I’ve gotten to the age where buying things for the sake of their novelty or their ironic significance is no longer as satisfying as once it was. Nonetheless, having taken Old English in order to study Beowulf and fallen in with a bad group of medievalists, when I saw Caitlin R. Keirnan’s novelization of Beowulf, which is based on the screenplay by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, I knew that I was about to be $7 poorer.
You know, so far I like it in much the same way I would enjoy hanging from a bridge by my optic nerve.
It’s told in the present tense (you know, it makes you feel like you’re really there), which I thought was an interesting choice. Let’s quote a little of it at random, shall we? I’m keeping the commentary to a minimum because I can’t write comedy like Caitlin.
In this scene (not in the original) Wealhðeow, who is now called Wealthow, is trying to “get a little Geat (pronounced Yat) in her,” if you know what I’m saying. And it reads a little like a shitty romance novel.
“My poor sleepy Beowulf,” she smiles [how do you smile “my poor sleepy Beowulf,” exactly?] “Too much mead, too little rest. [Because, you see, they drank mead back then. It’s what we in the business call verisimilitude or historical accuracy.] You are exhausted and confused.” And now she presses herself against him, straddling him, her strength taking him by surprise [you realize, of course, that he has just ripped someone’s arm off, right?] as she bears him flat against the floor.
“First greed,” she says. “Then lust. Is this not what you would have, my lord? Is this not everything you yet desire?” And she kisses him again, and this time she tastes like the sea, like salt water rushing into the throat of a drowning man, like beached and rotting fish stranded under a summer sun. He gags and tries to push her away.
“Give me a child, Beowulf. Enter me, and give me a beautiful, beautiful son.”
Turns out Beowulf is having a wet dream while his men are getting mauled by Grendel’s Ma, who I hear is going to be played by Angelina Jolie in the film. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
Or another section:
Olaf is busy murdering the first verse, but at least, thinks Beowulf, he doesn’t stutter when he sings.
There were a dozen virgins,
Frisians, Danes, and Franks!
We took ’em for some swifan’
And all we got were wanks!
And now all the thanes join in for the chorus, making up in sheer volume all that they lack in pitch and melodiousness.
Ooooh, we are Beowulf’s army,
Each a mighty thane!
We’ll pummel your asses,
and ravage your lasses,
Then do it all over again!
“Damn good thing you can fight, Hondshew,” mumbles Beowulf, smiling at awful lyrics and the memory of Lady Wealthow. “By Odin’s long gray beard, you’d have starved by now as a scop.”
I believe except for the phrase “pummel your asses” the rest of this song is completely made up.
You know folks, I thought that Heaneywulf (a translation of Beowulf by Seamus Heaney) was a little silly for the use of Gaelic. This one positively topples the taco stand. Anonymous would totally be rolling over in his grave, and it is my conviction that Keirnan should be hung from the city walls with a copy of Elements of Style fastened to her blouse. Just looking at the movie on IMDB, you know it’s going to be horrid, just as sure as you know I’m going to see it in the theater. The characters that have been created for the movie (what the fuck is a “golden child”?) made my roommate Animala speculate whether or not it was going to a Nordic Lord of the Rings, and things aren’t looking good.
I give the novelization of Beowulf one severed arm. Actually I am going to keep the arm so I have something to hit Keirnan with should I ever meet her.