Friday, September 17, 2010

Ethereal and Excellent (Boast)

Elizabeth the excellent, elegant and ethereal.
Ancestors from Asia, family from France.
With a moody mother and a feisty father,
I life the life and fly freely.

Loyalty and laugher, friends flock to me.
I protect my posse with my natal ninja skills.
I saved a shrieking animal, its leg torn and limp.
I stopped that foolish friend from committing the unforgivable crime.

Co-captain of a club and academically advanced,
I tread the tough path of  success and seclusion.
Be it science or math, singing or music,
I excel with ease, experience and expertise.

With my character and compassion, my integrity and intelligence,
I constantly overcome obstacles and acquire accolades often.
Hard working winner and determined to deliver,
I am a celebrated champion; my charisma captivates colleges.

I move with a metal-machine, my driving is dainty and daring.
I slip on my sun-glasses and trick out the turnpike.
With my travel-sized ticker-taper I type my trendy theses.
 A tutor and a teacher, I’m an inspiration and leave my ichnite.

These dim-witted demons are destroying my demeanor,
So I shake off the sadness and step into my shelter.
When gloomy I gaze at the glowing-orb in the galactic sky
I hope to hear the harmony in my habitat.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grendel as the Narrator (Journal 10)

John Gardner, the author of Grendel, uses Grendel as a symbol for the necessity for a dark side to everything, where a hero is only as great at the monster he faces. This means that Grendel, while trying to be a good character, ends up being the villain when he isn’t accepted by the Anglo-Saxons.
Grendel’s status as a self-described monster affects how he tells the story. Grendel’s isolation and loneliness as the only of his kind leads him to feel the need to be understood and have connection to the world. In Grendel, the humans are portrayed negatively. When Grendel goes to Herot when the Shaper is singing, he is attacked and driven away. After that incident, Grendel is wary of the humans and watches Hrothgar’s kingdom daily in hopes to be part of the Anglo-Saxon society. By using Grendel’s perspective to tell the story, a new light is brought into the story. Grendel feels like he is related to humanity and even though he eats humans, he is moved by their works. He witnesses how the humans in Herot live, their behavior, and their logic. Instead of the humans’ fear and insecurities leading the story, like in Beowulf, Grendel’s animalistic yet human instincts give Grendel a unique viewpoint, thus a special way of telling his story.

Anglo-Saxon Values and Themes (Journal 4)

Beowulf reveals many values of Anglo-Saxon society as well as universal themes. Beowulf, the hero of the story, embodies the values and represents the themes. Within Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon culture, heroism, comitatus, and the fight between good and evil are values and themes that are both highly regarded and sought after.
Heroism is both a value of Anglo-Saxons and a theme of Beowulf. It includes bravery, loyalty, and generosity, all of which Beowulf personifies. “Beowulf, a prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people by a bloodthirsty fiend” (l 510-514). By defeating Grendel, Beowulf earned the right to be glorified by the Geats. Also, while defeating the dragon, Grendel, and Grendel’s mother, he displays his heroic nature and desire to leave his legacy behind after his death.
In Anglo-Saxon society, comitatus is a highly regarded characteristic in thanes. It is the life-giving allegiance to a king while expecting his compassion and generosity in return. “‘When we crossed the sea, my comrades and I, I already knew that all my purpose was this: to win the good will of your people or die in battle, pressed in Grendel’s fierce grip. Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in this hall welcome my death’” (l 364-369)! Even with the doubt that he may not survive his battle with Grendel, the beast haunting Herot, Beowulf and his men bravely trek to Hrothgar’s kingdom to exterminate the monster.
A recurring theme in Beowulf is the fight between good and evil. Beowulf, the hero and savior of Hrothgar and his people, travels to Herot to battle Grendel, the evil monster spawned from Cain, the first murderer on earth. They both struggle to defeat one another, good versus evil, both powerful and fighting for his life. “That shepherd of evil, guardian of crime, knew at once that nowhere on earth had he met a man whose hands were harder; his mind was flooded with fear – but nothing could take his talons and himself from that tight hard grip. Grendel’s one thought was to run from Beowulf, flee back to his marsh and hide there: this was a different Herot than the hall he had emptied” (l 432-437). Throughout the poem, Grendel wreaks havoc in Hrothgar’s kingdom, instilling hatred of him in others. Beowulf, however, arrives from a distant kingdom to save Hrothgar and gain fame as well as a legacy as a hero.

