The Future of A Blogger’s Beowulf

Summer’s over and fall is on the way, it’s time to let you all know what’s going on with this blog.

To be incredibly brief: nothing.

After the flurry of activity that saw me posting here twice a week, and then reliably once a week, and that helped me post all 3100+ lines of the poem, activity here will run down to nothing.

Why

There are a few reasons for this change to the plans that I’d made for the blog back at the beginning of 2018.

1. Work

One of these is my continual search for work.

I’m a freelancer, and perhaps was too proud of that fact to realize that I just haven’t been able to consistently earn enough to make a living from freelancing alone. As a result I’m starting to look into office and retail work, which will necessarily leave me with less time to tend to this blog and create content for it.

2. New Challenges

Another is that I want to move onto the next big challenge in my literary life: publishing. I’ve written a lot of stories over the years, and a handful of them have been published in various collections and journals, but I’ve never approached publishing as a business. This needs to change before 2019, since not only am I planning on launching the ebook (and eventually the hardcopy) of my translation of Beowulf in that year, but I’m also planning to publish my own original fiction then as well.

3. There’s Just So Little Time

Preparing my translation and those other works so that I can completely follow through with my self-publishing plans will take me some time over these next few months. And time spent with my fiancée and on whatever work I end up with will leave me with too little time to make the kind of content that I’d want to post on this site.

As a result, until my translation gets published in the new year, this site is going to function as more of an archive than an active blog. It’s my hope that people will still come across it (and be directed to it!) and find what’s posted here interesting and engaging.

The Podcast

As for the podcast, I’m sad to say that it’s not going to continue beyond the current three episodes.

I’d like to deeply thank author Paul Begadon and Illustrator Alexis Fajardo for their time and participation in that experiment. And I’d also like to apologize to them for not doing more with it. Someday down the road I’d love to do some sort of classical epic poetry podcast. For now, though, it just makes more sense for it to come to an end.

Wrap-Up

Thanks to everyone who’s followed along with this blog over the years. If you know people who are looking for what I’d call a casually loyal translation of Beowulf, I hope that you’ll point them over here.

In the meantime, I’ll be linking all of the clean poem pieces together for easy navigation on this site. Watch for the new intro post for this blog this Saturday (September 8).

And keep your eyes peeled in December 2018 for the launch announcement for the e-book of my translation!

Thanks again to all of you!
-Nicholas “NSCZach” Zacharewicz

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Beowulf and Storytelling with Lex Fajardo (Podcast)

Here is episode 2 of Fate Going As It Must: A Beowulf Talk Show! On the show I talk with people who are fans of Beowulf to try to understand how they discovered the poem and why they think it’s still important. Since this is a monthly show, so far there are just two episodes. But I’m planning to release a new episode every month for the next 10 months. The previous episode is here.

My guest on this episode is Lex Fajardo, the creator of the Kid Beowulf comic series. You can find out more about his series at kidbeowulf.com. While chatting with Lex about Beowulf we covered:

  • How Beowulf handles (and mishandles) storytelling
  • Fate (especially fate through blood ties)
  • Beowulf and Grendel: more similar than different
  • The merits of the monsters
  • John Gardner’s Grendel
  • Beowulf as Marvel’s Captain America
  • Kid Beowulf as a way to get people interested in world mythology, world epics

Also, are you curious about the Burton Raffel translation of Beowulf that Lex cites as one of his favourites? If so, you can find some excerpts in a PDF here.

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the show and on the topics covered in the comments. Or, go ahead and answer this question: What epic mythological story would you want to see Beowulf in?

The theme music for the show is:

The Pyre Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What Beowulf Can Teach Us With Paul Begadon (Podcast)

This is the first episode of Fate Going As It Must: A Beowulf Talk Show! On the show I’ll talk with people who are fans of Beowulf to try to understand how they discovered the poem and why they think it’s still important.

My first guest is Paul Begadon, whose writing about old stories (including Beowulf) you can find at woodkern.net. We cover quite a few topics, including:

  • Favourite movie adaptations
  • The importance of storytelling
  • What Beowulf can teach to us today: overcome your demons
  • Stories of katabasis; the Jungian interpretation of Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s Mother as journey to the subconscious for the power to succeed
  • Best introductory translation of Beowulf
  • What does “Hwaet” even mean?
  • Robert Graves and Grendel’s Mother as ancient goddess
  • The kenning in Beowulf’s name

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the show and on the topics covered in the comments. Or, go ahead and answer this question: What is your favourite adaptation of Beowulf?

