Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities
Classics Corner

Buy the paperback

Beowolf: A New Verse Translation
by Seamus Heaney
Amazon.com:
In Beowulf warriors must back up their mead-hall boasts with instant action, monsters abound, and fights are always to the death. The Anglo-Saxon epic, composed between the 7th and 10th centuries, has long been accorded its place in literature, though its hold on our imagination has been less secure. In the introduction to his translation, Seamus Heaney argues that Beowulf's role as a required text for many English students obscured its mysteries and "mythic potency." Now, thanks to the Irish poet's marvelous recreation (in both senses of the word) under Alfred David's watch, this dark, doom-ridden work gets its day in the sun.
 
There are endless pleasures in Heaney's analysis, but readers should head straight for the poem and then to the prose. (Some will also take advantage of the dual-language edition and do some linguistic teasing out of their own.) The epic's outlines seem simple, depicting Beowulf's three key battles with the scaliest brutes in all of art: Grendel, Grendel's mother (who's in a suitably monstrous snit after her son's dismemberment and death), and then, 50 years later, a gold-hoarding dragon "threatening the night sky / with streamers of fire." Along the way, however, we are treated to flashes back and forward and to a world view in which a thane's allegiance to his lord and to God is absolute. In the first fight, the man from Geatland must travel to Denmark to take on the "shadow-stalker" terrorizing Heorot Hall. Here Beowulf and company set sail:
 
Men climbed eagerly up the gangplank,
sand churned in the surf, warriors loaded
a cargo of weapons, shining war-gear
in the vessel's hold, then heaved out,
away with a will in their wood-wreathed ship.
Over the waves, with the wind behind her
and foam at her neck, she flew like a bird...
 
After a fearsome night victory over march-haunting and heath-marauding Grendel, our high-born hero is suitably strewn with gold and praise, the queen declaring: "Your sway is wide as the wind's home, / as the sea around cliffs." Few will disagree. And remember, Beowulf has two more trials to undergo.
 
Heaney claims that when he began his translation it all too often seemed "like trying to bring down a megalith with a toy hammer." The poem's challenges are many: its strong four-stress line, heavy alliteration, and profusion of kennings could have been daunting. (The sea is, among other things, "the whale-road," the sun is "the world's candle," and Beowulf's third opponent is a "vile sky-winger." When it came to over-the-top compound phrases, the temptations must have been endless, but for the most part, Heaney smiles, he "called a sword a sword.") Yet there are few signs of effort in the poet's Englishing. Heaney varies his lines with ease, offering up stirring dialogue, action, and description while not stinting on the epic's mix of fate and fear. After Grendel's misbegotten mother comes to call, the king's evocation of her haunted home may strike dread into the hearts of men and beasts, but it's a gift to the reader:
 
A few miles from here
a frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.
At night there, something uncanny happens:
the water burns. And the mere bottom
has never been sounded by the sons of men.
On its bank, the heather-stepper halts:
the hart in flight from pursuing hounds
will turn to face them with firm-set horns
and die in the wood rather than dive
beneath its surface. That is no good place.
 
In Heaney's hands, the poem's apparent archaisms and Anglo-Saxon attitudes--its formality, blood-feuds, and insane courage--turn the art of an ancient island nation into world literature. --Kerry Fried .
 



Topic: July: Beowulf (1 of 102), Read 126 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 10:26 PM Beginning July 1, Classics Corner will discuss Beowulf, in the widely acclaimed modern translation by Seamus Heaney. The Constant Reader selection for July is Grendel by John Gardner. This is a retelling of the Beowulf story from the monster's point of view. Past Classic Corner/Constant Reader pairings have led to some great discussions. I hope you can join us. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (2 of 102), Read 107 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 04:28 AM Ann -- I was thinking of reading these two simultaneously -- making the comparisons as I went along -- since I've never read either of them. But I got to wondering if those of you have read one or the other or both would recommend this? I have both ready and waiting -- am hoping I will race along as well in these as I have been in the books I've been hauling in from the bib, the supermarket and the used books section of De Slegte lately -- not to mention "other" sources{G}. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (3 of 102), Read 108 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 06:34 AM Just read the first few pages of each and think I may have my answer -- I think my brain won't do the shift between the poetic and the prose -- all contrast between the old style and new style of the language itself -- just the forms will keep me from gaining anything from doing both at once. SO Beowulf -- here I come! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (4 of 102), Read 111 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 10:32 AM I think I'm going to actually get to do these since I am through with all my reading obligations for my test and with the test itself (about which, probably, the less said the better.) Looking forward to it! Janet
Topic: July: Beowulf (5 of 102), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 09:47 PM I will be out of town next week, but I have Seamus Heaney reading his translation of Beowulf on CD. Remarkable and amazing stuff. I find this translation first-rate. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (6 of 102), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Saturday, June 30, 2001 07:19 AM I've only five or six more pages left to go. I just couldn't stay awake a moment longer. I bet his reading is wonderful, Dan. I would love to hear it after I finish reading it. Did it contain the introduction? I usually don't read introductions, but I think it's absolutely necessary in this case. Sherry
Topic: July: Beowulf (7 of 102), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, June 30, 2001 08:27 AM I'll be reading B in the car on our way to and from Boone, NC. We won't be back until Monday, so I imagine I'll have a lot of CC to catch up on. I'm really looking forward to pairing this with Grendel on the 15th. K
Topic: July: Beowulf (8 of 102), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 11:54 AM Well, Beowulf is done and I'm on to Grendel and I have to say I'm waiting for the CR "experts" on Beowulf to tell me what I just read and why Heaney's translation is so marvelous and in comparison to what is this translation so much improved and -- well, you can see I have a lot of questions! {G} Maybe I'm just not very WITH it here -- but old Beowulf left me "prettige verdomde koud" -- hope someone can 'splain it so I warm up just a little bit! Now Grendel!! Heh -- I'm laughing out loud and the blurb on the home page says something about it being sad and beautiful -- maybe I haven't got to the sad parts -- anyway I find myself liking this old monster a LOT -- uh-oh -- isn't Beowulf the great hero of ancient time and Grendel his enemy? -- I may be in really deep trouble this time. Gulp. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (9 of 102), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 12:07 PM Dottie, I'm about half way through with Beowulf. What strikes me most at this point is that it must have been a terribly frightening period in history for people to conjure up such terrible monsters to express the hardships and terror of their lives. I liked this passage from the introduction. It explains the worldview of these people: All conceive of themselves as hooped within the great wheel of necessity, in thrall to a code of loyalty and bravery bound to seek glory in the eye of the warrior world. The little nations are grouped around their lord, the greater nations spoil for war and menace the little ones, a lord dies, defenselessness ensues, the enemy strikes, vengeance for the dead becomes an ethic for the living, bloodshed begs further bloodshed, the wheel turns, the generations tread and tread and tread. No wonder this was called the Dark Ages. :) Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (10 of 102), Read 93 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 06:47 PM On 7/2/01 12:07:08 PM, Ann Davey wrote: >Dottie, >...... >I liked this passage from the >introduction. It explains the >worldview of these people: > >All conceive of themselves as >hooped within the great wheel >of necessity, in thrall to a >code of loyalty and bravery >bound to seek glory in the eye >of the warrior world. The >little nations are grouped >around their lord, the greater >nations spoil for war and >menace the little ones, a lord >dies, defenselessness ensues, >the enemy strikes, vengeance >for the dead becomes an ethic >for the living, bloodshed begs >further bloodshed, the wheel >turns, the generations tread >and tread and tread. > >No wonder this was called the >Dark Ages. :) > >Ann > Ann, this sounds just like our world nowadays though -- people/individuals chained into necessity (and if you carry thru with the code of loyalty and all that -- think of gangs) -- the little nations grouped around their lord -- well now it's more like each little nation each struggling little emerging nation has its own lord and the larger nations war and threaten the little nations and a lord dies (or is killed and chaos ensues and revenge is sought and then the next leader falls -- isn't this how it goes even now? Some of the larger nations have longer treads between the bloodshedding -- some seem to be immune to it -- but they aren't -- measure the years between Presidential assassinations in our own land -- it isn't all that great. Generations tread and tread and the wheel (earth? life? history?)turns -- read that as CYCLES. Hmmmm --- thanks, I'm going to reread this as the discussion gets underway -- but just now I wanted to add up there -- "Nothing new under the sun ... vanity of vanities" -- does it fit maybe? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (11 of 102), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 06:58 PM Ouch -- and thus -- is every age a Dark Age in some fashion? I would certainly think this might be a theory which could find support. But oh my -- such a bleak thought when it's typed right out there. Maybe I'll think on that idea some more. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (12 of 102), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 07:56 PM Dottie, I think your last couple of posts demonstrates why this book is still read, and why this translation is popular. Plus, you even sound like an expert!!! she says grinning. I really appreciate these posts. this is a book that, for me at least, it's nice to talk about with other people. I feel like this about the trauma of reading Waiting For The Barbarians. The world feels big and scary. Nice to hear some warm voices... Candy
Topic: July: Beowulf (13 of 102), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 08:48 PM Dottie- I think your take on B is an apt one. As far as why this epic poem still intrigues us, I have only my own reactions to go by. One, it's a terrific story in its own right. I could see the hand to hand combat with Grendel and Beowulf's swim to the bottom of the swamp land to avenge Aeschele's death. I felt a sense of suspense and was eager to see what happened. Another reason this poem resonates with me is the allegorical meaning I find woven into the tale. It's a caution against getting too wrapped up in our own glory or the glory of others. Life is ephemeral and fight as we will, we all fall to the same fate. Did anyone see an element of good vs. evil? I did. And all that business about gold being of the earth, and returning to the earth, was definitely a caution to readers. Trite, perhaps, but that message is there. It seems to me there was also a message about the nature of revenge - though it may temporarily satisfy, it eventually leads to more pain and distress of the soul. We're human, and so desire revenge, but all it leads to is more of the same and despair for those who exact it. The biblical references to Cain were sending a message as well, I think. This was a first reading for me, though I remember my mother talking about the poem at the dinner table. What a read. If I had to guess what Grendel's pov would be, I'd guess it would have to do with his being excluded from the companionship of the people in the mead hall. He hears their laughter and resents being ostracized for something his ancestors did. Dunno. Just a guess. K
Topic: July: Beowulf (14 of 102), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 08:54 PM Kay, great post and thoughts really enjoyed this. Wow, lots to think about! candy
Topic: July: Beowulf (15 of 102), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 02:03 AM Okay, thank you for those kind words friends -- but I'm sticking to that 'prettige verdomde koud' line back there! It was FLAT -- for all that hand to hand and all that heavy "stuff" it was saying it was not sparkling and exciting wordplay -- or am I really way outside the mark on that? I found it bumpy and stumbling in places when I needed it to flow. As I said up there somewhere, I'm opening it up and starting with the Intro again -- bear with me! I can't wait to hear more comments from others as I move through this again. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (16 of 102), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 03:08 AM Dottie, I haven't started yet but when I first compared Heaney's translation to another couple 'modern' ones in the library, I thought the others were better. Of course they aren't available to buy. But I will go back to the library for them if I get bogged down. One of the authors of a translation I liked did what I'm guessing is another one. (I don't have his old one here to compare.) He's Kevin Crossley-Holland and this is an Oxford World Classic. I'll let you know how it holds up compared to Heaney. Bo
Topic: July: Beowulf (17 of 102), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 03:16 AM So -- this Heaney translation being "newest" then is the only one out there to buy? Sigh -- I was hoping I could hop out on the web or have the bookie daughter find me something else that I could compare notes. Never having read this before at all -- somehow it seems I am being downright rude when Heaney's new translation is being so highly touted but I just expected more soaring verbiage somehow. Dottie -- grumble, grumble, grumble -- sheesh -- shut up and read it again. lady -- {G}. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (18 of 102), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherri Kendrick (sheval@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 05:32 AM I'm still reading, and have only got to the arrival of Beowulf. I find it easy reading, the translation flows and it reads more like a story than a poem. I remember having to read this in school, I don't know who's translation, but it was very hard to understand. This one I understand. Too early to tell if I'm going to enjoy the story though. Sherri
Topic: July: Beowulf (19 of 102), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 08:40 AM Heaney's translation definitely reads more as a story than a poem, though Heaney explains the meter in his intro. I did find several turns of phrases that struck me as poetic - "...bloodying the path, hauling his doom to the demons' mere." "..., looped in it" in reference to Grendel's pain after the battle. "...outcast from all sweetness" in reference to Cain's descendents. Oh, the pain that would inspire! "...out of its depths a dirty surge is pitched towards the heavens" in reference to the marsh where Grendel lived. I think it's important to remember that this poem was probably meant to be heard rather than read. It was a minstrel's entertainment offering. In order to hold an audience, it would have to have lots of action and be easy to understand. I think the author's intention was to entertain and teach a lesson or two. There's nothing obscure to ponder on. All attention is focused on the action and message. It's a good story, I think. I'll admit I'm assuming there's a reason for B's importance in poetic history beyond the fact it's been in every Intro to English Lit textbook for centuries. Isn't part of that significance due to its having been one of the first epic poems? I don't know enough about poetry to comment on its influence on poetry through the ages, or what made B. different from anything that had come before. I'm sure someone at CR is qualified to give a brief lecture, though. :-) K
Topic: July: Beowulf (20 of 102), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 09:39 AM Kay -- I got the feeling it was sheer age -- in the English language -- but I am awaiting further expert input on this work. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (21 of 102), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 02:02 PM Dottie, I hope to finish this over the holiday. I know what you mean though. We read Robert Fagle's translation of THE ODYSSEY here on CC and this doesn't measure up. Of course, Fagle had a much more polished original to work with. As for the quote from the introduction, now that you mention it, I can see similarities to today. However, my impression was that the world of BEOWULF was very foreign to our own. There was such a sense of fate and repetition, whereas we live with the illusion that we are the masters of our fate (as Tim Mcveigh liked to believe). Also, it seems that their definition of success was completely different. Honor and glory in physical combat seemed the highest goals. Of course, in real life, as opposed to epic ballads, my guess is that most of their energies were focused simply on trying to survive. One more comment on the introduction. It has been a long time since I read anything with so many unfamiliar words. I refused to look them up, instead trying to guess the best I could from context. I know finding the perfect word is of critical importance to poets, but if the word doesn't communicate to your audience, isn't it defeating the purpose? Of course, the rest of you whizzes may have had no problem with the vocabulary. Overall, I think the quality of the introduction was excellent, so this is just a quibble. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (22 of 102), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 03:57 PM This Beowulf thing is not conducive to giving me the idea I am a whiz-kid, Ann. I started rereading at the intro and am going slowly, slowly to get every bit of info I can possibly get -- First time through I read it as always but not at breakneck speed as I have been tending to gulp everything down. But then I read the poem part through without a lot of examination and thinking about the odd words. This time I am going to do some study along the way or mesh the reading with comments from others -- where the heck are all these Beowulf folks anyway? HAPPY FOURTH -- we are neither in a place for celebration -- I'm here and Jim is in Japan - heh! Dottie -- in hot humid Hasselt ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (23 of 102), Read 104 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Elaine Walsh (elainewalsh@usa.net) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 04:51 PM I received this book as a gift from my husband a year ago and felt guilty that I couldn't get through it. Then I saw that CC would discuss it in July, and I picked it up again. NOW I'm finding it very readable and interesting. I'm about 2/3 through the book. I like the language of the translation, though I can't compare it to any previous readings; I never read it in school. I think it's a satisfying blend of direct, accessible language and poetic beauty. I would LOVE to hear the audiotape. While reading B, I've mainly had two questions floating through my brain: 1. What does Grendel LOOK like? And what does his horrid mother look like? Sometimes I envision dragon-like creatures, and then I read about a "hand" and think maybe it's more human-like. I'm curious about how other people picture Grendel. 2. What does this epic tell us about the mindset of people in this age? They do seem to have a more intimate relationship with death and destruction. This may seem silly, because we in the 21st century have surely not triumphed over death and violence. And yet, in our post-modern Western world, I think we try very hard to not think about death so much, and to hide it somehow. Definitely in B's time there were different ideas about Fate. In terms of the references to Cain: I believe there's something in Genesis that mentions otherworldly creatures who live on Earth, separate from humans. I'm hoping there are some people out there who know more about the bible than I do, and also what beliefs these people had about the bible. Oh dear, I guess I really did have 3 questions. I'm enjoying the discussion; thanks for inspiring me to come back to this book. --Elaine
