This is the first of two posts on the subject of Beowulf
and my poem 'Mother-Tongue'; the second will be a meta post.
Last year I participated in the annual Yuletide
Challenge. Yuletide, for those unfamiliar with it, is the fandom equivalent of a Secret Santa
exchange where every participant is assigned another participant who has written prompts for three to four obscure/rarely written about fandoms. The canons, i.e. source material, range from mythology to TV commercials, books to antropomorphic websites. (I'm particularly fond of The Old Spice Guy commercial
interpretation of Beowulf written by Castiron
, the poem Gamol-léac
.) Each participant writes a minimum of a thousand words responding to one of their assigned prompts and submits it late in December; on Christmas morning the archive goes live with all the authors listed as anonymous. On January 1st, the authors are revealed.
I chose to write a poem in response to the following prompt
I've studied the poem a few times in lit classes and wrote a little about what the critics have to say about the monsters, a topic that was fascinating. (Haven't read James Gardner's Grendel yet.) One of the most interesting lines of discussion concerned Grendel's mother, her monstrousness, her namelessness, and how she herself lives by the Anglo-Saxon heroic warrior code. Another thing that intrigues me is the silent role of women in general. We have several women in a variety of circumstances whose lives and thoughts I wish I were privy to. Yet another thing that interests me is the poem itself. Who wrote it and when? What were the circumstances of it being written? Where did the story come from? Why was it transcribed and kept? Meta in the form of fic is always a good thing, if you wanted to go that route. Please, go crazy!
The result? A 1,097 word piece inspired by the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf
that weaves together the stories of Beowulf's mother and Grendel's mother. Other references include John Gardner's Grendel
, as well as Alivin A. Lee's Gold-Hall and Earth-Dragon: Beowulf as Metaphor
. Beta credit goes to moragmacpherson
, who was a solid bastion of support despite her claimed 'tin ear' for poetry, and for peoppenheimer
, who is a wonderful poet in his own right.Mother-Tongue
So. The honor-women in days gone by
and the men who ruled them had grace and greatness.
We have heard of their sons’ heroic campaigns.
There was Hrethel’s daughter, cup-bearer to the Geats
soother of mead-halls, weaving peace between king and thanes.
The All-Father favored her with beauty.
She was not destined to be a queen in a foreign land;
her father kept her close to home.
Dressed in gold-finery, she served high and low alike
performing the courtesies, setting other women to shame
with her example. She was a right woman.
In time Hrethel gave this gem-woman to mighty Ecgtheow
as reward for his loyalty, sealing the bond between them.
The treasure-giver honored his thane with his only daughter.
She became mistress of her own household,
a balm in bed to the battle-hewn warrior
and a comfort to his people.
Lightly she stepped in the mead-hall, listening
always for words roused in anger or formal boast.
The torque-bearer bestowed her golden favor
with care, heart-sore with worry
for Geat-land was beset with monsters,
the great Hrethel hard-pressed to keep his borders strong.
The Lord of All Things was testing his thane
giving the shield of his people chance to show his courage
and prove his war-band’s might against unnatural foes.( Read more... )
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