I want to write about my issues with “Beowulf” this beautifully.

“Beowulf” doesn’t fail because it changes the story: It fails because it is so busy juicing up the story that it does not create a mythical universe. It has no transfiguring vision. It seizes upon an ancient tale, whose invisible roots run deep into our psyches, and uses it to construct a shiny, plastic entertainment. It takes a wild fable and turns it into a tame story. But “Beowulf” is the kind of story that is meaningless unless it is part of a cosmology. It is, in short, a myth.


Tolkien’s point is that the fantastic elements in “Beowulf” are ancient archetypes that have deep roots in human beliefs, fears and wishes — myths, in other words. And in “Beowulf,” he argues, these myths are an essential part of a tragic tale whose theme is “man at war with the hostile world, and his inevitable overthrow in Time.” The greatness of Beowulf derives from the fact that it is a poem created in “a pregnant moment of poise”: It is balanced between a Christian worldview, in which death and defeat are ultimately themselves defeated by Christ, and a Germanic, pagan one, in which fate rules all and man’s courage alone confers nobility. It is, Tolkien writes, not a primitive poem, but a late one. The pagan world is already past, but the poet still celebrates its vanished power. The fact that a poem written more than a thousand years ago was itself looking back at a lost world gives the poem an uncanny double resonance to the modern reader: “If the funeral of Beowulf moved once like the echo of an ancient dirge, far-off and hopeless, it is to us as a memory brought over the hills, an echo of an echo.”

An echo of an echo… It just gives me the heebie jeebies.  Hurray!

8 thoughts on “Swoon!

  1. Can we play video games on your big screen TV? If so, I’m totally bringing the PS2 and the Butcher’s James Bond game and practicing my shooting.

  2. Awesome! If there’s one thing I love, it’s torturing the people who poke me and pull my hair (you know, unless it’s thatkind of poking and hair-pulling).

  3. We’ll make Ginger cook and set the table. yea!

    Ha! When will you ever learn that you can’t make Ginger do anything? Seduce, maybe…make, never.

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