19 September 2008

Grendel Gets Dissed and his Mama Gets a Bad/Worse Rap

The Daily Telegraph has a list of the 50 greatest villains in literature. Grendel's Mama is number 42 (just behind O'Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four) but Grendel is nowhere to be found. I find that rather odd. Grendel harries Heorot for 12 years, kills numerous thanes, and eats them and drinks their blood. Ellen (what I call his mom since OE ellen means "power" or "might" and since Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien series is named Ellen Ripley...and she identifies herself as "the monster's mother") kills one guy in vengeance for her son's death and defends her own home against Beowulf, almost killing him. How in the hell is she 1) a villain and 2) a greater villain than is Grendel? It seems to me that the compilers of this list are letting her gender unfairly tint their view of her. The fact that she is female is the only other difference between her and Grendel, so that must be what makes her more "monstrous." I'd expect to hear that from a Klaeber or Chambers because they were writing so long ago, but I didn't expect to see it in the 20 Sept. 2008 posting for a British newspaper.

Also, I am not happy with the capsule for Ellen:
There's nothing in the poem to suggest that Grendel's old mum looked anything like Angelina Jolie. Hellbent on revenge, this inhuman hag drags Beowulf down to her lair at the bottom of a pond. Despite having been written at least a millennium ago, Beowulf has proved enduringly influential, inspiring the 1983 film Jaws 3-D.
Now those of us in the know see the glaring error: Beowulf dove at least half way to the bottom of the mere and was dragged by Ellen the rest of the way, whereas the nicors dragged him unwillingly to the bottom of the sea in his swimming contest with Breca. Ellen wasn't taking him somewhere he didn't already want to go. (Also, points are deducted for referencing the movie for a third of the blurb. Pitiful.)

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