Grendel: a Parody of Beowulf (Journal 8)

     Grendel by John Gardner is a parody based on the epic, Beowulf. It is a mocking imitation of Beowulf and completely changes the reader’s opinion of Beowulf and Grendel as well as portrays the world of philosophy as opposed to the world of Beowulf. In Beowulf, Grendel is made out to be the ultimate villain, bent on destroying Herot and eating all of its inhabitants. However, in Grendel, Grendel is a thinking-being that is striving to be accepted into Anglo-Saxon society. Gardner writes Grendel in such a way that its readers cannot help but pity the beast and its delusional conversation with the Dragon that resides in his imagination. Beowulf, on the other hand, paints a grotesque portrait of Grendel and his yearly raids of Herot, with no sign of sympathy towards Grendel, the eternally damned.

     Likewise, in Beowulf, Beowulf is depicted as the hero who saves Herot from the evil of Grendel. It is written that he slays Grendel, and happily ever after for Herot and Hrothgar. On the other hand, in Grendel, Beowulf seemingly defeats Grendel with his words of pity and it is thought that he released Grendel from the pain of his lonely existence. Grendel, by changing the way characters and events are viewed, is a parody of Beowulf, both mocking and admiring the literary piece.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anglo-Saxon Bonds: (Journal 9)

     In Anglo-Saxon society, the most important bond between a lord and his retainers was loyalty. This is most obviously shown by Comitatus, the willingness of a thane to devote his life to the protection of his lord, so long as he is paid generously and well kept for. These thanes are willing to die for their chieftain out of loyalty for him and their kingdom. “Treat all the world as the world, deserves, with love or with hate but never with harm, though an enemy seek to scorch him in hell, or set the flames of a funeral pyre under his lord” (l 111-115). This quote explains that, although the world should not be treated with harm, one’s lord will always be in danger from his enemies, and thus needs constant and undying protection from his thanes and followers. In “The Wife’s Lament,” the wife weeps, “I set off to join and serve my lord, a friendless exile in my sorry plight” (l 9-10). When she leaves to join her lord, she gives up everything to end a dispute between clans, thus marrying the lord, her husband. This, although not Comitatus, shows her devotion to her clan and her willingness to give up her life for the greater good.

     It goes without saying that if one of those retainers is exiled from the kingdom, that the tragedy of separation will eat away at their being, as shown in “The Seafarer” and “The Wife’s Lament.” Burton Raffel’s “The Seafarer” describes “how the sea took me, swept me back and forth in sorrow and fear and pain, showed me suffering in a hundred ships, in a thousand ports, and in me” (l 1-4). In this quote, the old sailor, exiled for an unknown reason, voices his distress at being kept at sea and away from his lord whom he was loyal. “Full often here the absence of my lord comes sharply to me” (l 33-34). In “The Wife’s Lament,” after being separated and banished from her husband and lord, the wife of the poem relays her grief and loss. She is unlike herself without the presence of her lord to guide her and protect her. Being exiled from a lord or chieftain, while an obvious punishment for some misdoing, is a painful and humiliating chastisement.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Grendel’s Philosophical Journey (Journal 6)

     Grendel, a parody of Beowulf, is written by John Gardner. Within this novel, there is a beast named Grendel who is struggling to discover who he is and why he is living. This monster, this evil demon, Grendel, is lonely and doesn’t fit into Anglo-Saxon society. However, while traveling around Herot and its surrounding kingdoms, he begins to create his philosophy on life and the world. Beginning in chapter one and ending in chapter twelve, Grendel matures through a philosophical journey, through which he discovers the harsh realities of life and the cruelty of prejudices.

