What Beowulf has to say to us?

21 05 2021
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Beowulf (2007)

Living in age where the nuclear family is under attack and fatherhood is considered irrelevant hold over from the middle ages, the epic poem, Beowulf, written probably in the 6th century by an unknown author may have something to say to us. Director Robert Zemeckis  2007 CG remake of the poem Beowulf is delight to watch.

The movie Beowulf (2007) is in 507 AD when a legendary warrior, Beowulf (Ray Winstone) comes with his band of soldiers to Denmark to the aid Danish King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) against the demon Grendel who torments his mead hall and kills and eats his men.  To confront the devil, Beowulf told the beautiful Danish Queen Wealtheow, whom he had fallen in love with, that since he had no weapon that could kill a demon, he would fight the devil naked and let fate decide who will win. Though funny, there is a fine logic behind Beowulf’s idea that reminds me of sayings of St. Josemaria, in his book the Way:

“Detach yourself from people and things until you are stripped of them. For, says Pope Saint Gregory, the devil has nothing of his own in this world, and naked he comes to battle. If you go clothed to fight him, you will soon be pulled to the ground: for he will have something to catch you by (The Way, pt 149).”

 If the devil has nothing and comes to battle naked, then those who wish to do battle with the devil must meet him on equal term by equally being naked, or else they would be putting themselves at great disadvantage the fight. Put in another way, if we are attached to anything, the devil will use that thing to defeat us. It happens all the time, for instance, a drunk attached to the bottle is dragged to the gutters by the devil through the bottle, and similarly a man attached to sex and women is dragged by the devil to his destruction through sex and women.

Thus, Beowulf strips himself of everything and lay naked waiting Grendel, and when Grendel (Crispin Glover) enters the mead hall that night catching and eating men, only Beowulf who was naked escapes his clutches and thus was able to fight him, cutting off his arm thus wounded Grendel ran off howling in anguish back to the swamp from which he came and there he died. The King Hrothgar gave a mighty feast in honor of Beowulf and made him a gift of his golden drinking horn. However, after the celebration, Beowulf wakes the next day to find that all his men have been slaughtered except for his friend Wiglaf who was not with the others.  King Hrothgar conjectures that must be Grendel’s mother who has done it, and called her the last of the water demons and confessing that he taught she was dead.

Thus Beowulf goes to the swamp to kill Grendel’s mother, queen of the devil, but she meets him in the form beautiful naked woman (Angelina Jolie) and enchants him, promising him to make him a king if he would love her and give her a child. She then took the dragon drinking horn from him and told him that as long as she keeps the horn she will never break her promises and Beowulf succumbs. Back home, Beowulf brings back Grendel head tells lies to his people, that he has killed the queen of the devils but the Hrothgar smells a rat and confronting him asks, “You have brought back the head of Grendel, but where is the head of the mother? To which Beowulf could give no answer except to retort, “Do you think she would’ve let me live if I didn’t kill her? And the old king suspecting what must have happened laughs and says to Beowulf, “It does not matter, what matters is that Grendel is dead and the curse of Grendel’s mother is no longer my problem.” It was then that Beowulf understood that he has now inherited the curse of childlessness and bareness with which King Hrothgars was accursed because of his sexual liaison with the queen of the devil.  Hrothgars then calling his people told them that since he has no son, upon his death, Beowulf would be king and with that he takes a leap through the window committing suicide.

Thus Beowulf becomes king and marries Queen Wealtheow but theirs is not a happy marriage and fifty years later, having conquered all the surrounding kingdoms, he is desperately unhappy and childless. However, Queen Wealtheow who is now a Christian sadly watches her husband’s infidelities, as he crawls into bed with different women, but thanks to her Christian faith  she was able to forgive. Then one day, a slave found the golden dragon cup returns it to Beowulf, who realizes that the evil queen was no longer protecting him and worries and prepares to returns to the swamp to try and return the golden cup. His wife, the queen, begs him not to go. Beowulf finally confesses all he has done and asks his wife forgiveness, declaring he has always loved her and she forgives and returns his love and affection. And his final words to her were that she should remember him, not as a warrior but as a man who had failings and weakness. With the love between him and his wife restored, Beowulf takes heart to confront the evil queen but it was too late for the fruit of their unholy liaison has grown into a mighty dragon that has already begun unleashing terror in the land and Beowulf dies from severe loss of blood because he had to cut off his own arm (much the same way that he cut Grendel’s arm) in other to kill the dragon and save his wife whom the dragon was about to slaughter.

There are many lessons to be learned from this film, one of them is the love of family, both on the side of the good guys and on the bad guys. Later in the film when we learn that the demon, Grendel was the son of Hrothgar, King of the Danes, through his unholy liaison with this Grendel’s mother, queen of the devil, we thus understand why Grendel did not harm Hrothgar, when he first attacked the mead hall, this was because even a demon does not kill his own father, Furthermore, when he returns  to the swamp, his mother, the queen of the devil asks him about his  father and Grendel quickly replied telling her, “I did no harm him,” which made her happy. Thus this film is very pro-family and fatherhood is sacred even to a heinous creature like Grendel.

The second lesson is revealed still in the opening scenes of the movie where we see the, Queen Wealtheow a modest and chaste woman who would not participate in the revelry and debauchery going on at the mead hall and thus when devil Grendel struck, it was as if Grendel had no power over her and she was invisible to him. This has been proven time and again, when girls and women guard their virginity through modesty and by not succumbing to the temptation turning their bodies into a canal play ground and toys, then they would not be tormented by the demons of abortions and others. But to do that they need to   shun pride and avoid dialoging with the devil. This was the mistake Eve made in the Garden of Eden according to the book of Genesis, when she willing entered into dialogue with the serpent in the garden, allowing him to fill her with his empty promises.  Beowulf equally made the same mistake when fell into the evil queen’s trap by dialoging with her and hence allowing her to fill him with her empty promises

 It is just as St. Josemaria advices those who wish to make progress in the interior life never to dialogue with the devil. The reason is because the devil is as old as the world and full of lies and empty promises, we cannot hope to match his capacity for deception, and the best thing is never to enter into dialogue and give the devil the opportunity to convince us because would lose we have an enemy within us that is attracted to sin from what spiritual writers call the wound of original sin. Thus we have a fallen nature and thus find it difficult to do good and easy to do evil, so the best defense against the devil who can easily seduce is never to dialogue. In conclusion, I would say that the movie Beowulf (2007) apart from a few incidents of bad language and adult scenes is very instructive and has a lot to teach us.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba


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