Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beowulf the Boring

I am currently reading Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season upon my parents’ recommendation. After a final attempt at getting into the book on Monday night, I was finally lured into the story. It only took about thirty pages, but sometimes even thirty is a bit much. Anyway, the book has received so much critical acclaim from Oprah to The New Yorker, I am eager to see what kind of story it becomes, at least what it becomes for me. Maybe I will post a little more on it next week.

I am really here to celebrate being done with Beowulf. I was reading that for the last couple of weeks out of pure insanity. I had been forced to read it through in Middle English at Wyoming. Naturally, that was a painful and arduous process in which I was forced to the Oxford English Dictionary on average once a line which makes for a lot of such trips because Beowulf is a 3000+ line poem.

So, when I picked up Seamus Heaney’s bestselling translation of the classic I was pretty excited about getting to know the story a little more because this time I could read it in relatively contemporary English. The translation was amazing. Heaney did what very few people could do, or more specifically, would want to do with their lives and according to many academics, he was the best man for it. I’ll trust what the pros say and agree.

My excitement for the new, easy to read translation was easily washed away by the meat of the Beowulf story. It is just one of those canonical works that doesn’t sit well with me. The story is so uninteresting, outlandish, and boiled down to very archaic delusions of grandeur about proving one’s mettle that it doesn’t hold a bit of worth for me, beside it being incredibly old. The age of the text (which was most likely created around 700-750 AD) makes it a remarkable piece of work, but seriously, that’s about it with me. The story is so overrated. Here it is in a nutshell:

Beowulf, a great Geat warrior, sails across the sea to save a people from Grendel. Grendel has killed many. Beowulf, oh mighty warrior, chops Grendel’s arm off and the beast is defeated. Grendel’s mom gets really pissed off and Beowulf has to fight her too. He is so brave. He wins. He gets rich. The other warriors are pussies. Beowulf goes home. He gets old balls, but his legendary fighting skills do not leave him. With the help of a young warrior he defeats a dragon. Before the dragon dies he strikes a deadly blow to Beowulf, but with his last breath, when his humility has taken a hold of him, he tells his brethren to build a massive monument to him and to never let the legend of Beowulf die because he was the greatest warrior ever. The end.

Regardless of the translation, that’s what you get. So, please, don’t waste your time. If you do, then by all means, call me, and then we can rail on Beowulf for an hour. That would be fun.

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