Topic: July: Beowulf (24 of 102), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 03:10 PM Elaine, It's great to see you back here! The poem really doesn't give us a clear idea of the appearance of Grendel and his mother, does it? The final challenger, described as reptilian and constantly breathing fire, was definitely a dragon, but not G and his Mom. Beginning with line 1350, the author describes huge man-like creatures: I have heard it said by my people in hall, counsellors who live in the upland country, that they have seen two such creatures prowling the moors, huge marauders from some other world. One of these things, as far as anyone ever can discern, looks like a woman; the other, warped in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale bigger than any man, an unnatural birth called Grendel by country people in former days. They are fatherless creatures, and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past of demons and ghosts. So, they seem to resemble huge humans in certain respects at least. They are also described as the descendents of Cain, as you pointed out, so they have a human ancestry. We know that Grendel has shoulders, arms and hands because Beowulf chops them off. But both he and his mother are described as having talons, and the author refers to Grendel's claw, so there seems to be some other genetic influences. :) In his introduction, Heaney describes the reader's impression of Grendel as "a kind of dog-breath in the dark, a fear of collision with some hard-boned and immensely strong android frame, a mixture of Caliban and hoplite." In case you are wondering what a hoplite is,(silly me, I had no idea), the dictionary defines it as "a heavily armed foot soldier of ancient Greece." I wonder why the descriptions of Grendel and mother are so vague in the narrative. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (25 of 102), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 04:07 PM I blush to admit I haven't tackled this one. One exposure to Beowulf in English Lit put me off it for life. (Altho I did enjoy Grendel.) But on the descriptions thing. Remember when it was originally written, sometime in the 10th century. And haven't I heard that it may have been in the oral tradition some time before that? Anyway, Heany's got to work with the material he has. And that material evidently doesn't have much in the way of images. Just think back to some of the older English literature you've read. Even stuff from the 18th and 19th century isn't always big on description. They will say something like "horrendous, slavering beast," but that doesn't give you any kind of concrete description. Modern fiction is much more likely to tell you the beast has a head the size of a Volkswagen, with orange eyes, green teeth and dripping yellow saliva. And leave you on your own to conclude that it's a horrendous slavering beast. As you were. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: July: Beowulf (26 of 102), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 04:42 PM Probably the influence of the Grendel on the cover of Gardner's book but I think the brief description does bear it out as well -- my image is of a very large creature like a bigfoot or Saskwatch (sp?) but with greater bulk -- kinda like bigfoot had been working on his pects and abs and so on! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (27 of 102), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 09:24 PM I first read Beowulf entirely on my own. I loved the comic-book portions of the book: The supervillian, the superhero, the supervillian's vengeful mother, and a surprise visit by a fire-breathing dragon. This was heady but amazing stuff. Also, as a teen, I was a sucker for kenning: the 'whale road' and such. But Heaney's translation is, for me, a cut above the rest because he imbues it with a pathos, a sense of loss, that I find missing from earlier translations. There's a sense of foreboding for the future reflected in the stories of the past told during the dinners held in Beowulf, dinners where the lyre is used to accompany stories of betrayal and massacre. What is the message of Beowulf? What was a listener to carry away with him? The poet is not simply delineating a boastful story--there's more here than just Beowulf. It is the very sections I tended to ignore in my youth that may in fact hold the key to this poem's true purpose: What is with all the past stories the poet insists on retelling? How are they tied together and what do they suggest the listener to with the story they are now hearing of Beowulf? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (28 of 102), Read 96 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 02:56 AM Okay, Dan! SO I'll keep these in mind while I'm RE-reading this cause as my initial runthrough left me flat by which I mean under-whelmed as opposed to wiped-out by the wonderful experience. But I know there's more here than I was getting -- how do I know? Reading and re-reading that introduction. Heaney's in love with the language -- he had to do this better than the folks who did it before, right? So I'm setting off on the poem itself today for the second journey. And I'm skimming through this discussion from time to time as I read it again. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (29 of 102), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 06:12 AM Dan- I mentioned some of the hidden messages in post # 13. There are several running themes, I think. Good v. Evil The ephemeral nature of glory. Gold ain't all it's cracked up to be. Though it may last, we do not. Revenge may feel great at the time, but all it eventually does is create despair and ruination. There is also a biblical message that points to the descendants of Cain as representatives of people alienated from God's people. What other messages are hidden in the tale? K
Topic: July: Beowulf (30 of 102), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 09:13 AM I have discovered that my initial read was just a case of a horrendous dress rehearsal leading to a wonderful first night performance -- in other words, As I started into my immediate rereading of this I am having very little of the flat and underwhelmed feeling I had as I plodded through the first time -- and I am seeing the more subtle details that attach themselves to one and the other of the characters and the subthreads of this poem. I think I'm going to be very glad I read this one finally. I also began reading Grendel as I was rereading the Beowulf intro -- I found some tiny things along the way in the earliest of it that I now find have their base directly in the lines of the poem. One example -- in line 701-2: "Then out of the night came the shadow-stalker, stealthy and swift;" It echoed a line that I had read in Grendel when I first skimmed through it -- this line, for some reason has really captured me though at one point I nearly convinced myself I had dreamed it up. I didn't dream it up -- pg.7 in Grendel: "Such are the tiresome memories of a shadow-shooter, earth-rim-roamer, walker of the world's weird wall." That description is lodged in by being and will NOT go away -- and when I located it again in the print, I found that the echo haunting me as I searched had been letter perfect though I'd read it in a hurry and then lost it so completely! It is as though that line immediately branded itself into my brain. That Grendel is going to tell some story. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (31 of 102), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 01:14 PM One of the strangest ironies to be found in the history of English literature is the status of the poem Beowulf as the oldest treasure in the language. Very few poems have explored the problematic nature of treasure and its relation to human desire and destiny as intensely as Beowulf does. The Beowulf poet unleashes nearly every possible meaning latent in the symbols of value employed in his epic. In fact, as the concept of treasure expands to include human memory, wisdom, physical strength, and the outlasting of death itself, the poet of Beowulf achieves a significant feat of literary art. The most striking (and central) poetic strategy to be found in Beowulf is the poet’s consistent juxtaposition of unlikely verbal and symbolic elements to create memorable poetry and ideas that jump out of the poem like sparks leaping from a fire. The issue of Beowulf’s fame is hardly raised before it is immediately sabotaged (to great comic effect) as Beowulf debates Unferth about the truth of the heroic tales already being told about Beowulf himself. If seekers for heroic ideals are already being put on their guard, anyone fascinated by monsters and evil must be equally uncomfortable with the presentation of Grendel as a malignant guest in Heorot who is forced to leave his own arm as a gruesome ‘visitor’s token’. The manner of Grendel’s death is tinged with irony as this most unwanted of guests is physically prevented from leaving by the strength of Beowulf’s grasp. Even Heorot itself is an unstable symbol, shadowed by the foreknowledge of its fiery end and reduced in nobility by Grendel’s use of it as a bizarre feeding ground. On a more human level, the usefulness of loyalty is called into question by the battle with Grendel, as Beowulf’s companions join the fray, uselessly hacking at Grendel with weapons that can have no effect on him. This moment of time will be reversed at the end of Beowulf’s heroic career, when, engaged in a fatal struggle with the dragon, Beowulf’s warriors desert him at the only point when en masse assistance could have done him some good. Revenge, the flip side of loyalty’s coin, is presented with equal ambiguity. The first character to seek pure revenge, to personally kill one enemy for one friend slain, is Grendel’s mother. Hrothgar is motivated more by self-defense, and Beowulf’s purposes could include virtually anything except revenge. The best representative of the warrior’s code of revenge in the first half of the poem is the female hell-spawn that Beowulf will eventually cut down with her own weapon. Embedded in this conceptual swirl are the poet’s verbal gems, words welded together to display the unusual facets of commonplace ideas. In this ‘word-hoard’ of a poem, warriors cross the ‘whale-road’ to battle and exchange ‘hand-payments’. Beowulf (or Bee-Wolf) returns from his descent into the witch’s cave with only two relics: the hilt of a magic sword that melted in the heat of battle into ‘bloody-icicles’, and the head of Grendel. The hilt of the sword is engraved with runes that tell of its origin and the part is has played in great deeds. The blade has been destroyed and replaced, so to speak, by Grendel’s head itself. Beowulf has joined the heroic story. Hrothgar confirms this explicitly as he contemplates the hilt and says: “Now can he say, who acts in truth and right for his people, remembers our past, old guard of homeland: this prince was born the better man! Your glorious name is raised on high over every nation. Beowulf my friend, your fame spreads far.”
Topic: July: Beowulf (32 of 102), Read 96 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 01:16 PM ...The spatial replacement of symbol for symbol is made more apparent later in the poem, when the dragon’s barrow is almost visibly overlapped by the similarity between it and Beowulf’s death monument. The poet shows a shrewd understanding of how symbols, words, and ideas become more vivid in a poem by being simultaneously similar in details and different in their implications. This cognitive clash of elements is kept to a fairly simple level of binary oppositions by the poet, however, most likely so as not to overload the rhythm of the poem in oral presentation. It is around the conceptual pairing of fame/treasure that the Beowulf poet risks most, and achieves most, by opening and exploring an incredible variety of perspectives on how fame resembles treasure as a value, while invariably retaining a lethal aspect. The two largest representations of fame and treasure in the poem are Beowulf’s legend and the dragon’s hoard respectively. Beowulf’s growing fame, and the memory of his deeds, bear an eerie verbal similarity to the treasure of the dragon. We only seem to be sure of the end of the dragon’s power when he is ‘cut off from his gold’. The dragon’s hoard has rusted, decayed from disuse, although the dragon still fiercely protects it, keeping ‘waves of flame’ always dancing in front of it. The treasure itself is invested with considerable menace, as if it generates its own threat. Likewise, Beowulf’s strength and vigor have also decayed, though he has generated enough menace himself to keep his entire tribe unmolested by outward assaults for half a century. Since the dragon has been provoked into his rampages by a random theft from his hoard it is difficult to blame him for Beowulf’s death, and in any case, they are figures of almost commensurate power. The balance is tipped by the desertion of Beowulf’s warriors and the poet makes it clear that Beowulf is killed by forgetfulness. His tribe forgets what Beowulf has done for them, and, in a moment of crisis, they also forget his individual value to the whole community as protector-king. The only warrior who rushes to Beowulf’s aid, Wiglaf, does so because he ‘remembers the honors’ that Beowulf has done him and hence he ‘could not hold back’ from the battle. Wiglaf tells his fellow warriors: ‘I know for a truth that the worth of his (Beowulf’s) deeds is not so poor that alone among Geats he should suffer, fall in combat.” If the forgetfulness that turns Beowulf’s tribe into wrong-thinking men is the pragmatic reason for his death, the reason for his semi-victory over the dragon is even more apparent: he remembers his own heroic deeds and boasts. In fact, the whole secret of Beowulf’s extraordinary career throughout the poem, at least from an artistic standpoint, is the fact that his memory works in tandem with his will to give him his power. His fight with the dragon is typical of every one of Beowulf’s encounters in this way. ‘Then the war-king recalled his past glories, with huge strength swung his blade so hard…’ The thought and action are virtually identical to Beowulf because he is both physically and mentally a hero. No other figure in the poem is described in these terms of memory equaling action. The implications of this are far-reaching. Both Beowulf and the Beowulf poet derive their strength from the faculty of memory. Both the poet and his creation are concerned primarily with maintaining the Beowulf legend over and above all else. Beowulf the hero comes to understand, finally, what the poet has always known: Beowulf is his people’s greatest treasure. He has undergone a virtual schooling in the vital role that artifacts play in creating and sustaining a heroic myth. The first relic of his heroism is, of course, Grendel’s arm. Almost immediately, Grendel’s mother steals it from him, in essence, raiding his hoard. Beowulf then proceeds to gather the treasure that represents his immanent legendary status, one piece at a time. A collar here, a hilt there, all objects rooted in older stories yet feeding into Beowulf’s own self-willed tale. Once the pieces are gathered, time takes over and works its inevitable magic on his treasure so that it becomes more potent (and dangerous) as story and rumor even as Beowulf’s actual powers begin to fail. Given Beowulf’s age and importance by the end of the poem, is his risking a battle with the dragon the act of a selfish or prideful man? Many elements in the poem would seem to say so, but the poet’s compulsive thought and word matching point to a different interpretation. After Beowulf and Wiglaf have vanquished the dragon, as Beowulf is dying, he turns to Wiglaf and says: ‘Now that I have given my old life-span for this heap of treasures…’ Life for treasure: is that an accurate assessment of Beowulf’s career? Nothing in the poem previous to this moment would indicate so. Life for fame would be more accurate, not treasure…but can Beowulf even tell the difference at this point? Earlier, when Beowulf decides to fight the dragon he says: ‘I wish even now, an old folk-guard, to seek a quarrel, do a great deed…’ The confusion of motivations is a fusion of motivations. The dragon hovers above the gathered elements of his own story (the hoard) and here, at the end, Beowulf does what he has always done: he declares war on any legend that would compete with his own. He conquers the only evil he was ever truly concerned about: being forgotten. The poem ends on an elegiac couplet that is often mistaken as a covert condemnation: (Beowulf was) ‘…the kindest to his men, the most courteous man, the best to his people, and most eager for fame.’ The eagerness for fame is often wrongly contrasted with the ‘purer’ virtues of kindness, courteousness, and excellence, but the real contrast here is the threefold beat of anonymity (men, man, people) trumped by the richness of Beowulf’s story. Beowulf, a work that straddles the divides of oral and written poetry, epic praise and lament, and Christianity and paganism among others, is bound to pull intellectually and culturally in many directions. Poetically, however, the figurations that align memory and treasure are unified, as can be seen in the elegiac passages that describe the last moments of both Beowulf and the dragon. Beowulf constructs a self-memorial in his imagination, his ‘barrow’, which sailors will think of as their ‘steep ships drive out on the sea, on the darkness of waters, from lands far away.’ In just a few lines, the poet turns his attention to the dragon, who will ‘no more whirl through the midnight air, breathing out flames, proud in his treasure, show his blazing form high in the dark.’ These passages describe both ships and dragon riding darkness, standing out against indistinct backgrounds. The earth can and will swallow treasure, bodies, entire villages even; the dark sea gulps down sailors and their possessions; heaven itself swallows the memorial smoke. What matters to the poem are the things that stand out so strongly they can never be forgotten, intimating that no treasure is truly valuable until it passes into the ‘hoard’ of human memory.