The theme music for the show is:

The Pyre Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Thoughts on “Hrothgar, Heorot, and Threats to Heroism”

In the blog post “Hrothgar, Heorot, and Threats to Heroism” Peter J. Leithart makes some interesting points about heroism in Beowulf.

Basically, he takes an in depth look at what each of the monsters that Beowulf faces represent. In doing so he makes it clear that each creature stands in opposition to some element of human society, whether that’s general order and custom, the importance of social order in the hall setting, or the wealth sharing function of kings.

Over all, I think that this post makes for a quick, interesting read. It even offers some true, if melancholy, insights into how heroism perpetuates itself.

As Leithart explains, heroes are indeed special people, but anyone can memorialize them and carry their memory and example to future generations.

Now, being on a fairly religious blog, Leithart makes ample mention of Christian interpretations in his post. And I think that he’s more than right in a lot of his analysis. After all, when the poem was finally written down, it was written down by Christian monks. And I’m sure that those monks wanted to ensure that their work was circulated and preserved (monks were the medieval period’s copy machines, after all), so adding some Christian embellishments or details makes sense.

Plus, spinning the poem (however much it needed to be spun in this direction) as a Christian epic would have helped to make it relevant to a wider Christian audience.

So references to Christian ideas and images are easy to find in Beowulf. The Christian creation story and all of the talk of Cain are prime examples of these.

However, I think that Leithart goes a little too far saying that the writer of the poem would have seen the dragon as satanic. Something as generic as a dragon is definitely open to interpretation. Though, because of the popularity of imagery like the archangel Michael binding Satan while he’s in the form of a dragon, I’m sure dragons to many Christians were incarnations of Satan. But people were still individuals, and so where some people saw Satan others may have seen an embodiment of greed and gluttony or of pride.

I also don’t entirely agree with Leithart’s setting up a dichotomy between the family that the Grendels have and the life of the hall that Grendel and Grendel’s mother attack. I mean, sure, if you live a sheltered life, shielded from the outside world by your parents, then you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to it. A family so tightly knit that there’s wool constantly over your eyes sounds to me less like a family and more like a cult.

But, being outcast, going your own way, and thumbing your nose at climbing up some sort of social ladder is something you can try to do. I think that such an individual path is what true entrepreneurs seek out. And what’s more heroic than that?

Anyway, Leithart’s article is neither news nor an interview with someone doing something with Beowulf. So why did I decide to post it in this week’s showcase?

Well, it’s because I really like Leithart’s analysis but don’t think the religious overtones (which the medieval audience of the poem would have been very aware of and sensitive to) are necessary to reach his conclusions. Despite its religious trappings (be they Christian or Nordic paganism), Beowulf is about heroism.

And, as Tolkien pointed out, Beowulf is an elegy. Which means that it does not have a happy ending.

Instead, Beowulf ends with the death of its hero which leaves his people doomed to destruction. But what Beowulf does is provide an example for people as one who upholds order, the way of the hall, and generosity. That he does this through violence and action and other exciting things might not seem very novel, but I find it fascinating.

Why? Because so much of our entertainment has moved away from such a complicated display of violence.

Beowulf is a hero who gets to his goals through fighting, but he is also ultimately taken out in a fight with the greatest monster he faces. Aside from Terminator 2, or Batman vs. Superman (setting aside all the problems I had with that movie), I can’t think of any other pop culture touchstones where the hero isn’t allowed to live happily ever after in the greater future that their fighting has created. And I think that this version of violence needs to be featured more more widely. Right alongside calculating the trajectory of blood splatter from an exit wound, the consequences of violence would add an element of realism to our stories.

A lot of Beowulf might just be a bunch of people bashing each other with swords, but all that fighting has consequences and those consequences carry on into the future (as Alexis Fajardo pointed out in last week’s news post). And that’s one of the things what makes Beowulf so memorable to me.

What do you think about Beowulf’s commentary on heroism? Is it still relevant today? Leave your thoughts in the comments!