This paper is regarded as a formative work in modern Beowulf studies. In this talk, Tolkien speaks against critics who play down the fantastic elements of the poem (such as Grendel and the dragon) in favour of using Beowulf solely as a source for Anglo-Saxon history. Tolkien argues that rather than being merely extraneous, these elements are key to the narrative and should be the focus of study. In doing so he drew attention to the previously neglected literary qualities of the poem and argued that it should be studied as a work of art, not just as a historical document. Later critics who agreed with Tolkien on this point have routinely cited him to defend their arguments.
The paper remains a common source for students and scholars studying Beowulf and was praised by Seamus Heaney in the introduction to his translation of the poem. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson call it in their Beowulf, An Edition (1998) "the most influential literary criticism of the poem ever written". The paper also sheds light on many of Tolkien's ideas about literature and is a source for those seeking to understand his writings.
^Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 14, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1