Topic: July: Beowulf (33 of 102), Read 96 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 01:33 PM Other messages: Life on earth is difficult and fleeting, but achieving military glory at least makes it meaningful. You can't escape your fate. It is God who decides your fate. Okay, okay, these might not be ideas that appeal to 21st century readers, but I think the writer's contemporaries would likely have found these messages in the story. Kay, while I agree that revenge is not productive, I doubt that the writer intended any such message. Revenge seems to have been completely taken for granted by the people of that time. They might have recognized that it would contribute to a cycle of continuing violence, but I think they would have felt derelict in their duty if they did not exact revenge. (Of course, I could be wrong about that. Any other thoughts?) Dan, the last third of the poem when Beowulf faced the dragon and his own death definitely touched me. In that section at least, he was very human, with limitations like the rest of us mortals. Earlier, he was too much of a generalized heroic figure to appeal to my modern sensibilities. Ruth, thanks for your comments. I didn't realize this lack of description was typical of much very old literature. I suppose what I like best about this poem is that it gives me a bit of insight into the worldview of people who lived 1200-1400 years ago. In some ways, we are quite different, but in our reaction to fear, loss, and death we haven't changed that much at all. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (34 of 102), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 01:40 PM George, Very interesting analysis. Do you think the writer of Beowulf intentionally used this symbolism? If not, was it subconscious, or was it something later readers have mined from the poem? Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (35 of 102), Read 107 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 02:14 PM Ann, if I may, I think the story and poet provides these 'symbolisms' and intentionally. And I think HOW the poet got his sources is the same way we get sources today. It isn't exactly accurate to say subconscious. Perhaps mass-conscious would be closer to our story of Beowulf and the poet who wrote it. One thing that has changed since this story was written is that we have adopted the monster and the hero into one creature is many of our present day stories. Like the 'hero' in film noir or Hamlet or Quasi Moto. Like the marriage of images from pagan times taken like contra band into christian times, we now see the monster as a hero and as ourselves. Dottie, I spell Sasquatch like that. I saw a Sasquatch long before I had ever read any versions of Beowulf mentioned here. I felt quite at home reading about these creatures years after actually seeing one of their cousins! I'm trying to see if I can find the name of the academic who writes about 'bigfoot' thinking it was one of our cousins like the neandrathal still hiding out there! George really appreciated your rundown of the story-thanks for taking the time!!! I find this idea of memory and fame might be part of the popularity that this book has gotten. After all, fame is bigger than ever these days. My take on fame is that it has to do wiith feeling god. God is 'famous' because it's everywhere all the time and everybody knows of it. People driven to fame are also trying to be like god, or close to god. A dangerous idea indeed! Candy "If the world is saved, it will not be by old minds with new programs but by new minds with no programs at all." Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (36 of 102), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 02:39 PM P.S.I can not under emphasize how much I dig the cannibalism in here. Nothing like a chomping story. Candy "If the world is saved, it will not be by old minds with new programs but by new minds with no programs at all." Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (37 of 102), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 07:37 PM Ann: Beowulf's death certainly strikes a chord--the hero falls and only one of his warriors (as George points out) leaps to help him finish the deed. In effect, Wiglaf is Beowulf helping Hrothgar--what had come around before has come around again. As a reread Heaney's version, I am struck by the circular action, the continual return of the same. There's been heroism, yes, but there's also betrayal and war and death and the cycle just goes on and on. We step into the epic of Beowulf and we're tossed about by the flood, but it seems nothing really changes. It is a fascinating story that emphasizes the cycle of existence of those far-off times. There's one thing that always gets me about this epic, though: What's the deal with Hrothgar? It always seemed odd that in a realm of heroism there could be one still in power but powerless to fend off an evil stalking his hall. Beowulf undertakes the task of helping Hrothgar--but why? I don't believe it's just lust for adventure or renown; Beowulf seems to be working towards an understanding between the Geats and the Shieldings. That's how he leaves Hrothgar--with assurances that now there is a bond between their peoples. But the rancor this deed must place within the breasts of Hrothgar's warriors--this has got to hurt. This is seen in the young warrior questioning Beowulf's heroic validity, but no one else in the epic seems concerned about a man coming from across the sea to clean up their own house. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (38 of 102), Read 96 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 08:55 PM Dan, Good observation that time is circular in this narrative. We tend to see time as an ascending line, but I think the idea of progress is relatively new in human history. I too was surprised that Hrothgar was described so favorably when he obviously was incapable of protecting his people from Grendel. Apparently, his excuse was that he was old, although he had been a brave and very effective ruler in his younger days. Beowulf suffered a similar weakening of power by the end of the poem. At that stage, Beowulf must have been pushing 70, since we are told that he has ruled for 50 years--rather old for disposing of dragons and monsters. Why did Beowulf want to help Hrothgar? Good question. I guess epic heros just go looking for the biggest challenge they can find. :) Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (39 of 102), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 09:50 PM Ann- RE: futility of revenge Is it possible the author was pointing out the futility of revenge, even though he understood its importance in the society? He seemed to be saying the people were trapped in the loop. George- Thanks for that analysis - much to think about. What do you make of the failure of the swords to do the required deed in battle? Each time, Beowulf had to realize no magic would help him, and that he had to come through for himself. I did not see Beowulf as a seeker of fame and fortune. I saw him as a youthful noble, interested in forging an alliance between the Geats and the Danes. I'm sure there was some willingness to be a hero, but I thought he sought Grendel as a means of strengthening the alliance. He knew he could help, so he did. As to his final decision to battle the dragon - who else was there to assume the responsibility? His people seemed to expect heroics from him. He sensed his upcoming death, but he accepted the challenge. Beowulf didn't seem to let the glory go to his head, though he did enjoy the momentary delight of fame. His ultimate goal was to rule fairly and justly. I want to re-read your notes. Thanks - that must have taken a lot of time to put together. K
Topic: July: Beowulf (40 of 102), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, July 05, 2001 11:34 PM I'm on page 50; liking this much more than when I read it in college, perhaps due to the Heaney translation, which I think is excellent. I do have a list of words I need to look up, though, and I thought I had such a good vocabulary. I hadn't realized that this was written long after the actual events were supposed to have taken place; I wonder if it was viewed as a "real" story or the equivalent of a fairy tale by the author's contemporaries? I think the author does tell us why Beowulf helps Hrothgar. Remember the story about Beowulf's dear old dad, banished after killing one of the Geat's enemies due to his compatriots' fear of retribution, washing up in Hrothgar-land? Hrothgar paid the blood price which allowed Beowulf pere to return home (and, no doubt, beget Beowulf). I'd be willing to bet this is a debt Beowulf would have feld obligated to repay. I think Ruth is right, these old-timey tales don't always point out the connections/descriptions of this sort of thing - they just tell it like it is and leave it to us to make the connection. Damn the vocabulary, full read ahead! Theresa
Topic: July: Beowulf (41 of 102), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 07:17 AM Kay-- I think it's hard to characterize a man 'keenenst to win fame' (last line) and who says 'I bartered my life for fortune' as someone who didn't seek fame and fortune... I think Beowulf did seek those things, and in his time he would've needed to. Treasure was the life blood of the king/warrior relationship. However, many of the characters in 'Beowulf' make concrete things of their greatness: Heorot, the dragon's hoard, Grendel's trophies, etc., Beowulf's true 'treasure' was his fame, his reputation warded away enemies from his people, his deeds were valuable to the poets. Beowulf's hoard was a mobile mass of memories... as long as he acted heroically, his hoard was impossible to raid.
Topic: July: Beowulf (42 of 102), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 08:31 AM The end of Beowulf seemed familiar to me as if I had read it before; it had a resonance I recognized. It felt like the end of Hamlet. The feeling and impact of the final scenes are the same. Here you have the hero, Beowulf, dying of a wound received in single combat. He has one friend, one lone advocate who kneels beside him. With the hero's death the kingdom is thrown into confusion. Enemies will advance and conquer. "The future belongs to Fotinbras." ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: July: Beowulf (43 of 102), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 08:33 AM Time is a funny thing. Especially for us in industrial countries. A thousand years ago is nothing. But because we look at time in a certain limited way, we BELIEVE it is a long time ago. I have to say, I giggle when I hear this described as an old timey story. Mainly because it isn't just about the times it was WRITTEN in. Ruth points out that this is from an oral tradition. Actually, ALL our stories, even that scary writer Danielle Steel works from stories from thousands of years ago. Out of 20,000 years of story telling, one thousand years ago is not that long ago. Nevermind that 'learning' has been part of primate culture forever. Haida Classical myths are hauntingly familiar devices and plots to fairytales and fables. I really recommend if you are interested in the oral traditions of story telling to check out Robert Bringhursts book A Story As Sharp as a Knife. I tend to look at supernatural beings in this story as born from very real creatures. I look at the monsters as other species. Really, quite literally as 'cousins'. But that's just me hee hee. And somehow their place in the story points out the tragedy of Beowulfs myth/fame. I am truly fascinated by this aspect of the 'fame' in this story. I feel it means something to me, but I can't really articulate WHAT. I am starting to feel that beneficial things to it, but also terrible things to it. Candy "Writing is murder." Walker Percy
Topic: July: Beowulf (44 of 102), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 08:37 AM Susan!! I just read your post!!! In the words of Casablanca "this could be the start of a beautiful friendship" I am so haunted by Hamlet in this story. I keep thinking it's because half my family is Danish or something and I am being all obsessed with my shakespeare addiction!!! But I am so glad you said this about the ending. This also plays into my feeling about the 'fame' juxtaposed next to the monsters and how Beowulf attained his fame. From what is his glory? But now I am getting all hyper and must go look at this book some more! I am hyperventillating! pant pant pant Candy "Writing is murder." Walker Percy
Topic: July: Beowulf (45 of 102), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 09:46 AM Well, I am looking at the intorduction and here is part of it: Moregenerally, they(scholars)tried to establish the history and geneology of the dynasties of Swedes and Geats and Danes to which this poet makes constant allusion; and they devoted themselves to a consideration of the world-view behind this poem, asking to what extent(if at all) the newly Christian undertaking of the world which operates in the poet's mind displaces him from his imaginative at-homeness in the world of his poem-a pagan Germanic society governed by a heroic code of honour, one where the attainment of a name for warrior-prowess among the living overwhelms any concern about the soul's destiny in the afterlife. I think this is a captivating issue because this is still where we are today. Our countries are protecting them selves and their iindustries and the public is struggling to see how much is too much, and maintaining our "ideal life" among a few versus the cost of the planet as a whole and the people as a whole. I may have been terribly overwhelmed by reading Waiting For The Barbarians recently, but I can't help but feel that Beowulf's constant sense of dread is insightful here. I see it like the dread in Coetzee's book. His dread seems related to his fame too. I'll se if I can find an example. It's like it is a price he pays for it. Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (46 of 102), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 11:37 AM Theresa: That sounds right--a debt being repaid. I'm currently rereading the poem and I have yet to come across that part. However, I did re-read Beowulf's response to Unferth's taunts that Grendel will make short work of Beowulf despite the boasting. However, Beowulf's closing remarks to Unferth must have goaded Hrothgar's men: The fact is, Unferth, if you were truly as keen or courageous as you claim to be Grendel would never have got away with such unchecked atrocity, attacks on your king, havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere. But he knows he need never be in dread of your blade making a mizzle of his blood or of vengeance arriving ever from this quarter--from the Victory-Shieldings, the shoulderers of the spear. He knows he can trample down you Danes to his heart's content, humiliate and murder without fear of reprisal. But he will find me different. I will show him how Geats shape to kill in the heat of battle. Notice Beowulf starts by specifically citing Unferth as ineffective but finishes his boast by citing the Danes as incapable of dealing with the threat. In a way, it is like a set-up for the bloodspilling of Danes by the Heathobards as described by Beowulf later in the poem: Danes are at the table, being entertained, honoured guests in glittering regalia, burnished ring-mail that was their hosts' birthright, looted when the Heathobards could no longer wield their weapons in the shield-clash, when they went down with their beloved comrades and forfeited their lives. Then an old spearman will speak while they are drinking, having glimpsed some heirloom that brings alive memories of the massacre; his mood will darken and heart-stricken, in the stress of his emotion, he will begin to test a young man's temper and stir up trouble, starting like this: 'Now, my friend, don't you recognize your father's sword, his favourite weapon, the one he wore when he went out in his war-mask to face the Danes on that final day? After Wethergeld died and his men were doomed the Shieldings quickly claimed the field, and now here's a son of one or other of those same killers coming through our hall overbearing us, mouthing boasts, and rigged in armour that by right is yours.' And so he keeps on, recalling and accusing, working things up with bitter words until one of the lady's retainers lies spattered in blood, split open on his father's account. I can see sons of the Geats one day taunting Danes about how Beowulf had to come in and clean up Heorot because no Dane was brave or skilled enough to do it for his ring-giver. In the whirlpool of the poem, this would most likely result in more bloodshed. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (47 of 102), Read 70 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 03:18 PM George- You're right. But for me, Beowulf had more to him than a simple desire for fame and fortune. At least he used those for his people's good. He's not a total braggart, is he? I found some nobility in him. K
