Story Cue Card
Bibliographic Information: Serraillier, Ian. Beowulf the Warrior. Severin, illus.
New York: Henry Z. Walck, Inc., 1961. (found in juvenile section of SILS
Ethnic Origin: Anglo-Saxon English epic
Running Time: 10-11 minutes (hopefully under 10!)
Power Centers: 1) Peace and comfort of mead hall following Grendel’s vanquishment
Even though this is explained in the introduction, I think it is an important place to start the story because it emphasizes the night’s terror and sorrow.
2) Exhaustive terror of the return of monsters to haunt Heorot.
They thought it was all over, and now the nightmare has started again. The recurring nightmare is something everyone should identify with. This is coupled with and fed by Grendel’s mother’s urgency for revenge, and I can’t quite tell how to distinguish the two for this exercise.
3) The expectation and fear of another fierce battle, this time in unfamiliar territory as Beowulf invades the dark waters.
This is where the action takes over itself. The anticipation of battle, as well as the battle itself combine in this scene.
4) The disappointment of thinking the hero won’t win when his sword fails him. Beowulf must also be concerned, but he is fighting, so we have to be concerned for him.
5) Exultation in victory which carries over to plundering the head of Grendel—we have to be relieved that he won. However, the blood from this scene leads us back to the surface with the
6) Disappointment of thinking the hero won’t make it—this time the feeling of Beowulf’s retainers. This then leads to the repeat of the
7) Exultation in victory when Beowulf surfaces and carries his trophy home.
Most of these power centers are chosen because of the flow of the story. We have to ebb and flow with the hero.
Characters: Beowulf, Geatish warrior
Hrothgar, king of the Danes
Grendel (present, although dead) monster
Grendel’s mother, thirsty for revenge
Aeschere, who dies at the hands of Grendel’s mother, mentioned
Scenes: 1) Night quiet in the mead hall, disturbed by Grendel’s mother.
2) Morning/ Mourning scene with Hrothgar
3) Clearing the lake of monsters
4) Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother
5) Beowulf’s victory and plunder of the head
6) Beowulf’s return to surface and Heorot.
Synopsis: As the Danes settle in for a well deserved night of tranquil sleep, the great hall of Heorot is invaded by the mother of Grendel, the monster recently defeated by the great warrior Beowulf. She steals the trophy of Grendel’s arm, hanging on the wall, and Aeschere, counsellor and friend of King Hrothgar. When Beowulf hears of this the next morning, he immediately prepares to engage Grendel’s mother in a battle to revenge Aeschere’s death. After arriving at the dreary lake under which she dwells, Beowulf puts on his armor and jumps into the lake. In her home, they engage in a fierce battle through which Beowulf emerges victorious. On his way back out of the dismal “underworld,” Beowulf sees the body of Grendel, and seizing the opportunity to claim back a trophy, he lops off Grendel’s head and carries it home. The blood that spilled from Grendel floats to the surface, making the Danes and Geats think that Beowulf had been killed, although the Geats wait and watch with a little more hope than the Danes. Beowulf then emerges from the lake with Grendel’s head, which he and his retainers carry back to Hrothgar.
Rhymes/ Special Phrases/ “Flavor”: I hope to be able to bring in some feeling of the glorious epic style through the use of kennings and some of the “backward grammar” of the Anglo-Saxon original. I would love to interpose some Anglo-Saxon words, but I don’t think I will have time to incorporate those for this telling, as my control of that language is hardly fluent.
Audience: I think this story is appropriate because it appeals to the manliness of adolescent boys—a hero epic that allows the audience to applaud pure brawn and prowess without being watered down by a sappy romantic interest that tends to turn off young adolescent boys. (If Disney ever tries to take over this story, like it has been rumored, the whole epic may be ruined!) I have noticed that many stories seem to be aimed at adolescent girls, but few really good books seem to be written for adolescent boys, who then decide that reading isn’t cool. However, since Beowulf contains many of the elements of movies that adolescent boys like to watch—battles, monsters, heroes, blood, guts, and gore. I think this story, effectively told, can be a wonderful reintroduction of stories to young boys to the world of books, as well as epic heroes. As for girls, although I have already mentioned that there are good books written for them in mind, I think Beowulf’s prowess and masculinity would appeal to them, too, even though there are no girls in the story (other than Hrothgar’s queen, Wealtheow, and Grendel’s mother). Even without a “romantic interest,” there is an incredible amount of romance surrounding a man who fights for glory, not women. I also think that the lack of a romantic interest allows adolescent girls the option to explore a world that is rarely offered to them specifically, the world of gore and fear and valor uninhibited by “girly things.” I have loved this story since I read it as a teenager, and I think it was for these reasons. Beowulf talks down to no one, and all rise to the experience.
Bibliographic Information: Other than the one listed above, I read a couple of other translations:
Chickering, Howell D. (trans.) Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition Garden City,
New York: Anchor Books, 1977. (in poetry form)
Swanton, Michael (trans.) Beowulf Manchester, England: Manchester UP, 1978.
(in prose form)
Comparison: I chose the translation I did because it was written for children, and, I thought, was a much better-flowing translation, although also much more condensed, than the others. I was also impressed with it because it kept the rhythm of the original pretty well. There were a couple of parts where it just didn’t seem quite right, so I tried to replace it with the language from another translation. There is a new version of the story out, told from the point of view of Beowulf’s friend, but I was not able to get a copy in time to look at it. I also didn’t get a chance to see a copy of Grendel (told from Grendel’s point of view). Chickering’s version was as close to a word-for-word translation as I have seen, and sometimes that messes up the rhythm, and it is a little hard to follow because of the ways English has changed since Anglo-Saxon. Swanton’s translation was prose, which is, of course, easier to read, and he modernized the grammar. However, there seemed to be a lot lost in translation, including the flavor of the kennings and the high epic language.