Originally posted to MySpace on:
November 22, 2007
Native speakers of the English language have a terrible problem: we’re stuck reading an epic poem in high school called Beowulf. Though the majority of us forget the story’s place in history as the English language’s first written epic (Old English to be exact), some of us at least remember the story itself. A hero named Beowulf sails to a kingdom to slay a monster called Grendel and all hell breaks loose. The monster has a mom, etc., etc., and those of us who are honest with ourselves can admit that we don’t understand the bleedin’ thing because Old English is nothing like Modern English, and that remembering its origin as the English language’s first written epic is the easy part.
Well, as the proud owner of a Bachelor’s in English, I should know the story of Beowulf like the back of my cracking hand (yes, winter is approaching, hence the seasonal need for Nivea). But I don’t. Or didn’t. I read the poem. Didn’t get it. Saw the Mud Show at the Renaissance Festival (twice). Kinda got it, but not really. Felt stupid, and yet, proud to be a Floridian. Then the movie came out. And I think it’s accurate sort of. I saw it a few hours ago. Now I get it; my degree is now justified. Now I can sleep.
Beowulf didn’t just slay a monster. He secured his future as the king of Denmark (or at least the king of that particular place in Denmark—the actual kingdom is still unclear, probably because the names are Nordic and I speak the Norse languages as well as I speak Old English). And with it, he secured the sins that came with the job. Namely, the illegitimate fathering of monsters.
Now, from a layman’s point of view, it seems the only way for a mortal man to father a monster (especially an illegitimate one) is for him to conceive a child with a female monster. Those of us men who tend to think visually will agree that such a thought is hideous. Thanks to the invention of modern advertising, many of us can’t even get past that unsightly blemish or twinge of obesity that strikes some of our waylaying objects of affection, much less a green, slimy, Medusa-looking thing. How the hell can Beowulf get past that?
Turns out, he’s not the first. The king before him (name escapes me—another one of those complicated Nordic names) had the same problem. It turns out that Grendel the monster (spoiler alert!!!) is actually the king’s illegitimate monster son (actually, I already ruined it in the second paragraph, so I guess the spoiler alert is ineffective). His own queen won’t give him a legitimate heir because she’s paying him back for sleeping with a green, slimy, Medusa-looking thing. And it’s stressing him out.
Poor legitimate-sonless king.
Of course, that still doesn’t solve our question. We still don’t know how either Beowulf or the king before him could sleep with this creature. The thought—it’s awful. Right?
Beowulf is a hero. He slays the monster with his bare hands. Naked, of course, with a bunch of acrobatic flips, but he still slays him nonetheless. It’s a disturbing sight to see from the sidelines, and yet impressive at the same time. If I tried doing acrobatic flips naked, I might hurt myself. Doing that, and ripping the arm off a hideous monster—that just takes heroism. And a couple things made of steel. Beowulf is a hero.
So, he slays the monster and is given the Golden Dragon Horn (which the king uses as a cup for drinking mead) as a reward. All is well…until Beowulf’s men are murdered in their sleep. Upon split-second investigation, he finds that the kingdom’s monster troubles aren’t over. Grendel’s mom is pissed off. Her son is, after all, now a corpse, thanks to Beowulf’s hand, and now Beowulf has to postpone his journey back to sea to deal with the problem.
Beowulf has to confront the monster, slay her and rid the land of her evil. Doing so would mean peace for the kingdom. Doing so would mean solidifying his place in folklore. It’s all about the song, after all.
He enters the cave, where he wades through the enchanted water. The monster’s tail slithers. Surely, if he doesn’t turn around, she’ll be on him, dripping puddles of slime from her teeth, clawing out his heart with her rusty talons (okay, rusty is overkill, but it sounds better than chipped nail polish). He must turn around. But he doesn’t. Instead, he dives into a grotto, where he finds a cache of treasure. The tail draws close.
A voice penetrates the darkness and at last he knows the monster is there. He doesn’t see her, but she’s there. His sword is drawn. At any moment the horrid beast will lunge at him from the florescent depths. He waits, a breath, his sword ready to plunge through her callous heart. And then she emerges—the beast, the hag, the…
For a moment, Beowulf is stunned (as is the audience for seeing what is now ten minutes’ worth of naked people in a “PG-13” movie). This monster is no monster, but a woman who might very well be the most beautiful creature he ever gazed upon. He must kill her to rid the land of evil, but she has the upper hand—she’s a hot naked woman seducing him—the hand isn’t just upper, the whole deck is stacked. What is a man to do?
Well, he fathers an illegitimate monster, of course. And then he becomes king for “killing” Grendel’s mom. Then thirty years pass, the Golden Dragon Horn returns to the kingdom (a part of the story that I don’t feel like developing here; you’ll just have to see the movie), and Beowulf’s illegitimate dragon son starts terrorizing everyone. Then Beowulf returns to the cave to face Grendel’s not-dead-mom again, finds the dragon, etc., etc., and here we go once again.
Now, though I’m happy that I finally understand the story of Beowulf, I have to admit that something about it caught my attention. These kings were seduced by this beautiful monster, to the point of intimacy, because she looked like a woman (with animatronic hair). They were captured by the words of her lips and the curves of her hips, and they gave in. To this monster!!!
That’s odd in retrospect. Right?
Of course, maybe I’m crazy to think that all monsters look like Shelob (the giant spider from Lord of the Rings) or Elmo (the annoying red thing that giggles when kids tickle it). But a monster is still a monster, right? So why the hell sleep with it?
Call it lust if you want, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s human condition. The Bible says that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart. Well, obviously Beowulf was looking at outward appearance when this beast seduced him, because who in his right mind would sleep with a monster if the monster’s true appearance were present? A politician? Well, that might be a hidden message of the movie, but that’s not where we’re aiming. No, no one. So why let a monster that looks like Angelina Jolie have a privilege that only a woman should have? At the end of the day, as hot as she is, Grendel’s mom is still a monster. The exterior is merely a hologram. The interior looks like a golden lizard. And Beowulf slept with a scaly, slithery lizard. A little creepy if you ask me.
Anyway, Beowulf discussions aside, I started thinking about the nature of women again, trying to figure out what my current preferences are, if they’ve changed at all, or if I’m still as unyielding as ever. And I can still agree, after many years, that I’m still not interested in bad girls, materialistic girls, or deceitful girls (aka, the monsters). Yeah, there can be something sexy about them (the bad girls, not the materialistic or deceitful ones), I’ll say that much, but they can’t really offer anything worthwhile. At the end of the day, they may look good, but they can also destroy kingdoms and produce headaches. I’m pretty sure that’s something no man needs.
Oh well, that’s that. I gotta get up in a few hours, so I should probably go back to sleep. And I think I’m done with movies for the week.