Topic: July: Beowulf (48 of 102), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 06, 2001 05:47 PM Kay, interesting comments. I was taking the fame thing a little differently. I was seeing it more as lined up against the gold. Like we all know the treasure is superficial or vain. It seems to me that the honour(fame) being pointed out in this story is partly not so much he was a braggart-but that one group will deem it's actions as worthy-even at the cost of another groups loss. Like his fame is as petty as the dragons treasure...and yet a whole group of people has based their 'worth' on something that is as flighty as 'gold'. but I am just grappling here, don't mind me... I was so surprised to read in the intro about Tolkien as the definitive and righteous scholar on Beowulf!). I assume thats the same as wrote The Hobbit(I have never read Tolkien) Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (49 of 102), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, July 07, 2001 02:20 AM On 7/6/01 5:47:46 PM, Candy Minx wrote: >Kay, interesting comments. I >was taking the fame thing a >little differently. I was >seeing it more as lined up >against the gold. Like we all >know the treasure is >superficial or vain. It seems >to me that the honour(fame) >being pointed out in this >story is partly not so much he >was a braggart-but that one >group will deem it's actions >as worthy-even at the cost of >another groups loss. Like his >fame is as petty as the >dragons treasure...and yet a >whole group of people has >based their 'worth' on >something that is as flighty >as 'gold'. > >but I am just grappling here, >don't mind me... > >I was so surprised to read in the intro >about Tolkien as the definitive and >righteous scholar on Beowulf!). I assume >thats the same as wrote The Hobbit(I >have never read Tolkien > CANDY -- I agree with you ideas here -- sort of what I was thinking -- and I have concluded that Beowulf was not so much a braggart but had realized the equation of fame and the actual god or material treasure -- that they are equally fleeting except for as long as they are remembered. And that second bit I put in bold -- WOW -- I feel SO much better -- I thought I was the only person in the CR world who had never read Tolkein! Not even when the girls were in love with and memorized the Hobbit -- after it was filmed and recorded -- shoot even I had it memorized and refer to it but I've never read any Tolkein. Hmmm -- should we remedy this? Shrug -- maybe when the time is right -- meanwhile I really DO feel better. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (50 of 102), Read 64 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Saturday, July 07, 2001 07:24 AM It didn't surprise me a bit that Tolkien was the preeminent Beowulf scholar. In reading Heaney's translation, I felt like I was reading resource material for The Ring Trilogy. It felt so basic and primordial, like listening in on one of humanities' first dreams. Sherry
Topic: July: Beowulf (51 of 102), Read 70 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, July 07, 2001 09:39 AM While comparing the Heaney translation with the one from an old English Lit. anthology, I stumbled across the scribblings of some past college freshmen annotating the poem during the lecture. This is the very "marginalia" that Billy Collins professed in a poem posted a while back. I'll post the original underlined quotes in bold and the scribblings in italics up to the section where Beowulf embarks to find G.'s mom. If nothing is underlined, I'll just post the scribble--it's focus is easily discerned from the commentary, I assure you. To the best of my ability, I'll preserve the punctuation of the original... Beow--> not Beowulf!! funeral of Scyld Burial at sea Building of the mead-hall "Herot" grim spirit...rover of the borders...kin of Cain--> notice all the kennings and epithets which refer to Grendel thirty thanes-->*took 30 per night* He attacks the hall again. Thereafter is was easy to find the man who sought rest for himself elsewhere--> Understatement. No one would sleep in the hall! vowed sacrifices at heathen temples-->Pagan custom Christian passage "added on." Healfdene-->Hrothgar Hygelac-->Beowulf 14 Companions Journey to Hrothgar They meet the "Coast Guard." C.G. is impressed and leads B. to H. Boar-images shone over cheek-guards gold-adorned, gleaming and fire-hardened--the war-minded boar held guard over fierce men.--> Similar to Sutton Hoo Travel to Hrothgar Hrothgar gives permission to speak. in his handgrip the strength of thirty men, a man famous in battle-->super-natural power of B. (grip of 30 men) I scorn to bear sword or broad shield, yellow wood, to the battle-->Beowulf offers to kick Grendel's ass, wishes to fight hand to hand. the best of war-clothes that protects my breast, finest of mailshirts-->Excellent armor to B. Afterwards, I paid blood money to end the feud; over the sea's back I sent to the Wylfings old treasures; he swore oaths to me-->wergild he belittles B. Unferth accuses Beowulf of bragging Beowulf is discussing his past sea adventures where he slew 9 monsters Beowulf explains his adv. Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good.-->very famous line nine sea-monsters-->B kills 9 monsters "Never before, since I could raise hand and shield, have I entrusted to any man the great hall of the Danes, except now to you."--> Hrothgar gives entrustment of Herot to Beowulf Therefore I will not put him to sleep with a sword, so take away his life, though surely I might.--> again wants to fight without sword. may wise God, Holy Lord, assign glory-->Notice Christian passage Grendel comes Grendel is accused of being at war with God he suddenly seized a sleeping man, tore at him ravenously, bit into his bone-locks, drank the blood from his veins, swallowed huge morsels quickly; he had eaten all of the lifeless one, feet and hands.-->freddy's here They did not know when they entered the fight, hardy-spirited warriors, and when they though th hew him on every side, to seek his soul, that not any of the best of irons on earth, no war-sword, would touch the evil-doer; for with a charm he had made victory-weapons useless, every sword-edge.-->Swords cannot hurt Grendel. awful-->full of awe The awful monster had lived to feel pain in his body, a huge wound in his shoulder was exposed, his sinews sprang apart, his bone-locks broke.-->B. hurts Grendel B. rips his arm off With your deeds you yourself have made sure that your glory will be ever alive. May the Almighty reward you with good--as just now he has done.-->Pagan idea of immortality by Christian promise. Hrothgar gives B. some gifts: Gold standard, sword, etc... rim around the helmet's crown-->fits Suton Hoo helmet and he commanded that gold be paid for the one whom in his malice Grendel had killed-->wergild H. gives Beowulf stuff: 8 horses, weapons Scop's tale Scop's tale H. queen gives B. a ring, mail-shirt. One of the beer drinkers, ripe and fated to die, lay down to his hall-rest.-->foreshadow of Aeschere's death Reference to Cain. G. dies. G. Mum is pissed she had taken, in its gore, the famed hand-->G. Mom retrieves G.'s hand G. Mother kills a noble thane: Aeschere That was not a good bargain, that on both sides they had to pay with the lives of friends.-->understatement Hrothgar is pissed. H. tells B. about Grendel's homeland. likeness of a woman-->Reference to Grendel in the past. Him and his mothers. H. asks B. to kill G. Mom. It is better for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn.-->This shows custom at that time. I promise you this: she will not be lost under cover, not in the earth's bosom nor in the mountain woods nor at the bottom of the sea, go where she will. This day have patience in every woe--as I expect you to.-->B. will find G.'s mom. he was weaker in swimming when death took him-->understatement Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (52 of 102), Read 65 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, July 07, 2001 05:14 PM "Freddy's here"???????????????????? David, amazed that the commentator didn't bring up Baywatch
Topic: July: Beowulf (53 of 102), Read 67 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 02:05 AM Finished this today. It's short, I might just give it a re-read this week. Candy, I'm shocked that you don't see the relevance of time to this story. Although, I think you are talking about the timelessness of story=plot, that old chestnut that there are only ten plots in the world? Okay, though I'd argue in favor on the importance of nuance on that one. But time, as in chronological time that the story took place! Did anyone else think the Christian moralizing that showed up every so often, often mouthed by the pre-Christian characters, seemed like an add-on; maybe to keep the authorities happy? The language didn't "fit" somehow; but it's so hard to tell in a translation. And time, as in the narrative devices in fashion at the time the story was written! Was the author of Beowulf like Cervantes, who intentionally wrote Don Quixote in archaic language? Come to think of it, Quixote could be a parody of Beowulf, couldn't it? And time, as in the mind-set of readers (or listeners - people hung around and listened to even written stories being read at that time, like we watch TV) at the time the story was written? I think many aspects which seem puzzling to us are because our context is so different than that of the intended audience. And, finally, time as an aspect, or character, of the story itself. Note that the minstrels who perform after Grendel and Mom are killed are deemed "traditional" well-versed in "ancient" ways. And what finally kills Beowulf is a dragon hiding an "ancient" treasure. And so on. Time is a really, really big deal here, in many ways. My favorite line was the one where Ulreth (? - the dude that dissed Beowulf when he first arrived to slay Grendel) is deemed well-respected for his wisdom and strength, despite the fact that he had killed his brothers . . . minor issues. Theresa
Topic: July: Beowulf (54 of 102), Read 63 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 10:53 AM Interesting comments, Theresa. I agree with you that we have to try to understand this story in the context of its own time. Some things are universal, but much is culturally specific. Culture, of course, changes not only with place, but also time. My conjecture about the Christian moralizing was that Beowulf may have been written by a monk, given that few people other than monks were literate at the time this was written. That might explain his need to moralize, but you could also be right about him trying to be politically correct, but still describe the heroic exploits of pagan predecessors. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (55 of 102), Read 68 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 12:28 PM David: Perhaps Baywatch wasn't around when this guy was writing, but Nightmare on Elm Street was. I could look up the possible dates when this was so (1985? 1986?) but I really don't think it is all that important. Theresa: Interesting you should bring up Ulferth slaying his brother. Evidently, the custom at the time for murder (accidental or deliberate--it didn't matter) was either paying what the slain person was worth ("wergild") or vengeance. The poet almost revels in the gray areas of this custom by presenting first the honorable Brother-killer Ulferth (who would he pay wergild to--himself? How could he revenge his brother's death?) and, more interesting, the case of the accidental death of Hrethel's son (Hydelac's older brother): "For the eldest, Herebeald, an unexpected deathbed was laid out, through a brother's doing, when Haethcyn bent his horn-tipped bow and loosed the arrow that destroyed his life. He shot wide and buried a shaft in the flesh and blood of his own brother. That offence was beyond redress, a wrongfooting of the heart's affections; for who could avenge the prince's life or pay his death-price? It was like the misery felt by an old man who has lived to see his son's body swing on the gallows. He begins to keen and weep for his boy, watching the raven gloat where he hangs: he can be of no help. The wisdom of age is worthless to him. Morning after morning, he wakes to remember that his child is gone; he has no interest in living on until another heir is born in the hall, now that his first-born has entered death's dominion forever. Also, let's remember the sin for which Cain and Cain's descendants (Grendel, in this poem) are eternally punished: fratricide. Ulferth, Haethcyn, Grendel--all birds of a feather but each flying in widely different directions. Isn't that how Beowulf sums himself up most of the time? "Yes, but I'm different." Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (56 of 102), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 06:44 PM Thanks for quoting that part of the poem, Dan. That section is really ageless. He could be describing a parent's grief at any time in any place. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (57 of 102), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 10:17 AM Ann, thanks for bringing up the word ageless! That is what I mean about time in this story as being not THE POINT> It may beinteresting to imagine the middle ages, but it's got nothing to do with the value of this story. Dan, I laughed like crazy get out at those margins, I thought you were going to say that was you or something! I died at "Freddys here" oh my god, priceless. Dottie, I don't know why I have read Tolkien, I tried when I was a kid but there wasn't evnough sex and violence I guess. Maybe I'm ready for dwarfs and touchy feely woodlanmd creatures now...???? I think that Cervantes was making a parody and the hero quest for sure with Don Quitxe!! love and peace and dwarves Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (58 of 102), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 01:32 PM I'm going to move the discussion over to the left to make it a bit more readable. Candy and Dottie, I have never read Tolkein either. In fact I never even tried. Do you think that his books are more popular with boys than girls? In my case, I never cared for fantasy when I was young. I find it more interesting now. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (59 of 102), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 01:46 PM Hmm, I don't know if he is more popular with boys or not. My sister LOVED Tolkien. I figure I will read him one day. Just when I was in school he was super trendy, and for whatever reason I rejected that trend while absorbing others. I don't know why. I have one friend who that is his favourite writer and he won't read anybody else! Okay I got him to read a spy novel this year! I got right into some fantasy back then all these dragon books. I don't know it seems really weird right now that I never read these. I didn't read Narnia though until I was 22. I really think it was the lack of sex and violence, no really! I was into readign John D MacDonalds Travis McGee and Terry Southern and Tom Robbins! My parents racy books!!! "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (60 of 102), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 03:54 PM Candy: I first read Tolkien's triology when I was nearing 30 and it blew me away. It was a fantasy without the baggage one tends to associate with fantasies. Cute woodland creatures do not exist in Tolkien; a realm so real yet so replete with evil does. It is an amazing work and well worth looking into. As for Cervantes, he was poking at the chansons de geste such as the King Arthur tales rather than Beowulf. I'm certain Cervantes would have never read Beowulf, but was probably familiar with El Cid, a Spanish epic written a few centuries after Beowulf. And I swear to God, Candy, that those marginalia are not my own. I never had the urge to paraphrase the main action in the margin like that guy or gal. I could read that Beowulf tore Grendel's arm off. I might have underlined the passage, but I would never have written "B. tears G.'s arm off" on the side. That's beyond tacky. Though I admit I like "Here's Freddy" and "H. is pissed." Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (61 of 102), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 04:01 PM Yeah but -- DAN!!!!!! Heaney did that same thing basically with those little margin asides. I kind of thought -- "oh, gee, I couldn't get this from reading the poem itself? yeah, right" Maybe I was just out of sorts generally the first time through old Beowulf but I can promise you I'll be back again now that I have the second pass under my belt so to speak. And Grendel -- don't get me started -- I'm trying to wait till the 15th but ooooh -- it is SO hard -- I LIKE that monster and can't wait to hear the talk on THAT one! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (62 of 102), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 04:56 PM I forgot to add, that I found this a breeze to get into and read! Hey Dan, I am trying to see if I have a copy around here, and EVERYONE I know my sister especially has told me I will love Tolkien. I have a feeling I didn't read it because I found it confusing. When I was young I had a really hard time following some stories. I am glad that it still is a good story for adults! Thanks, one of these days! Sorry about that Cervantes thing. I really don't know about what he read, but I am of the opinion he was reacting and satirizing hero-quests. I do believe very heartily that the stories we have kicking around like King Arthur and Beowulf(which I found to be a granddaddy of King Arthur style storytelling)are from a long chain of stories we have been retelling and retelling. Some more referentially than others. Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (63 of 102), Read 55 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 04:58 PM And between pages 22 and 39 I counted at least eleven references to boasting, fame and reputation!!! I have been very moved by the Hrothgar speech about self, and power and fame! and to not get that confused with what is more long lasting... Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (64 of 102), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 09, 2001 11:45 PM Something I am thinking of here ...there is the idea of fame being a power, a product as much as pride of possesions. The dragon has his hoard and Beowulf is to be careful of holding his fame too close to his heart. I was thinking how GENEROUS this poem is, why is it so long? And then I was thinking how it's so so wordy. It's like the words are going wildly from the narrator. I don't know why exactly but this seems related....more ina bit... Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (65 of 102), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 12:56 AM Candy -- wasn't this an "entertainment" or based on "entertainments" from the long oral telling and retelling of the old stories which you mentioned above -- and so it imitated the repetitiveness of the oral traditions? I loved your line up there BTW -- "Some more referentially than others." We tell them in varying degrees of reference and varying degrees of reverence. The keeping of the stories in memory whether before they became written or after was part of the fame -- holding on to what had happened but also staving off the unknowns of the afterlife. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (66 of 102), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 01:41 AM I read Heaney's Beowulf a few months ago and I am still fascinated about how much there is to find out about the work itself, and as much as is possible, the time in which it was first orally spoken by the scops, then written. It could take a lifetime of fascinating exploration and speculations! Some of my inquiries led me to a study of the Norse Gods...not a scholarly study, but just rambling along. One of the tomes I browsed through emphasized the origins of the name Beowulf itself...the origins was in the name for the Bear. (Animal) Warriors dressed as bears and other animals to combat the enemy...in fact, they went "berserk" (origin of that word also has to do with bears) in an ecstatic frenzy. I read also that Warriors did not much care about this life...they knew they would get to Valhalla if they were brave and ferocious enough. Some remnants of stylized bear images were found in the Sutton Hoo fragments, some shield decorations, etc. I guess my rambling point is, a study of Beowulf can take you into the origins of myths (was Beowulf performing a traditional archetypal initiation in slaying Grendl?), cultural anthropology and archaeology, even linguistics, the works! Some have speculated that the time Beowulf was told (and later written) was a time of the changing over from paganism to Christianity as the various tribes conquested and melded, that is fascinating too. But what amazes me is how relevant the Beowulf story is still today...it doesn't seem like the human race has advanced a heck of a lot since the dark ages. The major themes of greed and conquest are still very much with us. Others, in this thread have said as much, and I agree. Kudos to all, I am enjoying everyone's responses here and learning a lot more. Bonnie
Topic: July: Beowulf (67 of 102), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 02:33 AM Bonnie -- it sounds like you do what many here do -- get really wrapped up in their reading and read related things and start exploring side tracks -- albeit they ARE related sidetracks. This is my first encounter with Beowulf -- if I ever heard any comment or mention of it or even read anything of it I had lost it long ago. I am learning a great deal from those who have studied and read it previously but for me the connections to other familiar and long-standing -- dare I say always existing -- stories and themes holds fascination. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (68 of 102), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 07:48 AM HI!!! Yes, I am moved by how sad it is that we have the same delusions and values about money and success and fame today as we did then. (in my opinion it's because our economy is the same then as now) I ma still trying to think how I can describe this sense of generosity with the words. I see what you mean, but somehow this is longer than it seems logical for it to be except I feel it is about "giving away". the words the story represent generousity of spirit in story telling to me, to counter the themes of "hoarding"(money or power) in the story. I want to add to kays and Anns comments, that I don't see Beowulf as conceited or purely boastful. No, I think he is learning and part of his learnign is to see how fame has been incorporated as a product in his society like gold, and how dangerous it is to the soul. He is average like anyone, not conceited, but confident....and it's a narrow path to tread. Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (69 of 102), Read 64 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 10:00 AM Candy: For the record, I stated that Tolkien blew me away. In no fashion did I ever project your possible future feelings for the work. You're too complex for me to ever judge. Bonnie: Excellent commentary and any input you have is certainly welcome in the future. I like what you said about the relevance of Beowulf to modern times. I'm reminded of when all business men were digging Sun Tzu's Art of War, mining it for metaphors on how to tackle business (think of the Kirk Douglas character in Wall Street). Beowulf could also be mined for material in a similar fashion: If you seek the leadership, do deeds which get you noticed and produce tangible results. Make sure you're generous to your fellows who will serve you when you become leader; you want to buy their loyalty before you're the CEO. Of course, the merger with the fire worm did not go so well for the Geat CEO. His employees refused to back him when the stock got too hot and he got burned... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (70 of 102), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 10:07 AM Dottie: For me, Heaney's marginalia is designed to facilitate finding passages and not to explain the action. I see it as the same when some versions of the Bible have a little italicized blurb (Jesus kicks ass in the temple portico) at the top of the page to help readers locate specific passages. I just thought the marginalia writer I quoted was funny in that he was underlining passages and writing a translation along the margin to ensure he understood what was happening. Then again, come to think of it, he may have been making annotations so that when he returned later to study he could easily find the specific passage where Hrothgar is pissed at having to face Grendel's mother now after finally getting rid of Grendel... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (71 of 102), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 10:24 AM hee hee.Dan, Well, I don't think ANYBODY has ever called me complex before. Dumb blonde, but not complex. I am sorry if my posts are too confusing. I get carried away and ramble too much. I won't dis you if I ever get to reading Tolkien...I really meant my sister and friends think I would love his stuff. I enjoyed thinking of The Art of War comparred to Beowulf, very funny and very true. There is so much to this that holds up to our cults of celebrity and personalities from this story to today. It seems even with an old story like this, we never seem to learn! Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (72 of 102), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 11:50 AM Okay -- Dan -- but somehow those little margin notes seemed just so much extra -- maybe it's because I try not to read the notes unless I have to but these notes were right there and how could I not read them {G} Funny you bring up Art of War -- my own thinking here was they could have been giving the pre-Machiavelli outline for The Prince. I picked up a lot of things very much relative to Machiavelli's "how-to" manual. forgot to mention that -- I think I haven't been saying what I should here after finishing my second run at old Beowulf. I WILL say that I feel much better and more comfy with this now and that I would NEVER have read it once (let alone twice in two weeks or so) if I weren't sharing the experience with CC folks here. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (73 of 102), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 03:06 PM Bonnie, Welcome to Classics Corner! I enjoyed your post. You mentioned that the Norse warriors didn't worry too much about this world because they believed they would go straight to Valhalla if they fought bravely and died. It reminded me of something I heard last week about the Moslem suicide bombers in Israel. Not only are they promised that they will go instantly to heaven, but they are also told they will get 72 virgins there -that seems like a lot for any one person, but I guess we are talking about eternity. At any rate, some things really haven't changed much, have they? Candy, I think you are right to zero in on the importance of fame to Beowulf and his contemporaries. You mentioned once that it was their attempt to be like God. I think that is true in the sense that fame gives a person a bit of immortality. Of course, it is also easier to be fearless in battle if you think you will gain immediate entrance to either Valhalla, or the Christian heaven which the author of Beowulf probably had in mind. I have tried, but I don't really believe in an afterlife, which is probably why these heroic attempts to wrestle with monsters and dragons seem foreign to me. I would just move away rather than subject myself to so much risk :) Dottie and Dan, I liked the marginalia in this version of Beowulf. Sometimes it was very obvious, Dottie, but other times it really clued me in on what was going on. I need all the help I can get. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (74 of 102), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 04:15 PM Ann -- I have reexamined some of the margin notes and I think you are right -- it was just those obvious ones that convinced me that I was being considered dim-witted {G}. ALSO -- I just for some reason this evening suddenly realized that those Frisians who along with the Franks were foreseen as trouble in future are the same Frisians who still occupy the islands and northernmost province of Nederlands -- why had that bit of info slipped by as I read this -- slipped by not just ONCE -- twice, for goodness sake. I seem to be out of the loop with this book -- heh. As I went back and read the bits on the Frisians I took note of some of my own little marks -- some of them tie into Grendel so will leave those until a later post. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (75 of 102), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 05:02 PM Ann, I agree that the idea of immortality ties into god with fame. But some "god"is also omnipotent. Everywhere at once, which is a lot like celebrity. and the 'contact high' that fame gives, probably why people swarm famous people to get an autograph. Wanting to get in "the prescence" of someone-like wanting to experience god. I am very surprised this story hasn't been made into a movie! Or at least a movie I have heard of. I could really see this being liek a rough and tumble fantasy version of Gladiator! Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (76 of 102), Read 55 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Felix Miller (felix3rd@bellsouth.net) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 08:23 PM I am part way through this poem, which I read too many years ago to really remember in detail. Depressing how many books, stories, poems I can now say that about. Maybe there is only so much capacity for storage in the human brain. I am struck with the similarities with the Iliad and the Odyssey. Perhaps it is the oral recitation thing, with so many stock phrases. Also the boasting, so at odds with our post-victorian discomfort with blowing our own horn. Big-time sports has overcome this limitation. Exulting over your vanquished foe is par for the course, as when he of the Slavic name won Wimbledon. More so, in fact, when he won earlier matches and shucked off his shirt and emitted a Tarzan yell. At WIMBELDON! How times and manners crumble. I am also reminded of Njal's Saga a dreary Icelandic blending of Hatfield and McCoy fueding with extravagant boasting. This work caused me to abandon my English major in college. Beowulf is much better than Njal, and I am a major Iliad and Odyssey fan. Has anybody encountered Sohrab and Rustum, a Victorian re-casting of a Persian saga by Matthew Arnold. Good stuff, I think. Greetings from north of the river, Felix Miller ...I'll take a beer from the 'frigerator and go sit out in the yard/And with a cold one in my hand, I'm gonna bite down and swallow hard -No Time to Cry-Iris DeMent.
Topic: July: Beowulf (77 of 102), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 08:32 PM Felix, Great comments about the resurrection of the tradition of boasting. :) Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (78 of 102), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 09:31 PM Ann, Well, that should be a caution to the 72 virgins to make much of their eternal time! I laugh, irreverently! Let's see if copy and paste works here. Hurrah, it does! Some notes gleaned: From my meandering readings, I came across the suggestion that Beowulf. was most likely transcribed by monks from storytellers, I would suppose much like the Grimms' brothers recorded German folk tales. Every region has these legends and stories (think of some of our legends…Rip Van Winkle, Bigfoot, lots of Appalachian tales), but how and why B. survived from those early times is nothng short of miraculous. Some scholars speculate that there were more than one or two transcribers because of the variations in the writing. (It makes you wonder which version of B. will survive ages and ages hence when what we know now has been covered up by some cataclysmic event, doesn't it?!) But of great importance are the known historical events of the time the poem was written. From the 8th thru the 11th c., England was constantly invaded by the Vikings. B. was composed during the age of the Viking invasions. Many of the invaders limited themselves to coastal raids, but others had a more lasting impact. In 866 the Viking leader, Ivan the Boneless, completely overran northern England. His forces moved inland and settled down in the region. These Vikings had a strong influence on the English society of the time, and a blending of northern European cultures took place. In 878 the Anglo-Saxon leader Alfred the Great defeated a force of Danes and concluded the Peace of Wedmore, a treaty that both recognized his authority over one region (Wessex) and acknowledged Danish control over a broad area to the east and north of the Thames River known as the Danelaw. Danish customs and laws became firmly embedded in the Danelaw, leaving a lasting imprint on English culture. As the oldest surviving northern European epic, Beowulf tells the story of a hero while so doing recounts a people's history and/or traditions, capturing the spirit of the times. But according to another source, there was at first a far less serious dimension to the poem; it provided entertainment. No television, no computers, no movies, people sat around their gathering places, a campfire, a mead hall, a pub(!) listening to a Scop - pronounced shope - who was a singer or maker of poems. In witnessing the scop's performance, the early residents of England celebrated the hero's qualities of bravery and loyalty and also relaxed after a hard day of work as tradesmen. Beowulf was appreciated for its entertainment value, it also served the purpose of creating a strong value system and a code for the construction of a balanced government. Beowulf seems to straddle two worlds: it bridges the violent warrior culture that it celebrates and the Christian culture that was, at the time of its composition, displacing the earlier era. The introduction of Christianity to the British Isles took place in 597 when St. Augustine and a group of monks arrived in England by way of Ireland. (Aha, this is how the Irish saved civilization!) Christianity was thriving in England in the early eighth century, the time of the poem's creation. By the late tenth century, the date of the Beowulf manuscript, Christianity was well established in England. The poem draws heavily on Old Testament elements. Grendel is a curious mix of folk legend with Old Testament overtones. Unhappy outcast! Condemned as kin of Cain who slew his brother, from him sprang all bad breeds, trolls and elves and monsters and giants who strove with God. These can all be traced back to Norse mythology. In short, a melding which shows how one value system, for instance, the Warrior clan led by a brave, violent leader, was being replaced by another leader who was less monstrous…and the people he represented became obedient to a benevolent higher power who rewards virtue, forgiveness and honesty. But looking back over the events in British history since the time of Beowulf, particularly during the Middle Ages, it seems hard to believe they were a "kinder, gentler, people." What was done in the name of Christianity affords a pretty bleak and grim view, in my estimation, and not only in Britain, here too, and worldwide. Bonnie, who reads and reads and ponders and ponders!