     In chapter one of Grendel, “Aries the Ram,” Grendel is developing a world-view. This chapter includes Grendel’s last days before he flashes back to his childhood and his inevitable death. He comes across a ram that threatens to jump off a cliff and does not acknowledge his presence. Grendel is disgusted by the ram’s animalistic, mindless sexual urges. However, he relents that he is no nobler than the animal, for he is a pointless monster of death. Therefore, Grendel is developing his personal view of the way the world works and how pointless it all is.

     In chapter two, “Taurus the Bull,” Grendel adopts the philosophy of the Solipsist. This is the philosophical idea that one’s own mind is all that exists. Grendel even goes as far as to say “I exist; nothing more” (ch. 2). When he encounters the bull that attacks him in the same fashion repeatedly, he discovers that the world is chaos and nothing and that “I alone exist” (ch. 2). From this moment on, Grendel describes his death and the fatal wound that he claims is an accident and a mere convenience of chance.

     In chapter three, “Gemini the Twins,” Grendel hears the Shaper’s poetry and believes everything that he hears. The Shaper’s words have the power to manipulate what is believed. He can even control history, which allows the Shaper to manipulate what the heroes believe. Grendel is heavily influenced by the Shaper and what he says existence is.

     In chapter four, “Cancer the Crab,” Grendel discovers from the Shaper that he is descended from Cain, a brother-murderer and the father of demons, and is brought into Old Testament theology and references. The Biblical story begins when Cain is angered by God’s rejection of his gift. After hearing god tell him that “sin is a demon crouching at the door. It shall be eager for you, and you will be mastered by it,” Cain kills his brother, Abel, and is cursed for eternity. Grendel is willing to go along with the Old Testament story of his being a demon and an evil monster, so long that he can be a part of the Anglo-Saxon society. He is a child of darkness amongst children of light and wants to be accepted into human life.

     In chapter five, “Leo the Lion,” Grendel’s philosophy shifts towards that of Alfred Whitehead, the fundamental connection of all things, while speaking to the Dragon. Whitehead’s philosophy focuses on the “concepts of life, organism, function, instantaneous reality, interaction, and order or nature” He is a processist that focuses on change of every sort, and while the Dragon is a nihilist and thinks that all events are nothing more than random accident, they both agree that there is a fundamental connection between all things and processes.

     In chapter six, “Virgo the Virgin,” skepticism is the philosophy that Grendel adopts. Basically, he becomes distrustful of the world. After meeting the Dragon, he believes the world is meaningless and that the Shaper is ignorant about life. Grendel stumbles over a dead man’s body, shocked that humans would murder each other in hatred. Also, while he accepts that other beings besides him exist, he has concluded that he cannot fit in with their society and that they are all his enemies. Up until now, Grendel has been trying to befriend the humans at Herot. However, after meeting the dragon and losing hope in the Shaper, he gives up hope on the humans and becomes a skeptic.

     In chapter seven, “Libra the Balance,” Wealtheow’s Christianity influences Grendel’s philosophy. She exposes Grendel to Christian values, such as fellowship and communion. He is influenced by the fact that Wealtheow tries to bring harmony to a place, Herot, that needs peacekeeping. She is a symbol of hope and unity, as well as a peacemaker amongst all humans. However, Grendel is not used to such kindness, and after seeing the war between mankind, he finds himself attracted to her and her innocence. This tears at Grendel, who ultimately decides to kill Wealtheow, but at the last minute changes his mind and lets her live.

     In chapter eight, “Scorpio the Scorpion,” Hrothulf’s Machiavellian philosophy comes into play. He is the “adopted child” of Hrothgar, as well as his nephew who will cause problems later when it comes to choosing an heir. Hrothulf and his peasant mentor, “Red Horse,” talk about the state’s power and dictatorship. The aristocracy, they confirm, is cruel, manipulative, and overly dictatorial. Grendel, overhearing their many secret conversations, picks up this philosophy of the young plotter, and his view of Hrothgar and kingdoms sours even further.

