luck Club, I remember reading her descriptions of the various Chinese dialects including “water running over stones.”  When I saw the movie, I was thrilled to hear the actors speaking in the appropriate dialects.  And the best part?  One of them really and truly sounded like water over stones.

Listen to languages and music and more.  Make your descriptions both lifelike and vivid and they will stick in both the mind and the ear of your reader.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m back to Beowulf.  Although I could do without the “mood music” in the background.  I feel like I’m being persued by an orchestra playing Carmina Burana that, every now and again, breaks into light metal.




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