Beowulf’s Dragon

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?

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, On fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Beowulf’s Dragon

  1. andreaskluth says:

    You’ve raised a lot of different issues in one short blog post. I’d love to read more about them.

    Dragons (which don’t exist but seem to be an archetype)

    injustice (mostly involving that hit-and-run driver, but also more)

    “Beowulf and the dragon are one.” Whew. Deep. Say more. I might agree…

    Selfishness/altruism/leadership

    Jungian-Freudian wrestling matches (I do those in my spare time, but are we talking about the same ones?)

    • Cheri says:

      Not sure if we are talking about the same wrestling match elements.

      I was thinking about Freud’s SuperEgo and Jung’s collective unconscious, in reference to King Beowulf.

      When I finish my paper on Beowulf, I will send it your way.

    • Phil says:

      “………Dragons (which don’t exist but seem to be an archetype)………

      Dragons are encountered by people who’ve taken certain hallucinogenic drugs eg ayahuasca. So dragons were probably encountered by those who took hallucinogens long, long ago.

      Thus the dragon entered folklore.

      The dragon, therefore, bespeaks a psychic reality. It may actually exist in a parallel world, or, if you like, in another dimension.

      • Cheri says:

        Thanks so much Phil.

        I writing my paper on the dragon and King Beowulf. This helps! Although now you have me wondering about my psychic reality.

        And if I use your words in my essay, how should I cite them? MLA style?

        🙂

      • Phil says:

        “……….And if I use your words in my essay, how should I cite them………?”

        Cite them any way you want. But I based what I said on Graham Hancock’s book:
        Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind
        .

        “……MLA style…….?”

        ???

        Modern Language Association? Mailing List Archives? Member of the Legislative Assembly? Mandated Lead Arranger? Major League Arc? Monochrome Lens Assembly…………….?

  2. Douglas says:

    The elderly gentleman is, undoubtedly, someone’s aged father. the story he told may have been bought because it was sincere and fit the facts as the police understood them. It is also possible that it was the truth. Injustice? In the eye of the beholder, perhaps. As is Beowulf.

  3. Cheri says:

    If you knew the specifics (which I don’t want to post and bore everyone), you would understand my rage.

    Suffice to say that the elderly gentleman said he didn’t see my mother. One only needs to look at her crushed tire/bike to know that only a gumby (and that might be a great disrespect to Gumby) would not know he hit something.
    He should have been cited so that he loses his license. A driver like this will kill someone else.

  4. zeusiswatching says:

    Here are some minor thoughts and notes upon your thesis and questions. Don’t tempt me, I could sit down with a cup of tea and crank out a frighteningly long, and turgid tome.

    “Beowulf and the dragon are one. That’s my thesis for today.”

    Yes, they are one. This is a allegory of the struggle for justice as understood long ago, and the battle is an expression of the triumph virtuous conduct as understood in an ancient context.

    A horde of treasure is a legacy, a trust of the ancients, those ancestors who amassed it by trade, battle, or manufacture, which is left to their descendants — and obviously never was it intended to be left to rot or become the property of a dragon.

    As a King, the anointed one who stands before God (or the gods of old), Beowulf has a responsibility to secure the hoard from an unnatural, or foreign entity — personified by the dragon who is chaos, evil, destruction from above, lurking below, mightier than average mortals, a dire threat to Beowulf’s realm, which includes his subjects as well as the lands and personal belongings (all of which are really His Majesty’s in a sense). Beowulf and the dragon are the same in that the cosmic struggle of good and evil is a struggle between to establish justice (all should be ordered and proper) and a dragon must not be allowed to posses that which is the rightfully the possession of a realm, personified by the King, the defender of the realm, charged as such by Heaven above and answerable to Heaven.

    “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.”

    Yes, all true, but the King is the God-chosen guardian of the booty, the burial sites, the realm’s heritage, the identity of people. The legacy of the monarch lies in securing these things and his own name for posterity. His honor too is a part of the heritage of the realm. By battling the dragon, he is the restorer of peach, the creator of peace for his people, much as a godly, or god-like king should be. Bestowing peace and glad tidings is a divine thing and divine-like characteristics are naturally those of a king.

    A king was not always a god himself, or even a demi-god (but sometimes he was seen as such), but even a mortal king was god-like and needed to display those qualities, even in death, even by dying as well as by living the god-like example. Cyrus the Great, Leonidas of Sparta being a couple of examples.

    His death in battle is expected of him just as that of Leonidas’ had been. Both Leonidas and Beowulf triumph in death although in somewhat different ways, for they enhance the honor and the heritage of their people. It was Beowulf’s rightful, god ordained place to go forth, to do battle, and even to die. If his name was made even greater by this death, then the King’s name shall be remembered and revered and it too becomes part of that horde of treasure that continues in the possession of his people (via his successor, of course).