     In chapter nine, “Sagittarius the Archer,” Ork and his views on religion stun Grendel. After Grendel tricks Ork into thinking that he is the “Great Destroyer,” Ork tries to tell three of his fellow priests that he has met and spoken to the great one. He tells that the King of Gods is the ground for rationality, and that the ultimate evil is that time is perpetual perishing, and being actual involves death. In other words, death is inevitable, and that is the ultimate evil in the world. However, they do not understand what he is saying, and instead poke fun at his sanity. When a fourth priest, younger than the others, hears what Ork says, he somewhat sympathizes with Ork, which further bewilders Grendel, who wonders if he wants to be like they who are blindly following ancient religion.

     At the end of Grendel, John Gardner gives Grendel the pessimism of Nietzsche and the philosophy of his philosophical nemesis, John-Paul Sartre, nihilism. In other words, starting in chapter ten, “Capricorn the Great,” Grendel becomes a nihilist in the descriptive sense that there is no longer any real substance, no traditional, social, political, moral, or religious values left. When it comes to John-Paul Sartre, Grendel thinks that man creates his own values; therefore everyone has different interpretations of values, right, and wrong. In essence, those values have absolutely no meaning outside that individual’s consciousness. All in all, Grendel believes in nothing, since those five things encompass Anglo-Saxon living and his values do not apply to the humans at Herot.

     Grendel, who goes on a long philosophical journey in twelve years, creates his own personal views of the world, which readers experience through his narrative of Grendel. His perception of the world around him explains his reactions to humans’ prejudice as well as the cruelty of the world. Through his excursion, Grendel goes through several different philosophies, which eventually combine to form his last philosophy before his death, nihilism. Since others cannot understand him, and he cannot understand others, Grendel believes that nothing exists but himself, for only he understands his innermost thoughts. At the time of his death, Grendel welcomes the relief of the loneliness that he had to suffer through for years, ending his cycle of philosophies.

Grendel’s Attitude Toward Language (Journal 3)

     “According to Gardner, art (and especially poetry) is the only thing that gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless universe. Language is the only way that humans can break through the wall that isolates them from other humans and from the world of meaning.”

     Grendel sees language as a way of escaping his prison of loneliness. From the time he is born, Grendel has lived in a cave with his mother and in total linguistic isolation. However, as Grendel begins to venture out of the cave, he beings to mimic the humans and learn their language. Eventually, Grendel is able to talk to other beings in a language that he thinks is the same as the humans’, but nobody can understand them, thus deepening his feelings of aloneness and frustration. He is eternally trapped in a one-way communication, an interior monologue in which only he, himself, can understand his attempts at language.

     After hearing the Shapers epic poetry, he wants to be a part of then, even if he has to be an evil character. So long as he is accepted, Grendel is willing to be the “bad guy,” referencing the ties between himself and Cain from the Old Testament. He is alone throughout Grendel and searches for ways to either be with the humans or part of their story. Slowly, through the progression of the story, Grendel acquires more language and understanding of language. He speaks from his consciousness and ties the story in a modern sense. Grendel experiments with different types of genres, eventually learning how to apply lines and verse to tell a story, similar to that of the story, Beowulf.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Motifs in Anglo-Saxon Literature (Journal 7)

