I’m sitting in one of my favorite classes in college, Ancient Classics. We’re studying Beowulf — the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language — and it’s the part where Grendel, the bone-crunching, blood-sucking demon who’s been terrorizing King Hrothgar’s halls for years, meets for the first (and only) time his match. Beowulf the Magnificent has come from afar to rescue the Danes, only Grendel doesn’t know it. He storms into the hall in the middle of the night, gobbling men whole and drinking their blood as usual, when suddenly he comes upon Beowulf and is shocked to find someone who resists him. The man and monster grapple hand to hand, claw to claw (Beowulf refuses to use any weapons since Grendel uses none), and, with superhuman strength, Beowulf manages to rip off one of the monster’s arms at the socket. The wound is mortal, and Grendel flees to the moors while the Danes rejoice and Beowulf becomes hero of the land — and of all of history.
Sounds like a pretty cool story, right? Good guy wins, bad guy dies. It’s the perfect plot . . . Right? Or . . . Are we missing something? Continue reading