Sunday, November 25, 2007


Illustration by Lynd WardI had to buy a copy of Anthem by Ayn Rand for my son's High School English class, which I did at Barnes & Noble since they were kind enough to email me a 25% off coupon (otherwise I would have gone to my personal version of Paradise, Half-Price Books!). So as long as I was out anyway I decided to pick up a copy of Beowulf as well. Not because of the current computer game-style movie (or this Beowulf movie, or this one, or this epic cartoon), which I probably will not see, but because I've always had a thing for Beowulf -- the ancient poem, that is.

When I was in Junior High School, Scholastic Books put out a marvelous little edition that I've since lost. To be honest what attracted me was the woodcut-style illustrations of Beowulf in his cool boars-head battle helmet and Bayeux tapestry chain mail (which any real Beowulf would never wear). But then the story sucked me in -- the undaunted hero diving headlong into a lake set to boil by the blood of his enemy.

What draws me back now is the last story, the story of the aged king standing alone against one last dragon to defend his people. In a way he reminds me of James T. Kirk. These guys never had to be the one putting themselves on the line, heading up the landing party or risking death dodging dragons. There were others quite able to go out and get killed (that, after all, is the way it works in real life -- sending the 18 year old kids to die while leaders stratagize in their castles). But somehow Beowulf and Kirk always wound up fighting the latest monster.

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