From the first “Hwæt!” through the Geatish king’s eulogy, the Old English poem Beowulf has inspired a great deal of spinoffs, debate, and discourse. The new series Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands provides an interesting new look at the Anglo-Saxon epic.
Many of you will have read this poem in school, and are familiar with the basics: Beowulf is a Geatish warrior who is eager for battle and glory, and goes around fighting all kinds of monsters. He becomes quite the legend, defeating sea monsters during swimming competitions and battling monstrous mothers underwater without the apparent need to resurface for air.
Now, enter Return to the Shieldlands. What’s new? Well, the show makes a point of introducing a more diverse cast as well as more female characters, first off. Secondly, the plot is entirely different from the poem. Rather than a rip-roaring adventure of ripping off Grendel’s arm and slaying dragons, Return to the Shieldlands provides a unique perspective of a fantasy-infused Scandinavian peninsula, rife with betrayal and scheming as well as adventuring.
Once you look past the occasionally wooden acting and slightly predictable subplots which show up in episode one, you’ve got beautiful historically inspired set designs as well as an interesting new look at this corner of the globe. Beowulf himself is, rather than the hero eager to prove himself, disillusioned and jaded, but a hero nonetheless… who is also accused of murder. And during that troubled time, there’s also a political upheaval centering around Rheda, who became the new thane after her husband, the previous thane, died. She struggles to maintain her position as well as to protect the Shieldlands, which are coming under the threat of the monsters, trolls, and giants which once roamed the land prior to human settlement. It should provide an interesting dynamic, especially since the humans have employed (or is it “enslaved?”) trolls and monsters for manual labor.
There’s a lot to look forward to as Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands continues. Have you seen this show yet? What’s your take on it so far?