     Within “The Seafarer” and “The Wife’s Lament,” there are several motifs, or recurring ideas, that appear frequently in many Anglo-Saxon works. In “The Seafarer, the three main motifs appear to be exile, journey, and fate. There is a sailor in “The Seafarer” that is all alone in the vast ocean, running away from the land for unknown reasons. “It tells how the sea took me, swept me back and forth in sorrow and fear and pain, showed me suffering in a hundred ships, in a thousand ports, and in me” (l 1-5). Although it is unknown why the sea-man was exiled and avoided the land at all costs, he suffered at sea, punishing himself for some nameless act or deed he had done as a youth. As the sailor makes his journey as an adult, he continually ponders about his life at sea. “And how my heart would beat, knowing once more the salt waves tossing and the towering sea! The time for journeys would come and my soul called me eagerly out, sent me over the horizon, seeking foreigners’ homes” (l 33-38). He feels the adrenaline and the possible dangers of being at sea, the waves able to crash their ship and kill them all at any moment in time. However, the sailor is making a journey, not only to escape his past, but to build a new future for himself that he can live with without guilt. Finally, it is said that “fate is stronger and God mightier than any man’s mind…Praise the Holy Grade of Him who honored us, eternal, unchanging creator of earth” (115-124). In other words, in “The Seafarer,” the man is with only his fellow seamen and their lives are in the hands of God and his decisions in the harsh, unforgiving sea. It was fate that led the sailor to sea, to escape his past by exiling himself to sea, and the journey towards a new future.

     In “The Wife’s Lament,” there were many motifs that surfaced, such as exile, betrayal, grief and loss. Within this poetry, a wife tells her story of how she and her husband were separated. “A friendless exile in my sorry plight, my husband’s kinsmen plotted secretly how they might separate us from each other that we might live in wretchedness apart most widely in the world: and my heart longed” (l 10-14). This is both exile and betrayal. Her husband’s kinsmen forcefully drove her and her husband apart, thus betraying the trust that kinsmen form with one another. Another example of exile, along with the grief that comes along with it, is the wife crying that “Since my dear lord is outcast, far off in a distant land… my weary hearted lord must suffer pitiless anxiety” (l 47-52). Not only does she miss her husband dearly, but he has been sent far away from her, exiled to a distant land where they cannot see one another for ages. This loss leads to even more loss, for when the wife loses her husband, she soon learns that she lost his love and her way of living as well. “All that has changed and it is now as though our marriage our love had never been, and far or near forever I must suffer the feud of my beloved husband dear… Old is this earth-cave, all I do is yearn… Full often here the absence of my lord comes sharply to me” (l 24-34). Even without her husband’s love, the wife still yearns for his company and companionship while grieving the loss of love that never was.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Misunderstood Grendel (Journal 5)

     Grendel, a character from Beowulf and Grendel, lives a sad existence, wreaking havoc while contemplating the evil within himself, trying to rid himself of his soft, innocent side, and constantly being misunderstood. He has lived in an isolated cave for a majority of his life, until he jumps through a pit of fire-snakes and stumbles upon the outside world.

     At one point in time, while still young and relatively innocent, Grendel’s leg is caught in a tree after dawn. He cannot free himself, and a bull repeatedly charges him, injuring his whole body. Grendel falls to sleep, and when he wakes up, strange creatures slightly resembling his mother are standing around him, staring at him. He is mistaken for part of a tree, an angry tree spirit who is hungry for pig! When he wails for food, crying out in anguish, the humanoid creatures let loose a volley of attacks on him, even though they believe he is a tree spirit.

     Grendel is known as an ugly and bloodthirsty monster to Hrothgar and his people. As he tries to enter Herot while the Shaper is singing and join in their fun, he is misunderstood, attacked, and deemed a savage beast, a creature with God’s curse upon him. The Shaper spins tales of his birthright, that Grendel is a descendent of the evil Cain, who was the first murderer on Earth. These stories bother Grendel, who seeks out the Dragon for advice. After meeting the Dragon, however, Grendel’s heart becomes hard and cold, and he is bestowed with invincibility. Soon after, the Shaper’s poetry angers him, and he attacks Herot, raiding Hrothgar’s kingdom on a nightly basis for twelve years. He becomes feared far and wide, and gains a murderous reputation.

