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Review: Beowulf and Amaterasu

Review: Beowulf: Monster Slayer and Amaterasu: Return of the Sun

Beowulf is a brave and mighty warrior, known to have the strength of thirty men.  At home in Geatland, Beowulf hears about the terrible troubles of his father’s friend, Hrothgar, the King of the Danes.  Hrothgar’s land is plagued by Grendel, a vicious monster who attacks the Danes by night.  Beowulf sets sail to aid Hrothgar and the Danes.  But is Beowulf strong enough to slay the monstrous Grendel?  And even if he succeeds, what other dangers lie ahead for the warrior-hero?

The sun goddess Amaterasu shines with great beauty and kindness.  She makes the crops grow in the fields and warms the faces of the people on Earth.  But behind her lurks her brother, the storm god Susano.  Susano is angry and jealous of Amaterasu.  Fearful of her brother, Amaterasu hides herself in a cave and plunges the world into cold and darkness.  How will the other gods convince Amaterasu to come out from her hiding place?  And how will they keep Susano from getting his revenge?

Beowulf: Monster Slayer and Amaterasu: Return of the Sun
Paul D. Storrie and Ron Randall
Lerner Publishing Company, 2008 and 2007, 978-0-8225-6757-8 and 0-8225-5968-4
45 pages, US$8.95 paperback

After reading Psyche and Eros (and being duly impressed by the quality of the book), I decided to venture further into Graphic Universe’s catalog.  I picked up Beowulf and Amaterasu from my local library and dove right in.  I wasn’t disappointed, as the quality of art and story was continued in these volumes.

One thing that struck me as rather awesome in Beowulf was the subtle references to Anglo-Saxon culture that were carried over from the original text.  One of these is a mention the practice of “gold-giving” by kings to their faithful servants.  This earned the kings the name of “gold-givers”.  I was definitely not expecting this historical reference to be mentioned in this book.  In addition, the condensation of the story is done well, and manages to capture all the important points while keeping the volume short enough to be engaging.  The art is wonderful, and the fight scenes are tastefully choreographed so minimal blood and guts are depicted.

The story of Amaterasu is not a well-known one, especially by a younger crowd, and especially in comparison with Beowulf.  Me personally, I had only heard of Amaterasu by name when I picked up this book.  It doesn’t rank very high on my list of favorite myths, but I do believe it has some redeeming qualities (i.e. the “fight” between Susano and Amaterasu”).  Another thing to think about is the similarities between the Grecian myths and the Japanese myths.  Both have a story about three relatives who split dominion over the earth, and both have a story in which a protector goddess is removed from her home (as a result, the earth begins to wither).  Such similarities can provide a stepping stone for young Greek mythology lovers into other pantheons.

On the whole, I do not usually enjoy books below my reading level.  Most of the time, they come off as childish and preachy.  But every once in a while, a series comes along that changes my mind.  Graphic Universe’s mythology- and ancient tales-related line of books has really altered my viewpoint.  If you have a child who’s a bit leery of dusty old tales about crusty ancient curmudgeons, introduce them to these books.  They may be surprised by what they encounter.

All images copyright © Lerner Publishing Company.

Sabrina Fritz About Sabrina Fritz


  1. I am doing a college research paper for my world mythology class on Beowulf. I didn’t know it was made into a comic. This has given me a different angle to go from. Good work

  2. Katherine Dacey says:

    Sarah: There have been several comic book adaptations of Beowulf. Not all are faithful to the original source, so you’d be wise to read the actual story first before turning to one of the graphic adaptations. If the language is posing difficulties for you, I would encourage you to look for the recent Seamus Heaney translation. Heaney, who is a poet by trade, does a good job of capturing the feel of the original while using language that’s more accessible to contemporary readers.

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