Friday, December 10, 2010

Monsters in Anglo-Saxon Texts

Monsters in Anglo-Saxon Texts

This essay will examine what Anglo-Saxon interest in monsters, From Beowulf’s Grendel kin, the works of Giants, Dragon's, Elf’s and Grendel’s mother. The arguments in this essay are to back up the themes which will be talked about in the opening paragraph.

Monsters are the outcasts of Anglo-Saxon society from research on the topic of monsters and the word “monstrare” it can be argued that in Anglo-Saxon writings monsters are used to show the difference between “normal” and the other but also shows their lack of knowledge.

Looking at the tale of beowulf when we encounter Grendel for the first time. He lives in a marsh land outside the community a liminal space. Living in the marsh shows how removed from the people in Heorot. He lives in a place almost that signifies the anti hall, the anti Heorot.

“Grendel represents the cultural other to whom comfortably to society dictates is an impossibility because those dictates are not comprehensible to him; he is at the same time a moisturized version of what a member of that very society can become when those dictates are rejected”.

He is described as a descendant of cain a kin killer he who cannot be trusted and who has rejected god of God having “the wrong faith”. Eotenas in the Book of Genesis.

When the Anglo-Saxons arrived in England, they found towering structures of stone that made them feel like children standing before them. They described these alien architectures as enta geweorc, "the work of giants." Some of these structures were the great monoliths, dolmens, and stone circles like Stonehenge built by the mysterious pre-Celtic peoples who have left no other trace of their presence on the island. Like Grendel the giants were living on the out skirts of society for example in thick wooded areas further more they are written about in Anglo-Saxon texts but also further afield. The bible only confirmed what their native mythology already told of the giant’s, a story which the legends of the conquered Celts corroborated: humanity was a secondary race of creatures, belated, the gods' afterthought. Northern myth held that giants had been the first race to carve their identity into the earth's landscape, and that the human body was their continuation and reduction. Creatures of the world's First Order, giants were so close to nature. Giants were inextricable from the earth and stone they worked, so they gained an explanatory function as creators of landscape, ancient ruins, and mysterious architecture. It can be argued that giant's are used to back up Biblical myths for example david and Goliath. Giant stories also tie in with Beowulf, as Beowulf returns from killing Grendels mother with a hilt from a giants sword. On the other hand giants are also depicted as cannibals in norse mythology. It is hard to say exactly what giants show but there is no argument that they are different from the common people or “ normal ”.

The most common of Anglo-Saxon to monsters are dragons which exist will in to middle english like elf’s . Unlike Grendel, Dragons do not want to be accepted in to society they want to have their layer, treasure and live beyond the liminal. It is unclear from the norton critical edition of beowulf why the dragon is where he is but it can be argued that the dragon is used “to show” a moral story of greed a thief going in to the dragons cave to take what is not his only to meet his death. Obviously the moral or teaching from this is “thou shall not steel”.

Elves were ambivalent, amoral Creatures in Anglo-Saxon Folklore Beowulf Lists them along with other monsters. Elf’s exist trough out Anglo-Saxon texts from old to middle english although modern folklore has depicted Elf’s as a lot frendler then they were in Anglo-Saxon texts. Originally the Anglo-Saxon elf was like the ancient Irish fairy. The elf’s had pale skin and “spread diseases”, the pale skin used “to show” sickness. “The ancient Anglo-Saxon Heathens believed (as did their other Germanic counterparts) that illness was caused variously by arrows or darts shot by elves”

Anglo-Saxon text also contain cures to these elvish attacks these cures were to cure madness, fevers and other mind altering aliments. Like the ancient Irish fairy Elf’s depict the unknown or at least the Anglo-Saxons fear of the unknown.

The another monster which needs to be written about is Grendel’s mother. An unnamed monster. Grendel’s mother shows anti female themes. Grendel’s mother is a strong and brave female fighting for her sons vengeance. Fighting for vengeance is something a man should do. She also keeps Grendel’s dead body showing her to be anti Christian by not burring the body as burial would be the Christian thing to do. This further solidifies the argument that Anglo-Saxon texts are closely linked to the biblical references. It can be argued that the Anglo-Saxon interest in monsters shows in this respect like with Grendel the fear of the foreigner but in Grendels mothers case the fear of the more powerful women but the unchristian in both.