     Once Grendel’s name is well-known, a valiant man, the son of Ecglaf, brings it upon himself to slay Grendel, the beast that torments Hrothgar’s kingdom. Unferth, the self-proclaimed “hero,” bravely battles Grendel with both words and a sword. Grendel, his evil side surfacing after his visit with the Dragon, beings to taunt and mock Unferth by throwing apples as a means of shaming the hero and amusing himself. Grendel leaves Unferth, and he goes back to his isolated cave, hidden beneath a marsh and protected by a pit of fire-snakes. Unferth, the pious fool, follows Grendel back to his home and challenges him to a duel to the death, to which Grendel does not reply. Ecglaf’s son waits for Grendel to slay him, defenseless and anxious to die a hero’s death. Grendel, however, has a change of heart, and carries him back to Herot, setting him at the door and killing the guards so he is not misunderstood. Although vicious and filled with unkempt anger, Grendel finds it in his heart to spare the pitiful man.

     During an angry, frenzied raid, Grendel stumbles upon Wealtheow, Hrothgar’s queen, the woman who stirs his human emotions. Bothered by these emotions, Grendel decides to kill her. He thinks about roasting her over a fire, exposing her “hole” to the flames. However, he decides against it, and he is cured of his feelings towards her and his lonely stirrings.

     All in all, Grendel is a good character who is constantly misunderstood. In fact, it is his being misunderstood that leads him to the Dragon who corrupts his innocence. After meeting the dragon, Grendel’s whole demeanor and way of thinking change. Even after claiming that he does not live to kill humans, Grendel begins to raid Herot often, killing and frightening its inhabitants. However, maybe if Grendel had not been so misunderstood when he was younger, he would not have turned to darker deeds to gain attention from the outside world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beowulf versus Aaron (The Fallen by Thomas Sniegoski) (Journal 2)

     Beowulf, the archetype of the dragon slayer, the hero who faces death in order to save a threatened community, reminds me of Aaron from the series The Fallen by Thomas Sniegoski. When Aaron turns eighteen, the world around him changes forever. He starts to hear voices and learns that he is the son of a mortal and an angel, and has been chosen to redeem the fallen angels. In his quest to redeem their right to return to Heaven, he faces the Powers who are on a self-determined mission to exterminate the fallen angels who they believed betrayed God.

     Both Beowulf and Aaron are heroes who face death to protect the people they love and their threatened community, as well as repeatedly show their honor, courage, and determination to succeed. Aaron often risks his demigod life to save his talking dog, Gabriel, his angelic friends, and the girl who he falls in love with. Beowulf does not allow his thanes to fight alongside him, and he single-handedly defeats his foes. Similarly, Aaron protects his loved ones at all costs, and he constantly proves himself to his fallen allies as their savior, the Redeemer. As the Redeemer, Aaron “forgives” the angels who have sinned against the Lord and he allows them to return to their home, heaven. Beowulf, while not sending his people to heaven, protects them from the wrath of angry monsters and demons sired from Cain and his descendents. Both Aaron and Beowulf are spirited and admirable heroes who put the lives of others before their own.

Contemporary Hero - Percy Jackson (Journal 1)

     Percy Jackson, a fictional contemporary hero from the book Percy Jackson & The Olympians, is a half-blood that has recently learned of his demigod ancestry. His father is Poseidon and his mother is a mortal, and there are many evil beings and other demigods out to get him. As a hero, he faces the evil plotting of gods trying to overthrow one another and underworld beings trying to annihilate him. From fighting a Minotaur before even knowing his demigod abilities to being stung by a scorpion and left for dead, Jackson was constantly hunted.

     Percy confronts this evil, not only because he must fight for his life, but to save the world in hope of protecting his mother and the world. His motivation is his mother’s death as he flees to Camp Half-Blood. Her death pushes Jackson to train with his demigod abilities and face the evils that threaten the human realm. Percy goes to the Underworld to confront Hades and get his mother’s life back.

     Percy Jackson represents the virtue “kindness.” He is known as a loyal, compassionate demigod within Camp Half-Blood. He refuses to leave his friends in the middle of a fight and sees the good in people, humans, gods, and demigods alike. Furthermore, Percy could also represent the virtue “temperance.” Not only does he believe in justice, but Jackson also has a great sense of honor in all the things he does. Percy is a great, fictional character that fights to the death to defend what he believes in.