Topic: July: Beowulf (79 of 102), Read 58 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 12:56 AM Thank you so much for these wonderfully brimming posts on Beowulf, Bonnie. As I said -- my first encounter as far as my leaky brain can recall -- and on the first run through I came back complaining that it just underwhelmed me and left me very flat. I think that was my doing not the poem's now that I have reread it. I had been wondering about the time frame here -- I think the indication in the intro was that there are theories ranging across several centuries -- but from the info you share here, I would see Beowulf as having a Christian "gloss" added if the manuscript were written earlier than the late tenth century your info indicates but if that later date is true, I would hold that with Christianity well-established that the poem would be from a Christian viewpoint and the pagan aspects would be played down -- thus the apologetic tone when they say Hrothgar's men have gone to the old gods during the war with Grendel. All the insights gathered here are helping also -- which is one of the reasons I stayed around this place when I first wandered in. Let me say again how good it is that you have come in and joined us -- we also love to read and read and ponder and ponder and enjoy talking with others who do that, too. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (80 of 102), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 02:00 AM CANDY The BEOWULF and GRENDEL have been the subject of a couple of recent movies. One was with Antonio Banderas (of all people) and was called THE THIRTEENTH WARRIOR. I think the screen-play was actually the work of one of the popular writers; maybe Michael Crichton or Stephen King. Another version, I saw just a couple of days ago on a video that my son brought in. It had Christopher Lambert as the Beowulf type character. Sorry, can't remember the name. Maybe when my son wakes up, he'll remember. EDD
Topic: July: Beowulf (81 of 102), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 02:35 AM Thanks for your kind words. When I first dipped into Beowulf, I had much the same reaction you did, and I never expected to be caught up in it as much as I have. For one thing, I never read any Norse mythology at all, nor much about that period of history either. Heaney's skills swept me in and beyond! As for the time of the writing of the original manuscript, no one seems to know for certain. The only existing manuscript is in the British Museum. Some believe it is probably a copy of a copy, and who knows before that?! What we do have came into the possession of Sir Robert Cotton who lived 1571 to 1631. I want to find out more about him...does anyone know anything about him? In 1731 the manuscript was damaged in a fire and was moved, "together with the rest of the Cotton collection, from Ashburnham House to the British Museum." The first page of it, illustrated in the book I cite below, shows charred markings that miraculously seem to stop just short of the text itself. Amazing! The book I am finding to be a treasure trove, with no monster sitting atop it, is BEOWULF, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. It is a Norton Critical edition, with backgrounds and sources and criticism, and with the Donaldson translation in prose, not poetry. Naturally, I got it from Amazon dot com some months ago! Bonnie
Topic: July: Beowulf (82 of 102), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 04:28 AM Interesting to know this about the video versions based on Beowulf, EDD, thanks. Bonnie -- I may not get so involved as you seem to have done with the Norse history and so on but this last volume does indeed hold appeal -- I find myself wanting to explore another or other translation/s of this work -- maybe just to read a version which if I hadn't managed to somehow evade or avoid I would most likely have encountered before Heaney's version appeared on the scene. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (83 of 102), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 01:25 PM Thanks for background information. It's very interesting. I am sitting here trying to imagine why someone would be called "Ivan the Boneless." It's not a pretty sight. I have bought the Norton Critical Edition for several of the books we have read here. I like all the additional material that comes with them. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (84 of 102), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 02:34 PM Edd, I remember seeing the trailers for The Thirteenth Warrior a couple of years ago. At first I was very excited to see it, and then it only staying in the theatres for a bout a week around here. And it looked lousy when ads came on tv for it.I had no idea from the trailers that it was inspired by or about Beowulf. Now see, I think it should be called "Beowulf" and made as is from the book!!! I think I will check it out some day though. I wonder if there are monsters and dragons in it? Thanks for all the background, god the Vikings were such rapers and pillagers, I am ashamed of my great great great etc grandparents! Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (85 of 102), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 06:46 PM Candy: It's actually more convoluted than that. The 13th Warrior is loosely based on Michael Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in a "realistic" depiction of what may have really transpired at Hrothgar to generate the Beowulf legend. Eaters of the Dead has a Persian 1st-person narrator who is sent to the north as an ambassador. He encounters a team of warriors--one with a name and attitude very much like our beloved Beowulf--who take him north to help a village under siege by monsters. Crichton's novel excels in depicting accurate Germanic history and creating a fascinating web. In fact, with the fake footnotes noting aspects of the so-called document being translated, the story becomes so historical at some times that you begin to believe that Crichton is translating an actual travel document from the 9th century. As a bonus, Crichton depicts the Grendel race as Neanderthals who have not yet gone extinct. For me, this is a clever device and highly provocative. It boggled my mind when I first read it. My wife, a huge Auel fan, also found Crichton's depiction historically based yet endlessly fascinating. If you must read one Crichton novel this year, read Eaters of the Dead. The film of Eaters of the Dead is horrid. First of all, The 13th Warrior never openly acknowledges the Beowulf-connection, though the leader is named "Bee-ow" or something and the main action ends with a "fire worm." Secondly, the film never notes that the race being fought are Neanderthal as Crichton posits in his novel. While it is a decent movie, it really makes no real sense unless you have read Eaters of the Dead as well as Beowulf. There's also a SF film called Beowulf that has just been released. Guess what? Grendel is an alien. I have not had the courage to watch it. I probably never will. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (86 of 102), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 06:50 PM 72 Virgins? Is that all you get for blowing yourself up? Why 70 plus 2? What is the significance of this number? Actually, it should be however many infidels you took with you. Can't have a guy killing 200 getting the same share as a schmuck whose death toll is a measly 24, now can you? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (87 of 102), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 06:59 PM Oh this is so interesting to me Daniel!!! I'm trying to remember when I last read a Crigton novel, it was a really really long time ago. this excites me I am so going to pick this one up. and I bet I can find it no prob second hand! I mentioned much earlier in this thread that I had seen a Sasquatch when I was growing up in the pacific northwest. and I must try to find the scholars name that wrote about Beowulf and Sasquatches and Neandrathals. This is not as far out as it may seem. I was sort of disappointed no one had responded to this earlier post I had made. There is definately a small group of people, myself included, that see Beowulf as an old story connected to killing off our "cousins" as I called them earlier. It is likely that some of our stories have gotten slightly changed around to make the "agricultural" animals look a little like they were at risk from the Neandrathals(who may have cultivated some plants as well)...monsters who terrorize humans and eat them often represent nature and other cultures who reject "civilization" aaaahhh it's mark Hall. He's an American scholar who collects accounts of 'sightings'. Does your wife know of him? I think he believes that some of these giant stories are left over from when we might have been killing off neandrathals and non-farmers among us or our neighbours. I don't know...thought I'd throw it out there. and with a clever twist christians added this 'Cain' aspect as a kind of 'propaganda heh heh... Candy "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (88 of 102), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 07:00 PM well, I'll never find Crighton at the library iof I continue to spell his name so crazy!!\ "Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key-and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn't under lock and key, who would work?" Daniel Quinn
Topic: July: Beowulf (89 of 102), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 07:13 PM Candy: I'm sorry, I must have missed that thread. If the Classic Corner people don't mind, I'd like the ask two questions: (1) Did you really see Bigfoot? and (2) Did he/she/it smell really bad? By the way, my wife only reads Auel for the storytelling and character development. As far as I know, she hasn't made a Sasquatch connection yet. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (90 of 102), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 07:28 PM heh heh. Um it's up there in this very thread some where. I know my posts are so long sometimes and it's not easy to read them or follow my trains of thought. Who can follow a runaway train anyway! But the Sasquatch was about 50 feet away, so from there it didn't smell. But it was very tall. Like 7 feet tall. My friend Debbie Tohmski and I saw between Kitimat and Terrace B.C. if you have map there. Many stories abound of the Natives up there of Bigfoot. There are some hot springs there and a few people have claimed to see them there. Seems they like a hot bath just like the reast of us. No, I don't think Auel has Bigfoot in her books, ha ha. But I thought your wife might have read her for the culture between tribes etc. I believe in that same past post I said that a change that has happened in our stories of monsters is reflected in film noir and in kids cartoons like Disney that hte monster has become more "good". Just like film noir where the hero is an anti-hero....sometimes also on the "bad" side of morals or tracks. And our monsters like Quasi Moto and heros like Hamlet are good and bad. In Beowulf the monster is separated from the hero...but not so much in some ways. Now we have brought the dark and the light closer together. Grendal and Beowulf are the reflections of each other, I believe that is part of the lesson in story. Nowadays we see this more obviously. Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (91 of 102), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 07:37 PM Dan, my post of Sasquatch earlier was #35 in response to Dotties post #26 when she said she was thinking of "Saskwatch" when she read about Grendel. Just in case you want to read those references. It was right after the lovely posts of Ann and Kay and George, so I felt bad putting in my crazy two cents here after such lustrous clear posts as theirs, but I did anyway. i figured I was so out of it, that people were ignoring my ideas on this poem. I don't blame anyone for that heh heh. I get on my tears... Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (92 of 102), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 10:06 PM Candy, want to say that being new here, and not knowing people well enough to connect names with posts in replies -- heck, I am still stumbling and fumbling around just navigating -- I did think about your earlier comments about our more recent legendary characters, and sort of, but not well, incorporated that thought into an earlier post about folk heroes, without mentioning your reference. You are so right about the merging of good and evil, the light and the dark, in one character. Now we know more fully that "We have met the enemy and he is us!" I know what you mean about not being proud of your Viking forebears...but take heart, we all have bloody marauders in our past, I would suppose! For a long time I declined to admit my grandparents came from Germany, it's hard to be proud of being of German roots after what happened with Hitler. Then, to console myself, I listened to Beethoven. All Germans weren't like those "willing executioners." I've just got to believe that! BTW, I love your quote by Utah Phillips...haven't listened to him for awhile, have a recording of his on cd updated from old lp's...one of the greats! Dan, I don't read a lot of fiction, though I used to read nothing but...but your recommendation of Eaters of the Dead sounds like something I might enjoy after trying to piece together the life and times of "Beowulf." I just started reading Gardner's Grendl today, all I can say right now is a very incisive and erudite "WOW!" Best to all, Bonnie
Topic: July: Beowulf (93 of 102), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 10:37 PM Hi Bonnie, I hope I didn't sound like I was whining there! It took me SO long to get used to peoples names and their posts here. It does happen though. I think I could read a post now without a name above and know who wrote it. It comes together eventually. I have a terrible time saying things quickly and many times I am posting and building up up ideas and towards impressions. EXACTLY what I was working towards. "We have met the enemy and he is us" And that is why we see this "marriage" of good guy bad guy heros and monsters in our popular culture now. This is partly what I was piecing together with the "fame" and the "god". Because this need for fame and reputation and to be in all places and known by everyone....is well when people have "forgotten" or not known that we already ARE god. And our fears of the enemy, we are the enemy. Another reverse of thisSPOILER for tv show PRISONER!!! is in film noir and spy stories he is number one. I was about to go post under thread for Waiting For The Barbarians, because one of the most disturbing things about that Coetzee novel is that the "bad guys" in that novel are us. Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (94 of 102), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 10:53 PM p.s. Bonnie, I am a big Utah fan! Still listen to the guy on a regular basis. But I am sure I have paraphrased him here-eeep. Yes, you're right I like to joke about my fore bearers, but most of us have scary ancestors out to get more more more and no sharing. They couldn't help it they had no IMAGINATIONS! Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (95 of 102), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 12:47 AM BONNIE, CANDY At some stage in a civilization, it becomes politically correct to knock ones ancestors. As if they had our newly won perspective, the big picture. And I bet our grandchildren and great grandchildren and all the great greats to come will mock our ways and beliefs and actions. Should we care? I don't think so. We do the best we can and we survive long enough to ensure there is a next generation. Or, we make enough mistakes so that they will have something to talk about for eons to come. EDD
Topic: July: Beowulf (96 of 102), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 12:56 AM Of course Beowulf is about conflict between "civilized" v. "uncivilized". Note that old Grendel appears to restrict his attacks the "Great Hall" - the place where power is displayed, society is enacted, and art/history (the storytelling) is practiced. And the dragon is guarding the fruits of civilization, something that has an imposed/invented high value. After all, gold in the abstract is just another mineral. By the way, I worked at an excavation in Frisia (way north of Holland) from about the time period of Beowulf or a bit later. Yep, the same Frisians mentioned in the book. This was a terp (early landfill, originally clay mixed with cow merde). There was quite a bit of gold at this site, mainly elaborate broaches. I don't remember any rings, which were so significant to the Danes and Geats in Beowulf. The construction was mainly wood and earth, so there wasn't much left for us to find structurally, except for the hearths. There was also a coin from India. Doubt there had been any direct contact between Indians and Frisians at that time, but imagine the journey that coin took to get there! The ring giving in Beowulf reminded me of the elaborate ceremonial trade of shell necklaces and armbands in the Trobriand Islands; there are very specific rules, trading partners, the giver and recipient get status, etc. It also reminded me of the bowling trophies we bestow on each other nowadays. Which probably ties right into the fame theme. Theresa Concept trumps reality. Every damn time.
Topic: July: Beowulf (97 of 102), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 03:43 AM I took ring giving to mean rings as in the half circlets and circlets of brooches as much as a ring for the hands -- also the arm bands which figure in the poem. Same Frisians though -- imagine one's genealogical research leading back to the Frisians of Beowulf's day. Candy -- I think my brief Saskatch/Sasquatch remark was in relation to picturing Grendel but whatever it was -- I based it somewhat on the illustration on the Gardner book cover -- I just backed into Bigfoot from there. I thought I had replied to your post about the Bigfoot thereafter -- I certainly don't discount this theory of Grendel as a similar creature nor of you sighting one. The Neanderthal remnant idea also strikes me as relevant indeed -- that also passed fleetingly through my brain at one point. Why not -- even in our generation there have been discoveries of small groups and singles of primitives who were long thought to be completely non-existent. In those warring and survival level times why would there not be an us/them battle such as this epic describes? The good and bad as opposites but part and parcel of the same coin -- the same personage -- or the good person vs the evil person who are the same person (the evil twin thing). This has been around from day one. This is humanity -- Michael and argh -- Satan's angelic name just slid into the abyss -- Abel and Cain. BUT the Christian authors weren't slipping this into Beowulf if as Bonnie indicated the records say Christianity was well established when it was written. They wrote it with the Christian references because they thought and lived with the Christian references in place in their lives/society. Even though they were telling a tale from their own pre-Christian past history, they told it from their own standpoint as a Christian people(and keep in mind what state that would be -- we aren't talking Bakker and Swaggert and so on here -- such a freighted word the label of Christian has become in its lifetime). I think I am rundown -- I lost my steam back there when that evil angel's name slid away back there and my endpoint went with it! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (98 of 102), Read 8 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:03 AM Edd, believe me, I am leaving plenty of stories and mistakes for my kin and theirs to laugh about. Dottie, I wasn't worried about having a big discussion on bigfoot at all. I was just surprised and pleased to see someone had mentioned them. Besides, this thread has so much in it, it's all over the place!I am long used to being teased about seeing a bigfoot, that's for sure. Of course, and about whether I had imbibed some herbs previous to this "sighting". heh heh. Enjoyed hearing about your work at excavation sites Theresa. How fun! I have been getting off on all the information and associations in here. This has been a wonderful group read, one of the BEST!!!!! group hug Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (99 of 102), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:13 AM I agree that the wide ranging associations which have developed here have added to the enjoyment of Beowulf. THAT is from the original whiner about being left very flat by this work -- changed MY tune in the process here, didn't I? Which is one reason I enjoy CC so much. BUT -- Candy -- don't forget -- there's plenty of new food for thought coming up when we all shift our viewpoints and start thinkin' like Grendel in a few days -- I fell immediately in love with Gardner's book -- in contrast to my initial reactions to old Beowulf -- and I am looking forward to this extension of the enjoyment of both works! Dottie -- who will miss the start -- shoot maybe two weeks worth of Grendel -- hope it's still running when we get back from Spain! ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (100 of 102), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:24 AM Dottie, I am not sure if I will be near a computer much in the next few weeks either. I am looking forward to reading Grendel. Is this the same John Gardner who wrote literary criticism like The Art of Fiction? There is also a John Gardner who wrote James Bond books too. Are they ALL the same? Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (101 of 102), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:36 AM On 7/12/01 8:24:22 AM, Candy Minx wrote: >Dottie, I am not sure if I >will be near a computer much >in the next few weeks either. > >I am looking forward to reading Grendel. >Is this the same John Gardner who wrote >literary criticism like The Art of >Fiction? Same Gardner There is also a John Gardner >who wrote James Bond books too. Are they >ALL the same? James Bond books? Um -- don't think so. I have lost the name that sprang to my mind as author of the Bond stories but someone will know. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (102 of 102), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:40 AM Right, I know the original author is Ian Fleming, but there is a new series of books by a John Gardner, I am sure of it... well sort of sure Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (103 of 119), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 02:54 PM Hi, Everyone, Here's what I found out about what the author of Grendel also wrote while I was at the library today, and this list isn't even complete! "John Champlin Gardner is not to be confused with the John Edmund Gardner who writes satiric mystery novels or John L. Gardner who was once the head of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare." (I would imagine John Edmund Gardner's books, if they are in print, could be found on Amazon dot com.) It seems our John Gardner was quite the scholar as well. I photocopied this list and then scanned the list with text recognition software. Voila! I would like to look into his juvenile books, even his, dare I say it, Cliffs Notes! So many books, so little time! Best to all - Bonnie-in-a-rush! John Gardner - (1933-1982) NOVELS The Resurrection, New American Library, 1966. The Wreckage of Agathon, Harper, 1970. Grendel, Knopf, 1971. The Sunlight Dialogues, Knopf, 1972. Jason and Medeia (novel in verse), Knopf, 1973. Nickel Mountain: A Pastoral Novel, Knopf, 1973. October Light, Knopf, 1976. Freddy's Book, Knopf, 1980. Mickelsson's Ghosts, Knopf, 1982. JUVENILE Dragon, Dragon and Other Timeless Tales, Knopf, 1975. Gudgekin the Thistle Girl and Other Tales (Junior Literary Guild selection), Knopf, 1976. In the Suicide Mountains, Knopf, 1977. A Child's Bestiary (light verse), Knopf, 1977. King of the Hummingbirds, and Other Tales, Knopf, 1977. Vlemk, the Box Painter, Lord John Press, 1979. CRITICISM (Editor with Lennis Dunlap) The Forms of Fiction, Random House, 1961. (Editor and author of introduction) The Complete Works of the Gawain-Poet in a Modern English Version with a Critical Introduction, University of Chicago Press, 1965. (Editor with Nicholas Joost) Papers on the Art and Age of Geoffrey Chaucer, Southern Illinois University Press, 1967. (Editor and author of notes) The Gawain-Poet: Notes on Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with Brief Commentary on Purity and Patience, Cliffs Notes, 1967. Morte D`Arthur Notes, Cliffs Notes, 1967. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Notes, Cliffs Notes, 1967. (Editor and author of notes) The Alliterative Morte Arthure, The Owl and the Nightingale and Five Other Middle English Poems (modern English version), Southern Illinois University Press, 1971. The Construction of the Wakefield Cycle, Southern Illinois University Press, 1974. The Construction of Christian Poetry in Old English, Southern Illinois University Press, 1975. The Life and Times of Chaucer, Knopf, 1977. The Poetry of Chaucer, Southern Illinois University Press, 1978. On Moral Fiction, Basic Books, 1978. On Becoming a Novelist, Harper, 1983. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, Knopf, 1984. On Writers and Writing, foreword by Stewart O'Nan, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1994.
