Not Another Word … Really

Beowulf manuscriptI’m sort of all written out. I just finished a long commentary on the fourteenth section of “Beowulf” for the Endor discussion list. We’re going through the poem from start to finish. I suppose it’s mostly me going through it at this point. Someone on the list proposed a study of “Beowulf” last summer. I think we finally started it in the Fall, and I’ve been struggling to find time to stay with it through the holidays. There is just so much going on.

“Beowulf” was probably the first bit of ancient German/medieval folklore/adventure I ever encountered. When I was in the fourth grade, I was attending an experimental school in Dade County, Florida (in Coral Gables, actually). The various grades were divided up among “cones”. We didn’t have classrooms. Each cone was a building with its own study centers, kitchen, arts and crafts room, and what seemed (to a 9-year-old child) like immense electronic folding doors that could be used to divide the cones into sub-sections (temporary classrooms).

The audio-visual resources were fantastic. Although the lesson plans were structured for classroom teaching, kids were often sent off to work on their own in special study groups. Teachers and teachers’ aides came around to make sure we did our work (so, naturally, I got away with all sorts of mischief). One of the cool things I always looked forward to was sitting in the little booth to read the film strips. I got to read “Beowulf” and several other neat stories that way.

So, no, I wasn’t reading the full poem, but it was an exciting rendition complete with a recorded narration and a little “ding” or “beep” to tell me when to move the film strip to the next frame. It was almost like being inside a Viewmaster, those 3-D “glasses” things that you would put round picture disks into. The Viewmasters showed you 3-dimensional pictures of pupets. Sort of like watching still shots from the old Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop-motion photography movies.

I studied Norse myths for the first time in the fourth grade, and just absolutely fell in love with all those Germano-Scandinavian tales. Thor went thundering across the countryside in his chariot. Loki was scheming by his side. Huge giants towered over them. Beowulf ripped off Grendel’s arm. School was almost fun in those days. My friends and I used to make little bows and arrows in the arts and crafts room and we’d have feuds and wars in the study areas when the teachers looked away. Experimental schools were very, very different places from the traditional sit-the-kids-in-the-classroom environment.

So, I tend to get enthused when I revisit “Beowulf”. There’s all sorts of neat historical and cultural stuff in the poem. Beowulf would not have looked anything like the man in the poem if he really lived. I can just imagine the traditionalists of the “Beowulf” poet’s day lambasting him for not sticking to the original tales, for embellishing the old standard with new-fanngled ideas. He probably took a lot of heat but received a lot of praise, too.

So, anyway, I’m all written out.

Don’t really have anything to say.

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