Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Anglo-Saxons of the Caribbean

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Gary Kamiya has a nice comparative look at the film adaptations of Beowulf and Lord of the Rings, including some interesting words from the man himself:

In a famous allegory, Tolkien compared the author of “Beowulf” to a man who, inheriting a field full of ancient stones, used them to build a tower. His friends, recognizing that the stones had belonged to a more ancient building, tore down the tower “in order to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions.” What they did not realize, Tolkien ends, was that “from the top of that tower the man had been able to look out upon the sea.”

Tolkien’s point is that the fantastic elements in “Beowulf” are ancient archetypes that have deep roots in human beliefs, fears and wishes — myths, in other words. And in “Beowulf,” he argues, these myths are an essential part of a tragic tale whose theme is “man at war with the hostile world, and his inevitable overthrow in Time.” The greatness of Beowulf derives from the fact that it is a poem created in “a pregnant moment of poise”: It is balanced between a Christian worldview, in which death and defeat are ultimately themselves defeated by Christ, and a Germanic, pagan one, in which fate rules all and man’s courage alone confers nobility. It is, Tolkien writes, not a primitive poem, but a late one. The pagan world is already past, but the poet still celebrates its vanished power. The fact that a poem written more than a thousand years ago was itself looking back at a lost world gives the poem an uncanny double resonance to the modern reader: “If the funeral of Beowulf moved once like the echo of an ancient dirge, far-off and hopeless, it is to us as a memory brought over the hills, an echo of an echo.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere at Salon, Andrew Leonard is concerned about inconsistency and arbitrariness in wizarding law.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 20, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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