Grendel’s Mother

As is evident from the title, my book reads the Beowulf story from the point of view of Grendel’s mother. I clearly used some of this material in my story. However, in my version, Grendel’s mother does not die. Her death is just one of the many false tales told about her. I tried to include different aspects of Anglo-Saxon womanhood for her: child, wife, mother, hall-queen, avenger of kin, medical provider, seeress.

I echo the Old English alliterative use of words present in Anglo-Saxon poetry. This consists of variation, that is, a noun or verbal phrase echoing or complimenting a noun or verb already stated, often representing an additional aspect of that concept. Beowulf is paratactic in style, which means there are very few coordinating conjunctions, unlike modern English which is hypotactic and uses many coordinating conjunctions. My work is a mix of the two. It is difficult to write a work in modern English and be utterly paratactic. This work is not an Old English poem; it is a modern novel presenting the Anglo-Saxon material from a character’s point of view. I have used aspects of Old English poetic verse craft, but have not been enslaved by them. Also, as Lee Hollander has discussed, it is virtually impossible to render a work in an entirely Germanic vocabulary for such frequently used words as battle, glory, revenge, etc. (Hollander, xxviii). Therefore, I have not purposely avoided Latin or French based words, though I have tried to include Germanic ones wherever possible.

Another aspect to Beowulf concerns the so-called “digressions;” that is, allusions in the midst of the main “plot” to events which happened elsewhere and previously, and even, as in the case of Beowulf’s ruminations on Freawaru’s marriage, in the future. These moments refer to heros and figures from the Germanic and Nordic world, such as Sigemund or the bad king Heremod. This is part of the Beowulf poet’s creative fashioning. The connection between this brief allusion and the main action must be teased out by the reader. I have incorporated numerous such moments from Germanic and Norse myth and history, trying to give enough context to allow the reader to make connections between main action and allusion. I have included a list of proper names, with source works, for those readers interested in finding out more about the figures alluded to. Much of that material comes from The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson (translated by Jean I. Young), The Saga of the Volsungs (translated by Jesse L. Byock), The Poetic Edda (translated by Lee M. Hollander), and Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (H. R. Ellis Davidson). I used both Nordic and Germanic allusions since the cultures were, at the time of Beowulf‘s action (fifth-sixth centuries), so porous and interactive that I imagine the stories and gods would have been mutually known. I have set the story about one century earlier than the usual dating of the action for dramatic purposes.

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