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Re: More Beowulf

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  • Cole Matson
    Grace Walker Monk wrote:
    Message 1 of 16 , Aug 27, 2007
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      Grace Walker Monk wrote:

      << Okay, then let's talk about Beowulf. :-)>>


      << Obviously, I haven't seen the RZ version, scripted by Roger Avery and the
      fab Neil Gaiman. So neither of us can really speak to it directly, although
      you are correct in that the trailers seem to indicate something *ahem*
      different from what I read.>>

      Yes, you're right. We're just going by the trailer, which, as I think it was
      you who mentioned earlier, probably focused a bit more on
      Grendel's-Mother-as-Seducer than is actually in the movie, as a ploy to get
      butts in seats. But even a little Angelina Jolie is way out of text! Btw, I
      saw a blurb about BEOWULF in the current ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Quote: "'It's
      *Beowulf* enough that a high school English teacher can take a class to it,
      and afterward the kids can argue about the couple of things we have changed
      and whether they were legitimate things to do,' says co-writer Neil Gaiman (
      *Stardust*)." (Full text of the blurb at
      http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20051361_20051365_20051729,00.html.) Well,
      sounds like the discussion has already started! But I don't know a single
      English teacher who would feel comfortable taking his or her students on a
      school-sanctioned field trip that includes seeing Angelina Jolie "dripping
      wet and naked except for the gold liquid covering her unmentionables. In

      I've been thinking about this issue of adaptation as I speed through the
      Stephen R. Lawhead Pendragon Cycle. (I'm currently on Book 3, ARTHUR.) There
      are more and more differences from the tale I knew as I go along. For
      example, in this book, Merlin was not indefinitely trapped by Nimue in a
      cave. He was temporarily enchanted in a "deathly sleep" by a disguised
      Morgian (i.e. Morgan le Fay), using the name Nimue, but was awoken within a
      matter of days. But I really don't care how these books are different,
      because they prominently feature the part of Arthurian legend I love best:
      What Lawhead calls the "Kingdom of Summer." Camelot: An entire kingdom
      dedicated to God, to holiness, to Goodness and Right. A just king who loves
      and is loved by his people with all devotion, and rules with justice
      tempered by mercy, and with all compassion. The ideal Christian kingdom on
      earth, while it lasts. That's the dream, anyway, and it is never completely
      achieved, and the kingdom is finally destroyed. But the dream of Camelot
      lives on, in Avalon, and in all of us who feel the stirrings of the heart
      and spirit when we hear that name. That stirring, and the spiritual power of
      that name, are very, very real. Camelot is more real than death, because one
      day, death will die, and Camelot - or more truly, the Kingdom of which it is
      only a pale reflection - will live on forever. Lawhead's story, unlike some
      other modern retellings of Arthur, contains that dream of Camelot, and
      reading is often a devotional experience for me. I find myself saying "Amen"
      a lot. It's a spiritual, specifically Christian story, and makes me remember
      why I love Arthur, even when the details of plot and character are
      different. I think it's a great example of retelling a story in a way to
      honor the story itself. To retell a story, in a way that makes you love the
      original story even more, is a beautiful achievement, and makes the
      retelling itself better.

      I see your point about older "canon" authors versus more (chronologically)
      modern ones like Tolkien. You're right, Homer (and Beowulf) are still going
      to be taught in high schools, no matter what adaptations are made. Tolkien
      has a less secure place, not having had the hundreds or thousands of years
      required to establish the same foothold. My high school, which had
      previously required all entering freshmen to read THE HOBBIT over the summer
      and FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING during the school year, finally quit teaching
      Tolkien three years ago. (While I don't know the reasons, I'm sure they had
      little to nothing to do with the movies. The teacher who introduced the
      teaching of Tolkien, and had been championing the books for twenty years,
      loved the movies. I think the other freshmen English teachers, who are
      relatively new, just decided it was time for a change and overruled her.)
      Re: "stupid" criticism: It's funny how the Odyssey and Beowulf - which, if
      they were written today, would be classified as fantasy - can be lauded as
      artistic giants of civilization, but Tolkien can be dismissed as immature
      escapism and adventure stories for boys. Never mind that Middle-Earth is
      more akin to Beowulf than to the mass-market paperbacks with names like "The
      Sword of the Dragon" that fill the fantasy shelves. I mentioned earlier that
      when I started work last week at a bookstore, ALL the Tolkien was in the
      teens/young adults section. None whatsoever in with the adult fiction.
      Fortunately, they've been looking for somebody to take over the fantasy

      Others have been talking about translations. The one I own is the Seamus
      Heaney (which was the one assigned in my Tolkien class in college). I also
      have the one in the TOLKIEN FAN'S MEDIEVAL READER. I should get the Heaney
      with the Old English on the facing page, which I think would rock. I really
      want to study Old English when I go back to grad school (when I can find a
      good individualized study program that will let me read a lot of Tolkien,
      Lewis, Arthurian legend, and medieval Christian authors!).


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