Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beowulf, by Anonymous


Okay, so... I understand, Beowulf is like at the root of the English literary tradition. I know, it's totally different from poetry now, that it is supposed to be alliterative instead of rhyming (which admittedly, is really interesting), I know that people in the whatever-century had a far different culture from us today. So, don't take this as some sort of judgement of Mr. Anonymous, who has, after all, contributed so much to the world.

Only, the thing is, I really didn't like this book.

I mean, the Iliad? Sure, it was all about people getting together to kill each other, I know, but at least those people wer einteresting people - and the poeple on both sides had personalities. I can only take so many pages of bloody baldrics held by mighty earls o'er their high=plumed helms before I just get a little irritated. I mean, I don't totally agree with the moral lessons of Homer, but the only moral lesson of Beowulf, to me, seems to be that you should be loyal to your relations - which in the book, means, you should either kill or get blood money from anyone who kills your people. OK, so whatever, but SERIOUSLY, there has GOT to be more than life, even in Old Scandinavia, then that.

I don't mean to imply there was NOTHING good. The constant theme of death coming for all men, the structure of the battles, where we see what it is to fight as a young whelp looking for glory, then what it is to fight as on old man trying to live out your days in peace... sure that had soem merit. This doesn't descend to the level of Scrappy-Doo Badness that say... the White Worm did (shudder). But anyway. Bleagh. And I LIKE epic poems! Still, bleagh!

8 comments:

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

I barely remember this from high school, and this review does not make me want to go back and revisit...

hamilcar barca said...

isn't there a recent movie out on Beowulf?

Christina said...

Beowulf was the first story ever written down which threw it into history and immortality. I think the story says a lot in that it was so long (hence the alliteration and rhyming to be easily remembered) and caught someone's attention strong enough to be written down. No telling how many others weren't taken down. Other than that, I think it was the basic good vs. evil especially with such overwhelming odds against the hero. Themes like that still prevail today.

Yes, there was a Beowulf movie with Angelina Jolie and I forget who else. Beowulf and characters even made a cameo on Zena

Jason Gignac said...

Christina - Yes, I don't mean to sound totally negative. Much of the dislike I have is purely of the ethnocentric sort - if I were reading this to learn about the Englishmen long ago who wrote it down, I likely would have enjoyed it far more. I didn't like it, solely from my 21st century perch, much the same way that I don't like Leviticus- it's a strong moral lesson with morals I don't feel comfortable with. The poetry itself (in translation of course, I'm not that smart) was actually really fascinating, and hillariously effective at causing the reader to think in a deep barreltone voice... ;)

Hamilcar - yeah, lot's of half-naked pics of Angelina Jolie as the mother of Grendel online, learned that on accident today... ech...

Amanda - Let's see - don't like fantastical stories. Don't like knights and stuff. Don't like poetry. Don't like fighting. Yeah, I'm trying to find a reason to recommend this to you, and failing miserably...

Christina said...

Actually, I didn't like Beowulf when we had to study it in English. I can understand the historical reference of it, I just didn't care for the story though I can't pin down any specific reason.

Amanda said...

Christina - that's sort of how I feel about Don Quixote. Didn't enjoy it one bit, but i can see the historical importance.

Rebecca Reid said...

Jason, I'm very curious about what edition/translation you read. Never read this and only barely know what it's about. You're review doesn't make it sound very promising!