RE: [mythsoc] Re: Guy Gavriel Kay's work
> > I like seeing how old stories are given new treatments. What follows"Beowulf" has four main episodes. They are Breca, Grendel, Grendel's
> >one example that comes to mind.
> > "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" is a very strange retelling of
> >"Beowulf". It is very intense and includes ALL of the episodes and
> >characters of the ninth century story. The fun is picking out"who is
> >and "what is what".
>This is hardly the first reading that comes to my mind of "Dark Knight
>Returns". But whatever, I suppose it can be made to fit "Beowulf" too.
>(Is it just supposed to be the dragon scene, or what?)
>- David Bratman
mother and the Dragon.
"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" was originally sold in four issues. They
dealt with Two-Face, Mutant Leader, Joker and Superman.
In the first episode, the hero contends with someone who was once a good
friend, someone that had the same struggles that they had but who did not
finish the race. In Breca's case, the race is literal. In Harvey Dent's or
Two-Face's case, it is spiritual.
In the second episode, the hero faces a monster. Beowulf faces Grendel
and Batman faces the monstrous Mutant Leader. Beowulf tears Grendel's arm
off. At the end of the second match, Batman breaks ML's arms and legs one
The third episode, the hero faces the mother of monsters. Beowulf tracks
Grendel's mother to the bottom of a dark foul lake where he kills her after
a terrible battle. Batman tracks the Joker's trail of sensless murder
through a carnival where he defeats him deep within the Tunnel of Love where
the Joker dies.
The end comes when the hero faces the supernatural. Beowulf faces the
Dragon and dies in victory. Batman faces Superman and kicks his butt but
"dies" of a heart attack.
There are differences in some small details. But on the whole they are
the same story.
Hrothgar's country is menaced by monsters that only Beowulf defeats.
Commissioner Gordon's city is savaged criminals that only Batman can match.
Unferth doubts Beowulf and tries to hinder him. The new commissioner not
only doubts Batman but does her best to bring him in under arrest.
Wiglaf stands beside Beowulf against the Dragon. Carrie Kelly takes
Robin's place much earlier in the story but stands beside Batman even up to
the battle with Superman.
As I said, there are differences but the main details are there and in
the right order. There is not much of a struggle to make the pieces
And, I have to admitt, that I did enjoy seeing the Joker kill David
Letterman, Paul Shaffer and Doctor Ruth. And the author of "Seduction of
the Innocent", Fredric Wertham, was also killed in the persona of the
Joker's doctor, Dr. Wolper, who also treated Harvey Dent. Both doctors had
very unpleasant things to say about Batman.
But the clue for me was that one word in "Beowulf", "aglaeca" which means
both "hero" and "monster". Batman fits that to a "T". As a character he is
very familiar to most Americans and possibly to many outside the States as
well. Maybe as familiar as Beowulf was to his original audience. As such
they are mythic in stature if not in reality. Batman is both hero and
monster. A hero because he stands between the people and the monsters that
threaten them. A monster because only a monster could be strong enough to
fight another monster.
P.S. As for the Fionavar Tapestry, I will agree that Kay is clumsy in many
ways. Some of the story is painful to get through. But his use of the
Arthurian Cycle is for me the saving grace.
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