Beowulf
The Old English poem will be turned into a 13-part epic dramaWikimedia Commons

The heroic medieval epic of Beowulf is to be turned into a 13-part ITV drama.

The poem contains 3,182 lines written in Old English, and dates back to between the 8th and 11th century. It has been recognised as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature, and is possibly the longest surviving long-form epic poem in the contemporary English vernacular.

Beowulf has previously been translated by some of the finest English writers, including JRR Tolkein and Seamus Heaney.

Producers promise the plot will be based on the prose work of Beowulf, and will feature "courage, greed, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, power, man versus wilderness and, of course, love".

The cast has not yet been announced but it is expected to start filming next April in the north east of England, County Durham and Northumberland. The adaptation has been described as "a western set in the Dark Ages of Britain's mythic past".

The first episode will see Beowulf who, after spending many years wandering as a mercenary warrior, returns to Herot to pay his respects to the recently deceased Thane, Hrothgar - the man who raised him.

"But when Herot is attacked by the terrifying monster Grendl, Beowulf has no choice but to hunt it down, winning favour with Herot's new female Thane, and the wider community, in the process," according to a publicity statement.

"And so begins a personal journey that sees this mighty and capable man slowly reconnect with the notion of family and home."

Parallels have already been drawn with the hit HBO series Games of Thrones, especially between the popular character of Jon Snow and Beowulf.

James Dormer, writer and executive producer of the programme, said: "Hundreds of years ago our ancestors listened to the story of Beowulf because it was a great adventure story - it scared them, thrilled them, made them laugh and cry.

"But they also listened because they recognised themselves and their fears in it. By holding a mirror up to them this story helped define them and thus - us. So it's incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to make it relevant again for a wide audience - to let them own it again. To let them see themselves in it."

Steve November, director of drama at ITV, said: "Beowulf is a series with a charismatic protagonist at its heart. Equally it's a spirited and fascinating ensemble drama with each character taking their own emotional and sometimes perilous journey."