March 01, 2011


Back in the day, this dog was a master of the formal boast.

The theme at Goat Rope these days is Beowulf, although there also links and comments about current events below. One thing that I find amusing about the poem is the art of formal boasting. In browsing the web, I've learned that several creative English teachers teaching Beowulf give their students the assignment of making a formal boast about themselves.

This kind of boast, usually done in the mead hall, wasn't considered to be impolite. It was more like a formal statement of intent to wreak havoc on some deserving person or monster. Beowulf issues his in advance of his fight with the man-eating Grendel.

You find something like that in the battle scenes of the Iliad, but those usually took place when Greek and Trojan enemies faced each other. One or the other (or both), would name himself and his family lineage and state his plan to slay the other, strip him of his armor as a trophy, and leave the body as food for the birds and dogs. In Beowulf, the boast happens before the fight and usually amongst friends.

We didn't have formal boasts when I was growing up. The closest thing to it happened when I was in junior high and someone would announce that he was "after" someone else. That was usually just a matter of talk, however. The art of formal boasting has declined, although the informal kind survives.

In the event that you, Gentle Reader, feel the need to issue one before doing battle with some monster or other, I've developed a simplified fill-in-the-blank form. It works best after you've pounded down some mead. Here goes:

I, _______, son (or daughter) of _________, who have done many mighty deeds, including ___________, hereby affirm in front of God and everybody that I intend to open a can upon ______________, and thereby to win lasting fame and glory or else die in the process.

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