In conclusion

The Anglo-Saxon used monsters to show what could happen to you if the rules were not obeyed weather its being exiled or steeling. Also monsters are used to show fear of the unknown.

Grendel is the Anglo-Saxon texts showing the other where as the Dragon shows us a moral story when all these are included with the elf’s and Grendel’s mother we understand that the Anglo-Saxons myth making reveals their lack of knowledge.

Work cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Old English Literature and the Work of Giants. A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1993. Page 24 Retrieved from: 30/11/12

George Washington University. “Monsters, Cannibalism, and the Fragile Body

in Early England”. Prof Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Inc. 27/11/2010 Retrieved from :

Malcolm Godden, Michael Lapidge . The Cambridge companion to Old English literature. United Kingdom: cambridge University Press, Published 1991. Page 216

Jolly, Karen. Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context. University of North Carolina Press, 1996

this essay was written for Old English EN2012 in 2010 by me

Friday, November 19, 2010

Searching for Heorot

I found this on History today if any one is interested.

Its by John D. Niles a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.

Beowulf’s Great Hall

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Article

Roger B. Rollin
College English
Vol. 31, No. 5 (Feb., 1970), pp. 431-449
Published by: National Council of Teachers of English
Stable URL:

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Mr. J

Im completely fascinated by the joker i think he is the ultimate bad guy.

The credit for creation of the Joker is disputed. Kane responded in a 1994 interview to claims that Jerry Robinson created the concept of the character:

“Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like

Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. [...] Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker'. Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it, but he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card.”

From: "Frank Lovece official site: Web Exclusives — Bob Kane interview"

Every other villain or “baddie” i have come across needs the hero to be relevant. Every one may disagree with me here, but lets b

e honest you cant have lex luthor without superman. There’s no Doc Oc with Spiderman. Grendel with out Beowulf. All other heros and villains need there advisory.

It's in this respect The Joker stands alone. The graphic novel Arkham Asylum shows the joker at his most sinister. The book dose not feature “the caped crusader” Ozzy (young penguin) only makes reference to him once. The book is the jokers own “comic” it gives us a look at the mind set of the joker. It could be argued it is where Nolan got the idea for the scars in the movie. He narrates the novel from the start almost like this all seeing all knowing (omniscient) narrator.

The book, the killing joke tell us the story of the origins of the Joker. There are many different tails of how the joker came in to being as Christopher Nolan pointed out in the film “the dark night” with The Joker giving a different story about how he “got these scars”. I would argue that although the Killing joke tells us the most well known story of the joker the fact that we do not know what really is the truth effects our view of the joker. Also because DC do not tell us for cretin what his background is or pins us to one story; the joker remains a mystery to everyone, most other antiheroes begin there stories with how they came to be we know that Magneto in a mutant and suffered because of it we see in the taín that medbh is a bad queen we know where the “baddies” come from and why for the most part. But when it comes to the joker you deiced what story you want to believe. As dose the joker himself

"Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!" - the Killing joke.

When Batman and joker meet alone in the book they are speaking to each other as if they are just at another day at work the book even closes with a joke.

“Easily the greatest Joker story ever told, Batman the killing Joke is also one of Alan Moore's finest works. Originally released in 1988, The Killing Joke tells the origin of the Joker -- or at least one version of the origin. The Clown Prince of Crime himself admits even he can't be sure which version of his beginnings is true. The origin is the underpinning for the psychological drama, rather than being mere filler. True to his psychosis, the Joker doesn't want to accept responsibility for his actions and goes about attempting to prove that any man put under proper duress would go bonkers.

The Joker's experiment leads to one of the most shocking moment's in DC history, an event that affects Batman continuity for the next 15 years and it's done as casually as a Joker killing spree.

Those who focus on the Joker's origin are missing the point. The Killing Joke isn't about how the Joker came to be, it's an examination of human nature. If Joker can turn his captive, Commissioner James Gordon, into a raving lunatic, then it's proof that any man in Joe Kerr's position would have gone a little nutty. However, should Gordon survive with sanity intact, it serves as proof that there is something buried deep within each lunatic, a nugget of insanity, that is simply waiting for the right moment to spring forth. Is it the horrors of a particular event that make a man insane or is it something deep within the man himself?

