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‘The Mighty Geat’
A Warrior Be #15: Impressions of Beowulf
Lines 399-455 of John McNamara’s translation
Beowulf assigns guards over the war-gear, being the type of precaution that permits such allying behavior as his offer of aid. He then strides sternly under his helmet, not in supplication as a soldier would as a slave into the presence of his master with helmet or hat under arm or in hand.
He came to stand on the hearth which stones warmed the aging king and his armor shone, claiming great and unnamed deeds to recommend him and offering his service, also crediting the wise men of his nation on advising him on how best to help Hrothgar against the terrors of the fallen night and free his hall from idleness and emptiness. He now speaks of the wise men:
Lines 418-426
“for they watched when from battles I came,
stained with blood of foes: once I bound five,
destroyed the kin of giants; and in the sea slew
water-monsters at night while in dire distress;
won vengeance for Weders, ground down hateful foes—
those asked for woe. And now with Grendel,
that horrid demon, I shall hold alone
a meeting with the monster.”
Hateful foes and the kin of giants, suggests a non-Christian and/or non-Aryan enemy. Beowulf goes on to ask permission “to cleanse Heorot,” which may well be a mythic remembrance of ethnic cleansing.
Beowulf has heard that the monster does not use weapons, which may be taken as the monster not being in possession of steel, of being a Stone Age menace, for Beowulf declares that he will not wear his sword or shield and will seek single combat with the fiend. This is very much the response of the counter-insurgency war-fighter, who puts away his heavy weapons and goes on the hunt for his hit-and-run enemy. Might this story have even been inspired by a venture into North America, where Stone Age warriors would remain a real military threat into the gunpowder age?
Beowulf now asks permission to throw himself at the mercy of Wyrd [the force of fate, a heathen tradition] and will meet the man-eating fiend [suggesting a stone age feud of great antiquity, between peoples of alien race] un armored in wrestling and asking that his heirloom mail be sent back to his kinsmen, as he had it as an inheritance. In taking off his mail and setting aside his sword, the hero is shedding his social class, even as in laying aside his shield and helmet and spear he is offering to hunt the enemy on his own terms.
“…if death bears me off.
He will carry the corpse to gobble the gore,
this lone-going creature, greedy in eating,
drooling in the moors.”
The specter of death as an agent recalls the heathen mythos and the “lone-going” nature of the threat suggests 4th generation warfare as it is currently called, or the aboriginal way of war found amongst all Stone Age hunting folk. In many ways this primordial threat is imbedded in the human mind and easily latched onto by those who promote the cult of the Serial Killer, of a small army of lone actors slaughtering innocence from ambush across a continent.
End Section 6
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