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When the settlement comes under attack by a man-eating monster named Grendel Crispin Hellion Glover , it becomes clear that Hrothgar and his men are unequal to the task of defeating the monster. Enter Beowulf Ray Winstone — young, strong, and eager for adventure, he sails to the settlement after hearing of their problems and defeats Grendel in single, unarmed combat.

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Beowulf ventures into her lair, but instead of killing her, he allows her to seduce him in return for the kingship. The film ends with father and son killing each other, bringing peace to the kingdom once more. This, then, is another contradiction of the film, that it encompasses both a sincere desire for the triumph of heroes and for the death of monsters , and an anxious sense that the heroes themselves exceed the roles required of them.

The final segment of our essay will examine the ideological work that this alignment of modern medievalism and modern genre performs.

The expression of medievalism within popular texts is always inflected by the conventions and expectations of popular genres. Yet, at the same time, popular medievalism is always in excess of genre. It is a shared convention with a social force. It is unlikely that the mark of medievalism will be understood and acknowledged as a new genre by contemporary audiences of film. Rather, we explore in this essay just a few of the myriad ways that popular medievalism transforms and is transformed by generic forms and conventions. The film opens upon a feast in the hall of Heorot.

In this scene, the details of clothes, jewellery, coins, weapons, food and drink present a textured visual aesthetic. Such a level of material detail signals a kind of historical specificity even if the details themselves are not accurately researched or consistently presented. The effect of historical detail can itself be considered in terms of popular genre expectations.

Stephen Neale claims that:. Contemporary fantasy fiction fabricates maps, invokes archival documents, and reproduces artefacts, names, and battles from medieval histories and encyclopaedias. The pseudo-historical details in recent fantasy films can be understood in just this way. A CGI metallic shine is played up in the frames in which the horn appears.

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The effect is quite surprising to a viewer who is perhaps used to the more painterly colours of animation. We are invited to interpret this golden horn as a quest-object. The dragon horn belongs to a romance trajectory. It is a quest object, but the quest belongs to a contemporary genre of adventure and does not necessarily echo medieval romance. There is nonetheless a very specific medievalism concentrated into the object, a medievalism of material weight. The horn and its stylised dragon are inscribed with decorative patterns that echo the Celtic knot-work we see on the lid of the chest where the dragon horn is kept.

This patterning writes the cultural specificity of an historical artefact upon the golden quest object.

To speak of things that one wants to connote as real, these things must seem real. The animated CGI medium allows the fantastic monsters to be embodied, not just in form but in speed and brutality. Despite the unreality of the digital medium, the fact that the monsters and the human characters inhabit the same universe must have a powerful effect on our suspension of disbelief. As the royal dragon horn is passed on, it becomes a symbol both of the mythic quality of the tale, which will repeat itself, and of the human flaws that allow the monsters to continue.

And, indeed, this version of the Middle Ages that wavers between historical specificity and mythic timelessness is immediately recognizable to a contemporary audience. It certainly appears to be a marketable Middle Ages. The production notes offer us a paratext against which we can adjust our reading of the film itself. In return, this legendary six foot-six-inch Viking, brimming with daring confidence and ambition, succeeds to the throne.

But the story had been told for centuries before that. The only people in the 7th century who knew how to write were monks. So, we can assume they did a lot of editing. They managed to keep the essence of the poem but made it more accessible to a modern audience and made some revolutionary discoveries along the way. This should stir some debate in academia. The only reason she is not justified in doing so is that she is a woman. Yet, how can she possibly do this when Beowulf has killed her only male relative? The poet never mentions brothers or a father or a husband on whom she may rely upon to uphold her safety and honour.

Thus, she has no choice but to assume male responsibility Chance It cannot be denied that she, in at least two of these faces, is entitled to an allotment of sympathy. A grieving woman may be very dangerous in this sense, but she cannot easily be regarded as evil. In her aggressive masculine attempt at blood revenge, the poet makes her out to be more pathetic than terrifying. The great act of vengeance is vague and cowardly. We cannot forget that the monster is shaped as a human woman, and poses less of a physical threat than her man-shaped son. Since she is described as inferior at the outset, and since her act of vengeance is somewhat pathetic, the difficulty Beowulf faces in defeating her must be questioned.

Though Puhvel goes on to credit a more mythological interpretation instead, it seems reasonable to consider these points in more detail.

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The audience is already much confused about how they are meant to feel about the lady-monster. Beowulf is now tracking her down in order to avenge her dubious crime, and in doing so, he invades her home, her sacred hall. The societal importance of the hall and home cannot be understated at this point. It is a focal point of life, where lord and retainer reside, where the lord gives out gifts and treasure in exchange for the loyalty of his thanes, and where women act as peace-weavers, holding the alliances together.

The hall is not a place of war, but a place of peace. In this instance Beowulf becomes the perpetrator, committing a crime that has previously been committed by Grendel himself; bringing blood and violence into sacred space. She is no longer grieving mother, or avenging retainer.

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The poet has now masculinized the monster, she is lord of the hall, Beowulf is the intruder. She holds power over Beowulf, and it is almost as if the two have become equals. The poet then has them grapple for dominance. Chance asserts that this is not in fact a common element found in Anglo-Saxon literature. Chance This is the place where Beowulf may emerge reborn in heroic glory, or die. She has been stripped of her masculine facade after being penetrated by the phallic sword. She has been linked by critics to the figure of Eve, a temptress and antithesis of the Virgin cite.

And yet, Eve is redeemable through Christ and can thus gain Christian sympathy. Perhaps the lady-monster of Beowulf could better be linked to the figure of Lillith, a tempting unredeemable demon of biblical lore.

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Her succubus-like struggle with Beowulf and the sexual imagery in the scene may paint her as unforgivable. Furthermore, Herbert G. Wright 1.

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Though Wright goes on to assert that she is not condemned nearly as much as Grendel, we must consider the significance of her death, the means by which Beowulf succeeds in killing her. First he attacks her with Hrunting the sword, and this proving useless[1] he attempts to overpower her with strength alone, as he defeated her son.

These, of course, are the giants of Genesis 6. They are commonly understood to be the descendants of Cain, and therefore the not-too-distant cousins of Grendel and his mother.

The engraved sword actually announces itself, then, as a sword of divine judgment upon the race of Cain, and thus announces its own role in the poem, after its purpose has been accomplished in the death of Grendel and his mother Earl We are told of no other crimes committed by the female monster prior to her attempt at revenge, and as such she was merely born cursed through no fault of her own, only that her male ancestor Cain was a murderer, and that the male God enacted a form of blood-revenge for his crime by cursing and banishing Cain.

She is a character of many contradictory faces, ready to unsettle and unbalance Beowulf himself as well as readers of the Anglo Saxon era and even the modern. She is a wronged and grieving mother, a terrifying sea wolf, a cursed descendent of the first murderer, lord of a murky battle hall, and a powerful, sexual creature. She cannot be easily classified, or boxed neatly under the title of evil, rather she is perhaps the most complicated and realistic representation of the female in the poem, though she is a hideous, mythological monster.

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