On a Noble Classic

>> Friday, November 16, 2007

Sometimes I am amazed at the interest people have in movies. The book is always better, has better graphics and most importantly a better script. I do not think I would be so up in arms about the increasing amount of movies that have titles that they do not even think about the great importance of the original. Beowulf is the one at present that I cannot even begin to understand how they could desecrate such a classic.

Beowulf is an Old English heroic epic poem of anonymous authorship from around AD 700.[1] Its creation is typically assigned by scholars either to the period AD 700–750, or to the time of composition of the only manuscript, circa 1010.[2] At 3183 lines, it is notable for its length. The poem is untitled in the manuscript, but has been known as Beowulf since the early 19th century.[citation needed]
As the single surviving work of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, the work—in spite of dealing primarily with Danish and Swedish events—has risen to such prominence that it has been described as "England's national epic."[3] A source of much study, the poem was a central inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien, whose academic career was built around its analysis and explication.
In the poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, battles three antagonists: Grendel, who is attacking the Danish mead hall called Heorot and its inhabitants; Grendel's mother; and, later in life after returning to Geatland (modern southern Sweden) and becoming a king, an unnamed dragon. He is mortally wounded in the final battle, and after his death he is buried in a barrow in Geatland by his retainers.
The most common English pronunciation is IPA: /ˈbeɪəwʊlf/, but the "ēo" in Bēowulf was a diphthong, and a more authentic pronunciation would be with two syllables and the stress on the first (IPA: [ˈbeːo̯wʊɫf]).[4]

For those who have no understanding of the epic let me map it out a little. It begins with a funeral rite where they push a king into the waters to send him to Valhalla. Once in the water burning arrows are shot and burn the corpse with their treasure all around. The narrator is sympathetic but at the same time believes that these people are acting as pagans.
To me the theme most exposed in Beowulf is the dawning of a new time, one with a new god. When Beowulf dies in the end, he is buried in the ground and not sent into the sea to Valhalla as the King before him. It is very sad to see the shift in the culture as it is an ending to the times of dragons and other fantastical creatures.
This would not make it to the film, it may not be another “300” (another movie I could gripe about) but that gives the writers and director no right to change the poetic words of:

Béowulf maþelode bearn Ecgþéowes:
631
Beowulf spoke, the son of Edgetheow:
'Ic þæt hogode· þá ic on holm gestáh·

'I resolved that, when I mounted the water,
saébát gesæt mid mínra secga gedriht·

sat down in the sea-boat amid my company of warriors,
þaét ic ánunga éowra léoda

that I forthwith your people's
willan geworhte oþðe on wæl crunge

will would work, or fall in slaughter,
féondgrápum fæst· ic gefremman sceal
636
fast in the fiend's grasp; I must perform
eorlíc ellen oþðe endedæg

this daring act of courage or the last day
on þisse meoduhealle mínne gebídan.'

in this mead-hall of mine await.'
Ðám wífe þá word wél lícodon

The woman these words liked well,
gilpcwide Géates· éode goldhroden

the vow-speech of the Geat; went gold-adorned,
fréolicu folccwén tó hire fréan sittan.
641
the noble queen of the folk, to sit by her lord.
Þá wæs eft swá aér inne on healle

Then were again, as before, in the hall,
þrýðword sprecen, ðéod on saélum,

bold words spoken, the people full of joy,
sigefolca swég oþ þæt semninga

--victory-folk's clamour-- until presently
sunu Healfdenes sécean wolde

the son of Half-Dane wished to seek
aéfenræste· wiste þaém áhlaécan
646
evening-rest; he knew that the ogre
tó þaém héahsele hilde geþinged

for the high hall had plotted an attack,
siððan híe sunnan léoht geséon meahton

ever since when they the sun's light could see;
oþðe nípende niht ofer ealle

and darkening night all over,
scaduhelma gesceapu scríðan cwóman

shadow-helm's shapes came slithering,
wan under wolcnum. Werod eall árás·
651
black beneath the skies.

The dialect will be lost, and thus its poetic license. I am incensed at the gall of people to walk all over such a masterpiece. And yet there is nothing I can do about it, except save my 8 dollars.

In my latin class another student went to see 300 because it was his area of expertise, I do not think I could sacrifice 2 ½ hours to see something that would deeply wound me. I doubt they will go into the themes and because of that I cannot understand how ANYONE would dare to exploit the magic that is Beowulf.

1 comments:

Rebecca November 20, 2007 at 7:24 PM  

You know what, I was soooooo MAD when I found out about the Beowulf movie. I love the poem and I don't get why people would choose to butcher it. I guess Angelina Jolie is supposed to be Grendel's mom. Wasn't she really ugly?? Bah. Offended.

Did you read Grendel though? I LOVE that book.

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