    “A question remains.
    In King Beowulf’s Jungian-Freudian subterranean wrestling match, did he care about the way he left his people?”

    Absolutely! He leaves his people with their posterity restored, their heritage made greater by his own life and death, and by setting the example of bravery and courage in a leader and the courage of the faithful subject.

    He sets the example for the generations. For one, he exposes the cowardly (no greater shame in that day) and this punishes and justifies the punishment that will theoretically continue to better order the realm into a people lead by brave men, and brave men who follow their brave king (like the one fellow who musters the courage to help his king in battle) into an always dangerous future. Only by bravery, by courage, by sacrifice will the realm continue, and if the real continues the people continue.

  5. Cheri says:

    I am flabbergasted. You just belted this out with a cup of tea? Maybe I ought to give up my Peet’s Coffee for a good old-fashioned cup of tea…yeah…maybe that’s the solution to my mind-block, my realm-thud, my soul-bend.

    Yes, I understand the horde, the safety, the legacy that Beowulf must leave his people (and he does)

    WOW…you are amazing and I thank you for taking your precious reading time (what a list you accomplished in December…) to contribute to my bundle of thoughts.

    When I finish my paper, I may post part of it. I never post all of them because remember, I am an old high school literature teacher…I know what desperate minds are out there…

    • zeusiswatching says:

      Well, as a teacher, I welcome your willingness to correct and edit my horrid blogging replies. I will one day win the sweepstakes as hire an editor.

      I used to tutor in college and I can not tell you how frustrating and sad it was to try and help students only to have them look at me and offer to buy my papers.

      If your school wants to hire a tutor, let me know and I will send along the resume. I’d love to help kids to read and write. You will need to hire a proof reader to assist me.

    • Cheri says:

      OK. I am up early (for me) and have read your comment again. What I like about your content and word choice is the emotion that you convey in your writing. After reading your comment, I am reminded how ancient literature still calls to us (well, those who are still thinking about it) today.

      I actually got skin-bubbles reading it this morning. Either you ought to be writing a book, Zeus, or I need to turn up the heat in my family room.

  6. andreaskluth says:

    Let me get this straight: Zeusiswatching, are you a teacher metaphorically or literally?

    Quite impressive indeed.

  7. The Sci-Fi Fanatic says:

    And may Wiglaf carry on those fortunes.

    Really hope Mom gets well fast. Very sorry to hear about this unfortuante incident to your mother.

  8. Cheri says:

    😀

    and I believe loyal Wiglaf did, indeed; that is, until the Geats were creamed by the Swedes.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful wishes for my mother. We will see how she progresses.

  9. Cheri says:

    Phil,
    Thank you!

    MLA: Modern Language Association

  10. My dragon rises up with such an image before me as your mum peddling innocently on three wheels to be struck and left for the law to then decide that no harm was done.

    My dragon flies to this wicked site, quickly swooping up the lovely Queen Joan to her absolute delight. Off to a faraway land we go where she now hears every sound that delights her Princess Cheri on camera-filled walks with birds and turkeys and hawks.

    My dragon spits a fire to warm toasty Her Majesty’s slender fingers and nose and ten bare little toes. My dragon nods that the truth will tell, yes, all will be well, that there’s nothing to fear my dear, dear, dear.

    My dragon leaps back into the sky, righteous visions on high, to the court trial I fly. My dragon drops to the tile roof hard; they hear my thud, they hear my cry. They hear my dragon walk back and forth, trembling and fearing that yes they might die.

    My dragon wings crash through the window as my head of indigo blue hangs through. Crocodile man holds driving-paper in hand, when my heat flashes through the air to his trembling despair, never touching a hair, just giving a warning beware to never again do anything unfair.

    Peace to you, Cheri,
    MJ

  11. Cheri says:

    Oh my god. MJ, you and I must be kindred spirits.

    This poem ignites all passion and compassion in my heart.

    This poem is clever, imaginative, alive, and substantive.

    This poem is about my favorite creature: the dragon.

    This poem is about my precious mother (who will be overjoyed to read your poem and know that someone special whom she has never met is thinking of her).

    This poem made my day on many levels.

    Thanks, friend.

  12. Dear Cheri,

    Yes, the spirits align. I couldn’t get out of my seat until I finished this poem for you and your mum. I also want to thank you for helping me remember this part of myself that needed to come forth from her cave. Your post was a powerful prompter.

    When my “King Arthur” returns tonight I will have him look under our drawbridge and check out my RSS feed. He has real hands to do so unlike me!

    Blessed Holiday to you and yours,
    MJ

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