Monday, June 20, 2005

books: grendel

i was supposed to have read this in high school - i think it was my ninth grade english teacher who had a thing for old english/anglo-saxon literature. none of it seemed even vaguely familiar, however, so i must assume that i only pretended to read it those 12 years ago. better late than never.

this novel tells the story from the 8th century anglo-saxon epic beowulf from the perspective of the villian - a monster named grendel. how complicated can a ravenous murdering monster really be? more so than you can absorb on one reading only, i promise.

among the many interesting things to talk about is grendel's view of religion. i had a difficult time deciding whether his disrespect of the high priests of the danes was due to his professed rationalist objectivism or whether he simply resented the fact that these humans would worship a wooden statue ("the destroyer") rather than he, a destroyer in the flesh. perhaps it was a bit of both - grendel seems genuinely confused at the religious fervor shown by some and play-acted by others.

in truth, if you want to get the full effect, you'll probably need to go read beowulf as well. it's in the public domain, being 12 centuries old. you can read the full text in both modern and old english here. check it out for no other reason than to see the first word: Hwaet! (according to my 8th grade english teacher, it has a breathy "h" sound and ryhmes with "bat".) transalation: pay attention! or listen up! try that on your kids or students and let me know how it works.


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