Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife by Susan Signe Morrison

4 Stars

I was very excited to read this book. As a medievalist and fantasy lover, Beowulf was a must-read and a lasting interest for me. This one epic poem, with the help of J.R.R. Tolkien spawned an entire genre that I adore. I am also fascinated by retellings, or, more accurately, the repurposing of old stories into new and different ones. Let me say, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife did not at all disappoint on either count.

Told from the perspective of Brimhild, sea-orphaned babe, once Queen of the Scyldings, product of rape and incest, mother to Grendel, this book offers up this infamous story from a new perspective. What’s more, and my favourite aspect I think, is that it does so utilizing the devices and tools that characterize the original poem. While I did find the alliteration occasionally heavy-handed and disruptive, overall the use of alliteration, epithets, and kenning was beautifully crafted.

The tone and style are somewhat alien, especially for a modern reader, but I feel that this is actually working to set the scene and rhythm of a historical space that is very alien to the one we inhabit. Even more importantly that rhythm and tone is consistent throughout and that lets the reader settle into a world that the language patterns and tone, as much as anything else, create.


All in all a definite, recommended read!

02_Grendel's MotherGrendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife
by Susan Signe Morrison

Publication Date: September 25, 2015
Top Hat Books
Paperback & eBook; 238 Pages
ISBN-10: 1785350099

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Shortlisted for the 2014-2015 Sarton Literary Award for Historical Fiction.

An amber bead. A gold and glass drinking horn. A ring engraved with Thor’s hammer—all artifacts from a Germanic tribe that carved a space for itself through brutality and violence on a windswept land. Brimhild weaves peace and conveys culture to the kingdom, until the secret of her birth threatens to tear apart the fragile political stability. This is her story—the tale of Grendel’s Mother. She is no monster as portrayed in the Old English epic, Beowulf. We learn her side of the story and that of her defamed child. We see the many passages of her life: the brine-baby who floated mysteriously to shore; the hall-queen presiding over the triumphant building of the golden hall Heorot and victim of sexual and political betrayal; the exiled mere-wife, who ekes out a marginal life by an uncanny bog as a healer and contends with the menacing Beowulf; and the seer, who prophesizes what will occur to her adopted people. We learn how the invasion by brutal men is not a fairy tale, but a disaster doomed to cycle relentlessly through human history. Only the surviving women can sing poignant laments, preserve a glittering culture, and provide hope for the future.

“What a gift! Grendel’s Mother is sure to become an integral part of every class on Beowulf.” – Candace Robb, author of the Owen Archer Mystery Series and, as Emma Campion, A Triple Knot

“This fascinating narrative is to readers today what John Gardner’s Grendel was to readers of the 1970s.” – Haruko Momma, Professor of English, New York University


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


About the Author03_Susan Signe Morrison

Susan Signe Morrison writes on topics lurking in the margins of history, ranging from recently uncovered diaries of a teenaged girl in World War II, to medieval women pilgrims, excrement in the Middle Ages, and waste. Susan Morrison is Professor of English at Texas State University. She grew up in New Jersey by the Great Swamp, a National Wildlife Refuge with terrain not unlike that of Grendel’s Mother’s mere in Beowulf. Committed to bringing the lives of medieval women to a wider audience and making the ethics of waste fundamental to our study of literature, Susan can be found at,, and and tweets @medievalwomen.

Susan’s BA is from Swarthmore College and her A.M./Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Brown University. She has studied in Germany and taught in the former East Germany. Susan’s publications have appeared in such journals as The Yearbook of Langland Studies, Medievalia et Humanistica, Medieval Feminist Forum, The Chaucer Review, Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The New York Times, Women In German Yearbook, Journal of Popular Culture, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, as well as numerous book chapters. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter and son.

For more information visit Susan’s website.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 28
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, March 30
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, March 31
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Monday, April 4
Interview at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, April 5
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, April 6
Guest Post A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 7
Review at Impressions In Ink

Sunday, April 10
Review at Sprinkled With Words

Tuesday, April 12
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Thursday, April 14
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Friday, April 15
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book


To win one of two copies of Grendel’s Mother by Susan Signe Morrison please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM link below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Grendel’s Mother

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