Hic Sunt Dracones: Here be Dragons
Fascinated to read about dragons here this morning as I'm doing a brief prayer-meeting talk on Ps.87 this evening - where we hear of Rahab (not of Joshua's day, different Hebrew spelling). The sea-monster, the dragon Rahab of Ps.89, Is.51. Commonly seen as a figure for Egypt, in Ps.87, along with current bogey-man Babylon, Rahab the Dragon is recorded among those who will acknowledge the LORD and be deemed to have been born in Zion. Who'd have thought it?! Even 'dragons' can be redeemed. Those who have sought our harm and hurled chaos across our days becoming part of why glorious things can and will be spoken of the city of God. Colour me astonished.
There is a lovely paragraph in Tolkien’s commentary on Beowulf. “He may earn glory by his deeds, but they are all in fact done as a service to others. His first great deed is the overcoming of a monster, that had brought untold misery on Hrothgar and his people: Grendel, a “feond mancynnes.” His other deeds are done as a service to his king and his people: he dies in their defence. Beowulf does not come first with Beowulf. He’s loyal, even to his own disadvantage.” (p274)
I think this is why I love the ancient tale of Beowulf. After deciphering the old words, sorting out an ancient culture, and remaining rather unsure of the mythology, Beowulf comes shining through. He is a true hero, selfless and brave. Beowulf and his thrilling adventures are worth the work.
I have enjoyed The Evangelical Imagination immensely. I read with great joy this quote:
Each time we express ourselves beginning with the words, “I am . . .” we express consciousness, the inner life, and imagination in a way that reflects God’s image in us.
It seems that the corollary might be: Each time we express ourselves beginning with the words, "We are ..." we are expressing our corporate union with Christ and the unity and diversity of the triune Godhead. Just a thought.
Swallow Prior, Karen. The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis (p. 230). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Thanks for sharing! I’ve never taken a class on Beowulf so I’ve so enjoyed your insights. I have also been listening to The Bible Project on dragons as chaos monsters, so that was a fun reference! Do you think the author(s) of Beowulf were making the point that greed is more destructive than envy or violence?
I have loved studying Beowulf with you! And happy to share in the heavy things too.
I've loved this. Thank you for sharing your insight.
Are you familiar with the work of Rosemary Sutcliff? She wrote high quality historical novels at the youth level for Oxford University Press, many set in the Roman era and the Dark Ages to early Middle Ages, and had a remarkable gift for evoking an atmosphere of place and time. She also novelized many of the great epics, including Beowulf, which was how I learned the tale. In Sutcliff's historical novels, she makes reference to the literature her characters would have been familiar with, and Beowulf's self sacrifice is an underlying theme in her novel 'The Shield Ring', about a Norse settlement in the Lake District in the years following the Norman conquest.
It is in my life! I’m a very new teacher at a hybrid classical school in Texas and I’ve started several great conversations (with other lit teachers, science teachers, and history teachers) lately with, “So I recently read on KWP’s Substack...”
“On Reading Well” was on our recommended booklist for prepping to teach literature. I’ve since read several others and am also reading your newest. I can think about this kind of stuff and talk about it for days! I SO appreciate this special little place to be a “boarder-stalker” and consider ideas and nuance in a way that is life-giving and full of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True!
I came back to say that I am LOVING the Bible Project podcast on Chaos Dragons. What an immensely helpful conversation and theme/word study! Thank you for mentioning it here along with your thought-provoking discussions. I put it on my list after seeing it here and when I had a friend recommend it as well, I knew I needed to start it sooner than later! It’s all stirring too many ideas to post here in the comments, but again, it’s extremely helpful!