In a World of Grendels, Be a Beowulf
That Grendel is a border-stalker is fascinating and so worth pursuing, as you've done here. It got me thinking about Paul's words, "genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Cor 6:8-10) - they definitely have that liminal ring to them. Maybe there's a sense in which all genuinely Christian living in this world is to be found there often, too? But, yes, it is a dangerous place, given how susceptible to bitterness and "nursing a hard grievance" we are. When we're pushed to the margins we're at that same point on the border of another kingdom, one whose wisdom does not come down from heaven and is most definitely not peaceable (Jas. 3:13-18). But we can pray for one another, knowing that God gives grace to the humble.
Thank you so much for doing these lessons on Beowulf, Karen. I'm reading Heaney's translation and Tolkien's essay along with your insights. Tolkien brings up the discussion about whether Grendel is a "devilish ogre" or a "devil revealing himself in ogre-form," settling on the former, saying that he can only bring about temporal but not eternal death. This contrasts with the dragon who eventually caused Beowulf's demise, the dragon/serpent representing something much more insidious in literature than mere monsters. I was inspired to write haikus because of pondering these ideas :).
Grendel, a monster,
Of this world was begotten.
He had a mother.
Dragons lie on hoards
Of treasure guarded–they lie.
Like father, like son.
“But few understand, let alone love, the border-walkers.” So, so true. Attempts at engagement and reconciliation are often perceived as treachery by others. Yet, there is such a richness in inhabiting multiple worlds. It allows one to draw connections that are not possible in a single cloister.
I feel like I should have learned about That pope and his plan and how that affects why the holidays are like they are.
Meanwhile I’m thinking of some people who i follow their work because they are border-stalkers. I want to be challenged. It helps keep my path flexible, my heart open, and my mind sharp. Even when I disagree, or maybe especially when I do, it is so beneficial for a full life. Otherwise, I end up in rut. And the deeper one allows a rut, the harder it will be to change course.
Really enjoyed reading your post Karen. While doing so I couldn’t help but think, “Hmmmm… Beowulf… The Wild Man… Border-Walker… Ohhhhh Jesus… in you and me… and they and them… Amen!
Loved the insights here, but I’ll have to go back and re-read, because I was so struck by the idea of Beowulf being a Christian text. I’ve just started teaching King Lear to my A Level class - their first time encountering the play, at least my tenth time teaching it. In introducing my students to its context I quoted a previous exam question describing it as a Christian play set in a pagan world. This is the first time I’ve introduced the play in this way and it’s been so helpful.
Can someone tell me if the link to my podcasts and interviews works (in the first paragraph)? It’s a Google doc and I am not good with those. Thanks!