February 08, 2011

A fiend out of hell

The theme at Goat Rope these days is Beowulf, although you will also find links and comments about current events. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts.

I've been blogging on this subject for a while now but am just getting around to the cool parts, i.e. the monsters. You may recall there are three in all, Grendel, a kind of humanoid man eating giant; his unnamed mother, who was if anything nastier than her son; and a dragon. Grendel first appears after Hrothgar, king of the Spear Danes, builds Heorot, his grand mead hall. All that nightly carousing by drunken proto-Vikings gets on Grendel's last nerve.

Things were going just fine for Hrothgar and his drunken buddies, but trouble was waiting in the wings. Here's a passage from Seamus Heaney's translation:

So times were pleasant for the people there
until finally one, a fiend out of hell,
began to work his evil in the world.
Grendel was the name of this grim demon
haunting the marches, marauding round the heath
and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time
in misery among the banished monsters,
Cain's clan, whom the creator had outlawed
and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel
the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:
Cain got no good from committing that murder
because the Almighty made him anathema
and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms
and the giants too who strove with God
time and again until He gave them their reward.

The Anglo-Saxons had a real thing about the story of Cain, and found in it an explanation and origin for all kinds of nasty creatures that inhabit northern European folklore. More on that tomorrow.

REJECTING THE FRAME. Economist Dean Baker takes on one of his favorite targets here.

AMERICAN WORKERS. Does American business need them any more?

HEALTH CARE REFORM. What will the US Supreme Court do when it lands in the docket?

OH GOOD. Meat eating machines and furniture are here.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN on walking.

BACK TO MONSTERS. Here's an interesting if lengthy New Yorker profile of filmmaker, author and monster fan Guillermo del Toro.


1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

Special request more big dog pics