Wrong. There's a blasted good reason this story is such an integral part of western culture - it's because it's awesome.
In no particular order - here are my top five examples of why.
1 - It's Beautifully Written
There are plenty of translations of Beowulf roaming the literary world, but whether they go for style-over-substance or seek to stick to every Old English root they can wrap their hands around, there's no denything this saga is a stunner in the world of prose.
Shove over, Homer - Beowulf doesn't need metaphors as long as the Yellow Pages to invoke the sights, sounds and smells of haunted Geatland, deep moors stalked by unseen shadows while wenches and warriors chase away the shadows with mead and song that makes the ceiling ring with the names of legends.
2 - It Has An Awesome Protagonist
But get all images of untouchable gods out of your head - Beowulf is as down and dirty with the rest of us as you could wish for. He's clever, he's loyal, he loves people and noise and crows, and his powers of sarcasm are truly something to behold.
On top of that, you can see why everyone loves him, why his men fling themselves into the path of peril to stand beside him. Yeah, some guy's sword proved kind of useless fighting the demon swamp monster, but he'll thank the guy for giving it to him anyway, because that's the decent thing to do. And when he loses a man to Grendel's appetite because something doesn't go to plan, he is genuinely upset and begrieved.
You'll never enjoy yourself so much listening to a guy tell you about how he started strangling sea monsters before his first chin hairs grew in.
3 - It's Scary!
The atmosphere in this story is intense, people. The glorious writing goes a long way to building up a wonderful sense of the stakes in play, even in the smallest of moments. The sense is terror, and the smell is every bodily fluid you never wanted to admit to containing.
Stephen King, eat your heart out. I'm way more scared of being alone in a dark feast hall waiting for the horrible monster to bite my legs off than I am of your demon clown!
4 - It's Got An Amazing SettingYou might not recognise the names of the countries and halls any more, but Beowulf has
worldbuilding out the wazoo. The cultural ties, trade relations, oaths and promises made between figures large and small all form part of the story's backdrop. The world is steeped in its own lore and history, from the references made in conversation between characters to sweeping declarations made of the passing of years between events. Think Tolkien, but with less walking and more unstable political relations.
5 - It Is Inspiring
I saved this one 'till last, partly because it comes as something of a summation to the rest, but also because I feel it is, in a way, the most important. One of the key purposes of an epic poem is to showcase the roles of gods and men and their interrelation in the workings of the world. You get examples of the bad and the good, the brave and the cowardly, and how everything can shift and change as time and circumstance wend their way into deeper and deeper peril.
Beowulf has been an inspiration across the centuries, from Superman to Tolkien, even to Harry Potter. It's such a human story, driven by loyalty and bravery and a desire to prove oneself bigger and bolder than even the most alien of terrors lurking beyond the borders of knowledge. It's about pulling together, pushing boundaries, and overcoming even the most horrendous of circumstances because we know it has to be done.
Fate deals a heavy hand, yes. But that's no excuse to lie down and take it. Beowulf tells you to get up, to stand, to grab your sword and gather your dearest ones about you and charge down your last foe with a gleam in your eye and scream your battlecry loud enough that every god in the heavens will stop and listen in awe.
. . . Wouldn't recommend the movie, though. Not even Angeline Jolie could save that mess.
~ Charley R