Monstrous! Old English classic Beowulf gets a slap in the face with a monster trigger warning

Monstrous! Old English classic Beowulf is hit with a trigger warning as academics fear students will be distressed reading about monsters

  • University of Aberdeen scholars slapped Beowulf with trigger warning
  • They claim that students can be afflicted by the monsters in the Old English poem
  • The note warned against violence, coercion, cruelty to animals, incest and suicide
  • In addition, the orientation note warned students that “there will also be monsters”

It’s a staple of English literature lessons, an epic Old English poem so dramatic it even spawned a computer-animated fantasy action film.

Yet academics issued a “trigger warning” on Beowulf, warning students they might read about “monsters”.

The University of Aberdeen thinks students who read Celtic and Anglo-Saxon studies might be distressed by the saga.

The university put more than 30 warnings on a module, titled “Lost Gods and Hidden Monsters of the Celtic and Germanic Middle Ages”.

A note to students reads: “Texts studied in this course contain depictions of violence, coercion, cruelty to or death of animals, incest, suicide, sexually explicit content… ableism.”

Additionally, the students were warned that “there will also be monsters.”

Ray Winstone provided the voice of Beowulf (pictured) in a 2007 film adaptation

This is not the first time Aberdeen has sparked controversy for its use of trigger warnings.

Last year, The Mail on Sunday revealed that the university had warned students that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped contained “depictions of murder, death, family betrayal and kidnapping”,

Beowulf, the story of terrifying beasts and a fire-breathing dragon slain by a hero, has been taught for generations as one of the greatest stories of all time.

Beowulf’s hero dispatches the monstrous figure of Grendel – who is described in Old English as ‘unhælu’, or ‘cripple’.

Beowulf is depicted battling the monstrous figure of Grendel in a book illustration

Beowulf is depicted battling the monstrous figure of Grendel in a book illustration


Students at Imperial College London are battling the installation of a new sculpture they say resembles a man exposing himself.

The sculpture, by artist Sir Antony Gormley, is called Alert and is made of stacked steel blocks resembling a crouching person.

But students say the character appears to have an erect penis three meters long.

The artist said the sculpture is a figure “balancing on the soles of the feet” representing a person who is alert, alive and awake.

Imperial said: “Sir Antony Gormley is one of the world’s greatest living artists, and we are grateful to have received one of his iconic sculptures.”

However, some scholars have argued that this is offensive because it pits able-bodied people against people with disabilities.

The hero of the 3,000 verse poem also slays a ‘wyrm’ (a dragon/serpent) at the end, alongside his devoted servant Wiglaf.

The advice specifically mentions Beowulf’s violent content, stating, “Particularly graphic depictions of violence…will be encountered in…Beowulf.”

Another note warns against “blasphemy, defecation, emotional abuse, pain, alcohol abuse, symbols of evil, black magic.”

The university’s policy on content warnings, reported by the Daily Telegraph, explains the need for the warnings: “The mental health and well-being of students is a primary concern of the school.”

Trigger warnings have been applied by universities to many literary classics, from works from Shakespeare to George Orwell.

The University of Aberdeen said: “Our content warning guidelines were developed in consultation with student representatives and we have never had any complaints about them – on the contrary, students have expressed admiration for them. our approach.

“Our content warnings reflect the fact that every student is different.”