by cheri block
I never played with dolls.
I played with stuffed animals, setting up scenarios about everything from arctic sea expeditions where the polar bear eats the hunter, to circuses where the elephants, tigers, and lions talk back to their trainers.
Lions and tigers and bears—Oh my!
Most of all, I loved dragons.
Dragons stretched my realm-tickle. I read every dragon story I could find at the local library.
Was it a dragon’s breath, one that could singe a curious boy’s pantaloons in one mighty blow that captured my heart? Or the magnificent body, designed by a primeval artist, intent on using every last glittery tile on his sleek dragonian mosaic? Whatever the attraction way back then, the word dragon was enough to lure me into a poem, a book, a movie.
So imagine my delight in learning that Beowulf was on my reading list
In Beowulf the poem—a folk epic like The Odyssey–written by a Christian about the pagan Scandinavian hero Beowulf, a fiery and protective dragon kills the hero, but not before the hero kills the dragon in their reciprocal demise.
Although I love the battles between the fearless young and studly Beowulf and the crazed Grendel family (mother and son), it was the fatal clash between an older but not- much- wiser King Beowulf and a magnificent dragon that touched my heart, my life-pump that as of late beats with an intensity of blood-rage.
Last week, while riding her tricycle, my mother (deaf and handicapped) was hit and run by a driver who wasn’t cited—an elderly man who “thought he didn’t hit her” but who drove away forgetting to look in his rear view mirror, and whose story, delivered emotionally, was bought by the local policeman.
My mother Joan will recover but a tear in my chain mail, my hauberk, renders me vulnerable.
I find my heart upset about this injustice.
So, instead of dwelling on what is, I allow my soul-quake to enter the final battle that my current literary hero—albeit a two-dimensional one—wages against himself.
Beowulf and the dragon are one. That’s my thesis for today.
Beowulf was a selfish king in his old age.
Too focused on gold, shields, goblets, and burrows.
Too focused on legacy, boasting, his burial site.
And yet, legacy, booty, and burial sites were part of the Nordic hero’s pedigree.
A question remains.
In King Beowulf’s Jungian-Freudian subterranean wrestling match, did he care about the way he left his people?