Outside of the psychological and sociological undertones, The Killing Joke is a masterfully told story. Each scene features perfect transitions, allowing the story to easily weave between present and past as the Joker attempts to force his insanity on James Gordon. Brian Bolland's art is a rarity for comics. It features no set-ups, no heavily-reused poses. Everyone's face is full of expression, no muscle is left unused throughout the short tale. Together Moore's rhythmic dialogue and Bolland's organic art create a unique story often mimicked but never matched.

What Moore understands that so many writers seem to overlook is that clowns are inevitably pitiable people. Behind every clown's smile is a sad story, they say and the Joker is no different. Though an unforgiving and brutal mass-murderer, the Joker is shown as a vulnerable and pathetic figure, trapped in a cycle of violence just like Batman.

If you haven't read The Killing Joke, you have no right to call yourself a Batman fan. You may not find it to be the greatest Batman story of all time, but you'll be hard-pressed not to laugh at the end. Re-printed more times than almost any other comic in history, The Killing Joke is still readily available, meaning you have no excuse. If you've read it before, go back and read it again. You owe it to yourself.”

Review by

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cædmon's Hymn Heroes and Hyper texts

Cædmons Hymn

From what we know Cædmons Hymn is the oldest documented english poem. The poem was composed to be song and therefore easy to remember.

Cædmon used alliteration and the repetition of words the make it so. The poem was never composed to be written down and can be summarized in two lines “Let me now praise God the Creator" (1-4), and "God created Heaven, earth, and man" (5-9).

1) Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard

2) metudæs maecti end his modgidanc

3) uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuaes

4) eci dryctin or astelidæ

5) he aerist scop aelda barnum

6) heben til hrofe haleg scepen.

7) tha middungeard moncynnæs uard

8) eci dryctin æfter tiadæ

9) firum foldu frea allmectig

To be honest I do not think that the modern English version dose the poem justice. Originally Cædmons Hymn would have been sung but in the modern english the poems alliteration in old english dose not translate. I feel that because of this it ruins the poem. The poem was composed to be recited to the plucking of a harp. The reason for the way it is written is because the poem in the old english is easy to remember.

Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,

the might of the Creator, and his thought,

the work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders

the Eternal Lord established in the beginning.

He first created for the sons of men

Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,

then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,

the Eternal Lord, afterwards made,

the earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

Although the manuscripts of the Hymn have been examined to analyze Old

English dialects, to describe oral formulae, and to establish a text of the poem, almost no attention has been paid to the variety of ways in which the text is set out.

This variety of formatting and the poem's origin as an oral composition

make Caedmon's Hymn an especially rewarding work to study. Because the

poem is found in fourteen manuscripts copied in England from the eighth

through the twelfth centuries, representing two manuscript environments

and two dialects, it provides much evidence about the transformation of a

work as it passes from an oral to a literate medium, about the consequent

development of a text in Old English, and about the presuppositions underlying the way a text was to be read.

-From Orality and the Developing Text

of Caedmon's Hymn

By Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe

“The text of Caedmon's hymn of the Creation also perfectly satisfies the cognitive needs of an utterance that, once generated, must be memorizable so that it can later be recalled by rote. Each Old English line has two balanced phrases with four stressed syllables, three of which alliterate. Each half-line, if uttered musically, in time to the plucking of a harp, would fit nicely into our phonological working (short-term) memory, which can accept two seconds of speech only before recycling. The poet phonologically encodes each first half-line to make recall of the closing half-line easy. For example, "hergan" (`praise') alliteratively -- that is, musically -- calls up "hefaenricæs" (`Heaven's kingdom'), as "metudæs maecti" (`the creator's might') does "modgidanc" (`thought'). Half-lines often are formulas, common fixed phrases that repeat themselves, such as "eci dryctin" (`the Eternal Lord'). The same word often begins different half-lines, such as "hefaenricæs" (1) and "hefen to hrofæ" (6), or ends such lines, like "uard" (1, 7) and "mehti" (2, 9). For such reasons, literary historians term Old English poetry as "oral formulaic": meant for publishing only as speech, and so not available in written form, poets filled their works with formulas, easily re-used and remembered building blocks. Caedmon's hymn has just two sentences, which can be summarized: "Let me now praise God the Creator" (1-4), and "God created Heaven, earth, and man" (5-9). The assertion itself has a simple logic that ensures Caedmon can link together, in memory, the larger units, the full lines, into a verse paragraph. Its length may also reflect a common cognitive upper-limit on large text segments.”