Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Contemporary Hero (Journal 1)

The popular web-comic, Looking for Group, features a young hero named Cale’anon. He arrives in a world that is full of mischief and chaos and makes it his quest to protect and cleanse the world.  He teams up with a psychopathic warlock, Richard, a green sorceress, Benny, and her foster father, Krunch. These four come together to reestablish the kingdom of Kethenecia and create order in the world.
The main evil they encounter is the kingdom of Legara, a foul society once ruled by power hungry elves, trying to control the world. These encounters end in fierce battles, where usually only Richard is harmed. Being undead, he shakes it off and goes about his business.
Cale’s motivation for facing Legara is to protect the innocent and peaceful citizens of his kingdom and the rest of the land. Cale is a symbol of courage and bravery in the dark times in which he lives. He also represents the power to do what is right and necessary. He is the type of person to look up to.

Remind You of Someone? (Journal 2)

               The hero Hercules in the Disney movie of the same name reminds me of Beowulf. In the Anglo-Saxon culture, fame was the key to obtaining immortality. In the Disney movie, Hercules had to become famous in order to attain his rightful spot among the gods and his father. Both warriors also had to slay monsters to become heroes.
                Hercules was a Greek demigod. He had immense strength in the legend and Disney movie. He was also very courageous and fought for what was right, not just for fame. At the end of the movie, Hercules gave up his youth to save the woman he loved. This means he symbolized strength of body and love. This self-sacrifice is what gave him the power of gods, as well as saved his life and Meg’s. This twist promotes that the good deeds will be rewarded. 

Grendel and Language (Journal 3)

           Grendel begins the story with somewhat of a grasp of language. His understanding is basic and does not contain much figurative language or deeper meaning. As the novel progresses, Grendel gets older and his knowledge of Old English grows with him. Grendel’s storytelling grows more complex through the chapters. His use of figurative language becomes more and more profound. It can be concluded that Grendel learns from observing the humans, particularly the Shaper.
            When Grendel first meets humans, while he is stuck in a tree, he realizes that they speak his language. After more time spent listening to the humans, he becomes connected to them through language. He begins to view it as another way he and men are related. Eventually, however, he begins to see that the humans waste their language. He believes the shaper to be the biggest character to misuse his language. To Grendel, the Shaper is wasting his breath on poetry and stories that weren’t true.

Themes and Culture (Journal 4)

             Beowulf, one of the few preserved works of Old English literature, provides a keen insight into the culture of Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons followed a strict code that the thanes must protect their king no matter what the consequences. This conduct of honor was referred to as the "comitatus." Hrothgar's thanes exemplify this during the attacks of Grendel. They stand between their king and the demon to keep their honor and kingdom intact. Beowulf's subjects do not keep to the code as well. When he goes off to fight the dragon, they stand and watch horrified, rather than fighting alongside him the comitatus dictates.
 War was one the Anglo-Saxon's favorite things in life. Tribal feuds were common between villages. Beowulf displays this with an explanation that Hrothgar and his Danes had a previous conflict with the Heldings. This spat between kingdoms is how Hrothgar gained his queen. Women were given to other men in order to end fights. This is why they were referred to as "peace-weavers."
Lastly, Beowulf shows the importance of bravery in the Anglo-Saxon culture. Brave warriors were rewarded for their struggles. Thanes had to be brave in order to be remembered. Being remembered was the only way to carry on after death.

Character Analysis (Journal 5)

            Throughout the novel, Grendel exhibits that his curiosity is his greatest motivator. The question of why everything goes on in the world is a reoccurring line in the story. After Grendel discovers a world outside his mountain, it is his inquisitive nature that leads to his nightlong investigations. Grendel’s curious nature is what drives him to the outskirts of the civilized human world. He desires to learn more about the humans that inhabit the world he found. This desire to learn leads to his intrigue with the human referred to as the Shaper.
            In the story, the Shaper is a scop that is admired for his advanced storytelling. To Grendel, The Shaper symbolizes the source of answers that he has been looking for. These answers fuel Grendel’s obsession with the Shaper. This obsession compels Grendel to get as close to the humans as possible. Grendel’s obsession leads to him believing he and the humans are kindred. This is where Grendel’s tale takes a turn for the worst; after he reveals his existence to the humans, he is attacked. Grendel’s insatiable curiosity set the entire story into motion.
            Grendel was able to find the humans after exploring the mountain and the world outside. Grendel found his way out of his mother’s den because he was eager to discover every crevice and corner in his mountain. This search takes Grendel to the surrounding forests. Grendel’s quest for knowledge does not end at the first tree he finds. He spends many nights going as far into the forest as possible, only returning just before dawn. These night time excursions lead Grendel into more than one predicament. Grendel is placed into danger because of his probing.
            Grendel’s quest for answers brings him to his scariest encounter, a meeting with the dragon. Grendel believes the all-knowing dragon will be a welcome relief from his prying mind. Instead, the dragon only confuses and aggravates the fledgling monster. Grendel walks away with more questions than he came in with. Not only did the dragon infuriate Grendel with his perplexing nature, but Grendel got on the dragon’s bad side. Again, Grendel’s curiosity leads him into trouble.
            It seems that, at first, Grendel is just an unlucky and curious child. His grand adventures and voyages outside the home are nothing but good natured exploration. Grendel’s curiosity turns to scorn when he can no longer stand the plight derived from his questions. His attacks on the humans begin because he was denied an answer he finally accepted. All his curiosity leads to is trouble and pain, rather than answers.