Topic: July: Beowulf (104 of 119), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 03:40 PM While reading old Roman texts, I find it utterly frustrating to find books with no existent copies which are out of print permanently. Then while reading Norman F. Cantor's Civilization of the Middle Ages, I find a comment that shows just how precious and unique Beowulf is: The sources for the early history of the Germans are meager...The second group of sources consists of the Germanic folk poetry. Unfortunately, of this group only the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf has come down to us in a form close enough to the original version to be usable as a historical source. The great German cycle of the Nibelungenlied, which inspired the libretti for Wagner's operas, has come down to use only in a 13th-century version heavily overlaid by ideological concerns of that era. Beowulf, on the other hand, was written down by a cleric in the late 8th-century; the Christian overlay is superficial, and the poem graphically reveals the ideals and mores of the upper strata of Germanic society. The social picture it presents can be confirmed by comparing the Germanic way of life it depicts with the mores of Scandinavian society presented in the Icelandic sagas and eddas. Although these sagas and eddas depict Scandinavian society in the High Middle Ages, they reveal a society at a similar stage of development. This stage can also be found in the Homeric poetry, which similarly is a product of what the English scholar H. Chadwick called the "heroic age." Just imagine if that fire at Cotton's archive had been more thorough. Imagine if the fire did destroy some works before their shining moment... I also came across an interesting comment on the "Christian overlay" (I already forgot the source, though): Beowulf only uses Old Testament allusions--there's nothing taken from the New Testament. Maybe the cleric did not have an updated version. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (105 of 119), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 04:35 PM Bonnie, Thanks for the information on John Gardner, author of Grendel. He certainly has excellent credentials. My son recently read Beowulf and Grendel paired in his college literature class, and I am looking forward to reading the modern take on the legend. Look for the discussion of Grendel to begin around July 15 under the Reading List Books topic. This is where the Constant Reader discussions of the books on its monthly reading list take place. (This may be very confusing for a newcomer, but Classics Corner and Constant Reader were originally two separate groups and we have maintained two separate reading lists.) Dan, that's an interesting point. So few of the original sources are left to us from many periods of history. I sometimes wonder how this lack has distorted our perception of earlier periods in history. The author you quoted compares the "heroic age" of Beowulf to that of Homer. So, history does repeat. :)
Topic: July: Beowulf (106 of 119), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 04:39 PM Thanks Dan for intersting comments, and thanks Ann in alerting me to where the Grendel discussion will take place. I will be most interested too in what your son reveals to you about his findings. Scholars have delved deeply into all matters concerning Beowulf, and will continue to do so, ad infinitum, I would suppose. And who knows what some future diggers will unearth, or what natural disaster will disturb the earth to reveal more concrete artifacts? But I sure like, and agree, with what this scholar wrote: Beowulf -- A Personal Elegy by Frederick R. Rebsamen The question of whether Beowulf is a Christian or a pagan poem will be forever clouded by the fact that the best qualities of both these traditions overlap in such a way that no clash is felt, and it must ultimately be decided by reference to the whole, its aggregate effect upon the emotions. But this question, as well as others, should first be directed at that feature of the poem which is the most fascinating thing about it: Beowulf himself. It seems clear to me that the poet has here created for his purpose a character who would not have been recognized in the poet's day as any particular figure from history or legend or folklore or mythology-though this assumption must ultimately be accepted on faith. Beowulf is neither human nor superhuman, Christian nor pagan, English nor Geatish, heroic nor humble, but something of all of these and much more besides. To the standard Germanic heroic attributes, all of which Beowulf has, the poet has added a measure of compassion and understanding and meditative restraint which, although these same qualities were certainly to be found to one degree or another in some real-life Germanic heroes, has made of Beowulf as a literary character something approaching Chaucer's knight. Approaching, I say, for the differences are of course enormous and the cultures eight hundred years apart --yet Beowulf, to a reflective reader familiar with both cultures, really does come across as, in his own day and way, "a verray parfit gentil knyght." The big difference here is that we expect Chaucer's knight to be all these things; with Beowulf, it is the unexpected. The puzzling things about Beowulf's life --his origin, the fact that he apparently never married and/or produced any children, his return alone from the battle that took the life of his lord, his apparent inactivity during the later Geat-Swede conflicts -- these, together with the ambiguous qualities mentioned above, cease to be bothersome when one accepts the idea that, after all, his creator was a major poet trying something big and new, involving the best standards of two different ways of life, and that his concentration upon theme and mood has made of Beowulf, in places, a puzzling character. If the reader further accepts, as I do, the idea that the poet was here presenting his personal elegy for the demise of an old and in many ways admirable tradition at the moment when it was giving into and merging its best qualities with a new one, then Beowulf as a character grows less and less puzzling and begins to make very good sense indeed. From Beowulf Is My Name, by Frederick R. Rebsamen, Copyright 1971 by Rinehart Press, pp. ix-x.
Topic: July: Beowulf (107 of 119), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 09:03 PM Bonnie, Most interesting. So, I wonder if we could say that Beowulf is a kind of archetype. He didn't seem too real to me until his final battle with the dragon when he knew he was dying. Up to that point, he seemed very vague. I also wondered about the lack of spouse or children. The author you quoted gives a good explanation of why he is somewhat undeveloped as an individual. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (108 of 119), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 09:56 PM CANDY So that you won't stay awake worrying; yes. There are James Bond novels written by John Gardner. Thanks to Bon's intrepid research, we now know that this particular Gardner had a middle name, Edmund. This is also a relief to me, because I didn't know whether to add the GRENDEL Gardner to the JAMES BOND Gardner's list. Now I can sleep. Here's a list that appears in one of the JAMES BOND Gardner's books; DEATH IS FOREVER. THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA BROKEN CLAW WIN, LOSE OR DIE SCORPIUS NO DEALS, MR BOND LICENCE TO KILL NOBODY LIVES FOREVER ROLE OF HONOR ICEBREAKER FOR SPECIAL SERVICES LICENSE RENEWED. EDD "I can guess your problem, Mark. It's hard to have a man-to-man talk with a machine." "The machine is not to blame," observed the Dominican, irony in his voice. "It says what was put into it." FIASCO by Stanislaw Lem.
Topic: July: Beowulf (109 of 119), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 12:48 AM Ann wrote: Bonnie, Most interesting. So, I wonder if we could say that Beowulf is a kind of archetype. He didn't seem too real to me until his final battle with the dragon when he knew he was dying. Up to that point, he seemed very vague. I also wondered about the lack of spouse or children. The author you quoted gives a good explanation of why he is somewhat undeveloped as an individual. Absolutely, Ann! In the poem, Beowulf's life spans from birth to death, and it has most of the classical components of "archetypes" -- the strange birth (or missing details of his birth), some "initiation" elements, perhaps even his encounter with the "sinister female" in the character of Grendel's mother. It certainly has "the Journey" and he encounters monsters, etc. It fits the pattern, much like in Homer's Odyssey with Odysseus as archetypal hero. And so too does the next great English poem fit the archetypal pattern, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" whose author is also unknown. It all makes more sense to me viewed this way. Bonnie
Topic: July: Beowulf (110 of 119), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 01:07 AM BONNIE I had the idea that SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT was more the story of the meeting between two cultures. The old culture was represented by the Green Knight; the world of growing matter, agriculture as god. The world a garden, sort of. The Green Knight can cut off his head and survive. It grows again. Sir Gawain doesn't have this attribute. He is part of the new culture. And they can't coexist it seems. Wish I could remember how he gets out of it. He must. But he does represent a new type of being; the hunter, gatherer, warrior. Does the old culture die? Or go underground? Are there any around today? Are they CR's? Sort of like the way Marion Zimmer Bradley presents it in THE MISTS OF AVALON. At least that's my thinking today. No guarantees for tomorrow. EDD
Topic: July: Beowulf (111 of 119), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 01:21 AM Hmmm. Edd, that flips Candy's cosmology, doesn't it? Maybe Beowulf is a Christ-figure? No marriage, no kids. Disciples (not 12 though, weren't there 15 in that boat?) Dies battling the dragon to save humanity. Betrayed by his friends at the end. And so forth. Theresa Concept trumps reality. Every damn time.
Topic: July: Beowulf (112 of 119), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 01:31 AM EDD, it's been awhile since I read SIR GAWAIN, but you are right about it being a meeting of the the pagan and the "new culture." The Green Knight does have the ability to regrow his head...I recall he carries it off with him when he presents the challenge at that sumptuous feast...Green Knight is The Green Man, vegetation, return of spring, etc. You can see him throughout England even today on billboards and in advertising signs, et al. But I am not so sure the cultures didn't co-exist for awhile...seems to me they almost had to...in the system of belief of a people the pagan elements didn't disappear overnight. I think of our celebration of Christmas which has its roots in paganism, the celebration of winter solstice. Heck, the way we celebrate Christmas today seems to out-pagan the pagans! And I bet there are pagans right here among us! I am making too light of your point, I am sure. I'll have to dip into Sir Gawain a bit again. I always mean to read The Mists of Avalon...sounds so intriguing.
