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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.

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What an amazing "coincidence"! The couple of episodes I've listened to on The Bible Project about dragons make it clear that these creatures (whatever they might be as mentioned and translated in different ways in Gen. 1:21 and elsewhere were "good" -- but like all of creation, fell.

It's a good reminder that even the human creatures who've caused us harm can be redeemed. Just like me. :)

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Yes indeed - how blessed to have our names recorded in the register of the people by the Lord himself, written with indelible ink.

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Amen. The Book of Life. What a beautiful metaphor.

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Sep 19, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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.

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This really is a beautiful description. While I (famously/infamously) am not a fan of Tolkien's fantasy, he was a most excellent literary critic.

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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.

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That is a very profound thought! “We are...” I love it! Thank you.

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Sep 19, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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?

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I am so honored to have been able to introduce you to Beowulf!

You ask an excellent question! Whenever we consider authorial intention, our answer must be backed up by the text (absent any commentary from the author). In this case, I don't think there is enough evidence to say that this was the intention of the story's writer. One of the things about excellent writers, though, is that they can comprehend and communicate truth without necessarily being consciously aware of the "lesson" that truth provides. If that makes sense ... Just seeing and describing reality (the human condition, etc.) as it is lets those truths come through.

I do think greed does come across as more destructive in the story! But then again, Beowulf is old at this point. And he is abandoned by all but one of his warriors. So there are lots of factors at play.

I do love how greed manifests as a blazing fire. That seems true to life!

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I need to pop over to The Bible Project and learn about "chaos monsters"! There is an approach in psychology (my field) called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) that Curt Thompson (a Christian psychiatrist, author of _The Soul of Shame_ and other books) refers to often, which he learned from Dan Siegel. INPB talks about our tendency to veer either into Chaos or Rigidity (the two ditches metaphor). If dragons can represent chaos, I wonder what literary figures or mythical monsters might represent rigidity?

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I can’t stop thinking about this question! If the opposite of chaos is order to the point of rigidity, what animal would that be? I know my dogs love their routine....? But there must be other animals even more orderly and rigid than that. Such a great question!

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Sep 24, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

Such an interesting two ends of the spectrum: chaos and rigidity! I see myself swinging between those two extremes all too often as a recovering legalist. Thanks for sharing that, Carmon! While I can’t think of a mythical creature who represents rigidity, the literary figure that pops to mind is Javert from Les Miserables. His bondage to his perception of “rightness” and “justice” gets more intense as the book goes. And in what I find is a darkly comical moment, just before he ends his life, he takes time to write a note criticizing the police department for something they aren’t doing to his specifications. Definite rigidity there!

Thanks for sharing all these great thoughts on Beowulf, Karen!

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Oh, Javert is an excellent specimen. I didn’t know you were a recovering legalist, Myndi. You definitely have insight to bring to this angle. Thank you for reading along! 😊

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Sep 19, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

I have loved studying Beowulf with you! And happy to share in the heavy things too.

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Thank you, Katy, for being here. And for that encouragement.

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Sep 19, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

I've loved this. Thank you for sharing your insight.

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I'm so glad! :)

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Oct 30, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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.

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I am not familiar with her! Will check her out. Thank you!

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Sep 30, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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!

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💛💛💛🙏

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Sep 30, 2023Liked by Karen Swallow Prior

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!

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Oh, I’m thrilled for this feedback! Thank you! I am loving doing this series and just need a little bit of encouragement to keep me going to make sure it’s scratching an itch! The Bible Project really is doing some of the best work out there right now, in my view!

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