Grendel's Philosophy (Journal 6)

           Grendel is a narrative told from the first person view of the infamous villain in Beowulf of the same name. Due to the nature of a narrative, Grendel’s thoughts and philosophical views are openly presented and therefore easy to analyze. Grendel is supposed to embody the philosophy of existentialism. Gardner chooses to form Grendel this way because he hated existential views, and painting a villain around them was a way to portray his hatred. Grendel tells his story through a series of flashbacks that begin in his childhood and lead up to his death at the hands of Beowulf. Through the story, we learn about Grendel’s various takes on life and philosophical views as he grows older.
                One of the defining statements of Grendel’s philosophy as a child is made when he has his foot stuck in a tree. Grendel states, “I understood then that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly-as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back. I create the whole universe, blink by blink.-An ugly god pitifully dying in a tree!” At this point in Grendel’s life, he views himself as the only real object in existence. This is a solipsist view on life.
                Grendel changes his views a few times after his experience in the tree with the bull. When Grendel observes the Shaper and finds a human killed by his own kind, he loses his feeling of loneliness, temporarily. He begins to feel connected to the humans for a short time, until they attack him. This attack sets him apart from the humans again. Grendel keeps the perspective of God until he meets the dragon. An encounter with a mightier and age-old creature ripped that viewpoint from him. With Grendel’s sense of omnipotence gone, he sees that the humans are real. His belief in his own superiority, however, remains.
                Thanks to the dragon, Grendel is able to embrace the idea that the humans exist alongside him. He does not see them as fellows, though, just enemies and toys. Grendel still struggles with his place in the world, but the dragon’s words stay with him. The dragon offered this as a reason for Grendel’s existence, “You improve them, my boy! Can’t you see that yourself? You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves.” This idea, the paint that the humans used to paint themselves, was gradually accepted by Grendel.
                After Grendel has his arm ripped off, Grendel’s final views of the world somewhat revert back to what they were in the second chapter of the novel. At first he views the world as a cold, logical, machine. These are the final thoughts he returns to. Grendel’s speech starts going a little bit toward the end of the book, but he does still manage to speak. He states at the end of the book, “’It was an accident,’ I bellow back. I will cling to what is true. ‘Blind, mindless, mechanical. Mere logic of chance.'"

Anglo-Saxon Motifs (Journal 7)

               Motifs are common in the few recorded Anglo-Saxon stories. The sea is a motif that appears constantly. The sea is a source of mystery and adventure. Going out to sea leads to physical and self discovery. In Beowulf, the sea yields champions to take on Grendel. In “The Seafarer,” the sea is the narrator’s home, while the sea brings the main character to their new home in “The Wife’s Lament.”
                Another motif happens to be storms. Storms signal turmoil or tragedies in the story. Beowulf encounters sea monsters when a storm wakes them from their sleep. A storm attacks the husband in “The Wife’s Lament” and keeps him in place, away from his beloved. The narrator of “The Seafarer” encounters hailstorms to symbolize his icy struggles.
                The last motif to mention is the happy memory. It is human nature to try to focus on a good time when the world seems dark. The husband recalls living with his wife when they are separated in “The Wife’s Lament.” The narrator of “The Seafarer” focuses on his time at sea to lift his heart. Hrothgar of Beowulf tries to remember when Grendel didn’t plague his halls. Motifs are necessary to relay key plot points or ideas in simple stories. Stories from the Anglo-Saxons required motifs, so it was important for bards and scops to keep mental lists.