Topic: July: Beowulf (113 of 119), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bonnie Mots (bmots@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 01:37 AM Teresa, I am glad you said that, about Beowulf as Christ figure...I was thinking that too! It does not seem very far-fetched...thinking of the Green Knight regrowing his head is a "resurrection" theme too, of sorts. I think all the elements merged to create our various systems of belief today with embellishments and embroidery on old themes. Best, Bonnie-Probably-Pagan
Topic: July: Beowulf (114 of 119), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 02:56 AM Bonnie --if you move to Mists of Avalon -- I would recommend examining all of Bradley's Arthur works and making a choice about reading them in the order she wrote them or to read Mists and then possibly dabble with the others. My own opinion is that Mists of Avalon is the strongest and yet having read them all I know there is some part of me which would say read them in the order written -- or the order of the story presented in the volumes. Each stands alone but there is some overlap. Theresa -- I am SO glad you said this about Beowulf and Christ -- there are number differences -- he set out with 14 companions so the total was 15 -- but immediately one of those was eaten by Grendel -- then later the number when they went after the dragon was a total of 12 or was it 13 -- anyway -- I also got some echoes of Christ and the disciples in those areas but also minor ones elsewhere in the Beowulf tale. I am reveling in all these sources and quotes and the info flowing into this discussion. Thanks, Dan and Bonnie and all. Dottie -- who is amazed that three well known Bond titles are the Gardner Bonds rather than the Fleming ones -- EDD thanks ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (115 of 119), Read 10 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 06:22 AM Theresa: Thanks for the Beowulf/Christ comparison. The possibility had struck me as well, but I dismissed it thinking there wasn't any connection at all; Beowulf is hardly meek and gentle! It occurs to me, especially having finished Grendel, that these works contain large culture clashes; not just of ethnic/political groups, but Christianity vs. "Paganism". Or is Grendel just the epitome of evil, a Satanic type. (Remember how Screwtape "ate" his victims?) David
Topic: July: Beowulf (116 of 119), Read 9 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 08:08 AM Wow. This thread is intriguing. I saw Grendel more as a representative of Evil - those that have separated from God's grace. However, I like the culture clash theory. Heaney mentions this in his introduction, but more in the form of one culture merging into another, rather than a clash. I think he sees it as a wavering between the old ways and the new. Ok, it's a clash. I'm wondering, though, if a monk would have recorded the story with culture clash in mind. It seems more likely he was going for the simpler Good/Evil battle. Oh geez. Here I am in the middle of an ancient Rome kick, as a result of I, Claudius, and what happens to me? I get on a Middle Ages kick. I've read Mists of Avalon which ranks in my top ten books, but haven't delved into Bradley's Arthur series. I also want to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Who else wants to read it with me? K
Topic: July: Beowulf (117 of 119), Read 10 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 08:11 AM Dottie, I think you may be getting Marion Zimmer Bradley mixed up with Mary Stewart. She wrote the "Darkover" fantasy series. Bradley did write two other Arthur books, but I think they were written after Mists. Mary Stewart wrote The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment known as the Merlin Trilogy. Then she wrote a fourth one about Mordred that finishes it up. I know all this because at one point, I was on a real Arthurian kick. Sherry
Topic: July: Beowulf (118 of 119), Read 5 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 09:14 AM Nope -- -- gggg -- the other two Bradley books on Arthur were actually written before Mists or are at least SET before it -- I was simply suggesting that Bradley's works can be read as they appeared or read in the order written or the order of setting -- wish I could recall whether it was only the settings which shifted - I think not -- I think at least one of these was earlier writing. And like you, I devoured all of Mary Stewart's Arthur books and my bookie daughter followed suit reading them all plus Mists plus another couple Arthur books the summer between 6th and 7th grades. There is also one much later -- The Princess and the Pilgrim -- oooh that title doesn't feel right -- by Stewart which is fair reading. I think I said something back there about Beowulf and Grendel perhaps being like Michael and Lucifer -- good/evil -- I like the comparison to Screwtape, too. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (119 of 119), Read 5 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Lynn Isvik (washualum@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 09:32 AM It's The Prince and the Pilgrim, Dottie. You were close! Lynn
Topic: July: Beowulf (120 of 121), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 10:33 AM Thanks, Lynn! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (121 of 121), Read 8 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 10:55 AM WOW, this has been great reading here. I am pumped UP!!! Thanks for the Gardner breakdowns everyone. I am a big fan of the literary criticism Garnder of Grendel wrote. Theresa, you give me too much credit! "Candy's cosmology". I am flattered. But it's not stuff I made up Theresa, they conceal all that information in books. I am an arrogant person, but not deluded. heh heh. I could never make up history! I am a pagan, gee, am I the only one around here? I know very few Chrisians in my personal group of friends . Actually, about six of my friends are "recovering catholics". But the rest, like me, weren't raised Christian. I think one of my grandmothers tried to get me to be christian, but it just didn't "take". heh heh. I was raised to see god and spirit and soul in everything and all around us.But I enjoy a lot of biblical anecdotes and images here and there, and I like how christians are always "trying to connect with god and pray". I find their aspirations inspiring. So yes, I am a pagan, but I'm in good company. If you think about it, Jesus was a pagan too!!! I also think that paganism never really left art or our stories or our archetypes. Christianity tried to get rid of images and ideas that were "pagan" but never succeeded. Like Bonnie said, our customs associated with "Christmas" or "Easter" are almost universally pagan traditions and customs. I think I am going to dig out The Green Knight. this whole thread has me so excited!!!I went through a HUGE King Arthur phase one time too. I loved Steinbecks book on Arthur as well as Mary Stweart. For one week in the 80's I never left the world Stewart created. Barely ate or made phone calls. Just got my kid to school and then back to her world!!ahhh such fun! love and peace Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (122 of 131), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 11:30 AM Sorry, Dottie. I just never think of the Bradley books as a series, but I guess you didn't say that. The Stewart books are definitely a series and should be read in order. I loved those books. Sherry
Topic: July: Beowulf (123 of 131), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 11:39 AM Sherry -- I think you are right that Bradley's books aren't really a series but the topics interweave and my vague recollection as I say is that they were sort of "out of order" somehow. Mary Stewart was one of my all time favorite authors even BEFORE I hit the Merlin series and couldn't wait for the next one hardly when they started. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: July: Beowulf (124 of 131), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 02:13 PM I say we start a Green Knight thread and those who want to foray in that direction can do so--no problem for me at all. I've read the Stewart books as well and enjoyed them immensely, but I've always preferred Chretien de Troyes and Geoffrey of Monmouth--the source, sort of speak. I don't know about this Beowulf/Christ connection. I don't see anything in it, fudging numbers aside. Norman F. Cantor notes that the Germanic tribes were converted to Christianity by the Arian Christians, a sect that arose out of Eastern Christianity rather than Western. According to Cantor: Arianism, named after its originator Arius, an Alexandrian priest, insisted on a strong definition of the distinction between God and Christ (God the Father and God the Son). This view reflected the resurgence of Greco-Roman polythesistic concepts within Christianity; Arius, like the pagan Greek thinkers, tried to make distinctions and levels in the god-head. And later, Theodosius I tried to eradicate Arianism by imperial condemnation in 383, roughly 500 years before the writing of Beowulf. To quote Cantor: Furthermore, the destruction of Arianism came too late to prevent the spread of the Arian heresy to the Germanic peoples. It was the Arian, rather than the Catholic, church that sent missionaries beyond the Danube and Rhine, with the result that several Germanic kings of the following century turned out to be favorers of Arianism. I find it interesting that a paganistic view of Christianity would be a German staple for a while; also, the writer of Beowulf would then have been better able to weave together the Germanic pagan threads with his view of Christianity with its remnants of Arianism. The problem with all this is that it falls apart when we consider why, oh why, did the cleric not mention a son of God. Was it because Jesus never really was a model of vengeance and hording? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (125 of 131), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 04:16 PM Hi, Just returned home a few days ago after a month in Europe, mainly France and Switzerland. Since I got back I got a hold of Beowulf and got started on it. I do remember reading some sections while in high school. It seems to be most interesting and am anxious to get into it. While this does not exactly belong into this column I like to mention that we took I Claudius along as my wife Pat wanted to read it. I went over the last 60 pages or so once more. So Pat and I had a chance to discuss the book and I got a few new ideas. No we did not go to Rome but I gathered that Barb did and wonder what her impressions of Rome are now after having read Graves. Of course I was unable to read all the postings but will do so a bit at a time. We are still sort of exhausted from driving, sight seeing, going up and down the high mountains (mostly by cable cars). So we now have a problem adjusting to good old Napa, CA. Ernie
Topic: July: Beowulf (126 of 131), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 05:10 PM Ernie- Good to have you back. I'd love to read your comments on I, Claudius. If you go to the "Conferences" side, the "July Discussion: I, Claudius," is still listed. K
Topic: July: Beowulf (127 of 131), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 07:37 PM Welcome back, Ernie. I bet those mountains were fabulous. Ann
Topic: July: Beowulf (128 of 131), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 07:55 PM Oh, Ernie! How I envy you! Some people, I think, are ocean lovers and others are mountain lovers. I am definitely a mountain lover and would give anything to see the Alps! Welcome home! Beej
Topic: July: Beowulf (129 of 131), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Saturday, July 14, 2001 02:28 AM I think the story of BEOWULF was copied in the 10th century, but most likely an old story at that time. Probably we should be grateful to the monk who wrote the story down, otherwise we would most likely be ignorant of its existence. As we are of countless other stories. My feeling is that the monk added the Biblical references. Old Testament with the harsher God in fact. Without these references, he would not have been able to get it past his bosses; most likely. What else did he leave out? Grendel seems like one of the ogres of our mythology. I think they were the cannibal practitioners in a long ago past. And this practice is considered tabu in most if not all religions. Under this hypothesis, Beowulf has been called in to rid Hrothgar of this evil. Maybe the reason Grendel is invisible, is because he is one of the clan. Therefore, you bring in an outsider to track him down without prejudice. Not too far fetched I hope. And Grendel's mommy? She should have stuck to vegetables. And made her kid eat them also. Of course it takes a lot of effort to work out these analogies so that everything is consistent. For that, Crichton's is excellent. EDD " ... I put my clothes on the chair near the table and hit the mattress with a roll. I was out before a vampire bat could blink a blind eye. NEVER CROSS A VAMPIRE by Stuart Kaminsky
Topic: July: Beowulf (130 of 131), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, July 14, 2001 06:40 AM Edd, I am glad you bring up the cannibalism in Beowulf. Of course I was trying to find a passage on it but couldn't, rats! Yes, it's true that many cultures and religions ban cannibalism, but it's also true that when cannibalism IS practiced it is usually within a celebration(Cele-isn't that the goddess of agriculture?)and within a religious ritual or ceremony. and often it is practiced as a latch ditch attempt for food, when there are food shortages or rations. And I suppose really all the fighting in Beowulf or in real life comes down to resources. But I think cannibalism is other "things" too to us in our mythologies. If there is a terrible rumour that Grendel is from a bad tribe, the children of Cain, it implies a "bloodline" or a cultural taboo about murder and ones family. and I think Beowulfs people are ultimately afraid of "mating" with that group. Of continuing the tribe of Grendal, whether it's "true" that they were Cains kin or not. I think the Cains kin thing is lie the worst insult the poet could find ha ha. It's the worst insult because Cain is a murderer. Which is strange seeing as Beowulf is a murderer too. Did some one say that Beowulf is related to bear? Because in many ways he is part the energy of bear but also he is his peoples "dancing bear" too. I think the idea of cannibalism is particularily a concept of sex. And of one culture or group of people consuming the other. and the image of having one body inside another is also of being trapped or pregnant. "confinement" is a word we use for both conditions. boy I am getting hungry, better go get brakfast! Candy-who is very inspired by this discussion. "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: July: Beowulf (131 of 131), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, July 14, 2001 09:19 AM Edd: I think you're on to something there, with Beowulf as "outsider" and hence better able to discern the nature of the menace at Heorot. It reminds me of the role of Oedipus in Oedipus at Colonus where he was an outsider much like Grendel but no one in the play can think of what to do with him. While scholars are fairly certain when the existent document was copied, there is considerable debate as to when it was exactly transferred from oral to print. To quote the Norton Anthology of English Literature: Beowulf, the oldest of the great long poems written in English, may have been composed more than twelve hundred years ago, in the first half of the eighth century, though some scholars would place it as late as the tenth century. Its author may have been a native of what was then West Mercia, the West Midlands of England today, though the late tenth-century manuscript, which alone preserves the poem, originated in the south in the kingdom of the West Saxons. Come to think of it--in the backwash of time, what's two or three hundred years? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (132 of 137), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Friday, July 20, 2001 04:08 PM Just to echo other comments, I was struck by the primacy of the tale, how basic the story is to our many legends and traditions. The fire-breathing dragon fighting a shield-bearing hero has to be about as classic a duo as possible. And the glorification of the courageous, strong male who risks his life and succeeds in protecting the masses is a staple Hollywood action formula. Then, of course, saving everyone is just the tip of the iceberg. Beowulf's greatness is enormously amplified by his ability to maintain peace for fifty years as a ruler who behaves fairly and kindly to his people all the while keeping invaders at bay due to his fierce reputation. And then if that's not enough, when crisis strikes again he's the one to meet the challenge, even as an old man. And then he saves the day for the third time AND dies in combat. What a dude! All the masculine virtues are covered: strength, courage, leadership, the buck stops here, Mighty Mouse to save the day, and the swordblade balancing act between boast and modesty. What makes it a classic to me is the endless ways in which Beowulf's story is being retold today. It's like we have his prototype imprinted in our consciousness and the superhero lives. The downside of this is: what leader can live up to it? I think this kind of idealization is the source of our savagery towards a leader who exhibits any weakness. I'm glad to discover that BEOWULF is actually relevant. This legend lives. Robt
Topic: July: Beowulf (133 of 137), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Friday, July 20, 2001 05:49 PM Candy, "celebration" comes from the Latin adjective "celeber, celebris" which means, "where a multitude comes together" and other related meanings. It also gives us the word "celebrity." The Roman goddess of agriculture was Ceres from which we get the word "cereal." To the Greeks she was Demeter.
Topic: July: Beowulf (134 of 137), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, July 20, 2001 07:05 PM Thanks for the review, Robert. I would only note that Unferth tried to find a weakness in this Geat hero who arrived to save the day--only Beowulf was just too damn good at boasting and bashing to be affected by a menial brother-killer. Nowadays, perhaps the media at large serves the same function as Unferth, struggling to reveal the flaws in one's boast and the chink in one's armor. And let's recall the poet's litany of the reasons for Beowulf's fame: Thus Beowulf bore himself with valour; he was formidable in battle yet behaved with honour and took no advantage; never cut down a comrade who was drunk, kept his temper and, warrior that he was, watched and controlled his God-sent strength and his outstanding natural powers. Just think if O.J. had read Beowulf in his youth and bore himself with as much discipline and valour... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (135 of 137), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Friday, July 20, 2001 09:09 PM Dan, Yes, I was thinking of Unferth's challenge to Beowulf when making the comment about B's balance between boast and modesty. Beowulf seemed to easily put Unferth in his place, being appropriately boastful when challenged, but able to keep his cool the rest of the time, never resorting to bullying behavior. The mark of a secure man. Cool is another modern day masculine virtue. It seemed like Beowulf allowed his actions to speak for themselves. Instead of believing he was better than everyone else (the foundation of tyranny) he remained of service to his people, vigilant and ready to the end. I am in agreement with Beowulf's greatness. Robt
Topic: July: Beowulf (136 of 137), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 01:24 PM Now that's an interesting statement, Robert: "Beowulf was cool." I'm sure you write this with sincerity and not as a synonym for "Beowulf was awesome the way he tore that arm off the monster, Dude!" In The Mind's Sky, Timothy Ferris analyzes the source of that "cool expression," and his passage echoes some of Robert's observations from the previous post: So it just may be that the cool, almost expressionless face of an athlete like Joe Montana is the outward badge of a motor cortex so skilled at managing the hands and feet that it has depleted the cortical territory normally employed to control facial muscles. We respond to the mask precisely because we have learned to associate it with competence in action. That's why macho movie stars like Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger underact like crazy. The critics may complain that their unvarying facial expressions get tiresome after a while, but Eastwood and Schwarzenegger know what they are doing: They are playing men whose intelligence lies in deeds, not talk, and whose motor cortex, consequently, has borrowed tissue from mere expression in order to devote it to large-muscle functions like running, jumping, and firing endless clips of ammunition from automatic weapons. I would only add battling monster mothers at the bottom of meres as well. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: July: Beowulf (137 of 137), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 08:52 PM Dan, Yes, I mean cool in the sense that Timothy Ferris is using it: that action speaks louder than words. In the LETHAL WEAPON series Mel Gibson is cool and his comic sidekick, Joe Pesci, acts as his antithesis by being all bluster and bull$#!+. So, Beowulf was a cool dude indeed and he's got an active heritage. Robt
Topic: July: Beowulf (138 of 139), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, July 27, 2001 09:15 PM Beowulf is puzzling and I walked around for a week trying to make sense of it. It does contain very important aspects of life during this particular period of time. Could it be that it is related to the Niebelungen Lied with Siegfried, etc. There are also dragons there and if I remember correctly Siegfriend took a bath in dragon blood to make his invincible except for his heels where someone held him. Well the basic theme is of course human competition, survival of the fittest, desire for power, etc. But I had another idea that I want to try out on you. Could the killers have been Neanderthal man who's existence coincided with modern man? I am in the middle of Grendel and truly like it. First of all I wonder how the author came up with that stuff. He is very skillful in integrating modern thought and ideas into whatever the dragon had to say. It is really a very puzzling work that required the skill to be both contemporary and ancient. More later, Ernie
Topic: July: Beowulf (139 of 139), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Saturday, July 28, 2001 11:03 AM I think that Grendel symbolises war. Grendel is a descendant of Cain, a humanity deformed by hatred and envy. The established wealthy society is prone to assaults by envious surrounding tribes. The stories of revenge and betrayal are parallel manifestations of Grendel as both deplete the benches of the mead hall. Unferth cannot kill Grendel because he is a part of Grendel. Out of envy, he challenges Beowulf. He mocks Beowulf for indulging in a childish swimming contest rather than getting on with the manly business of killing for a glory. Unferth, after all, seems to hold a privileged place in the mead hall, at the foot of the king. Beowulf admits that he was having fun with a friend but that he didn't win because he was distracted by monsters which he dispatched to make the world safe for sailors. Beowulf put aside personal glory for the greater good. An important turning point in the story occurs when Unferth lends Beowulf his sword.

 

 
Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com