Read the following and be prepared to discuss each of these passages, beliefs, and questions in class.
Talking back to Grendel: What are your beliefs?
After the discussion, add additional thoughts and support in the comment box below. You can address one issue or multiple issues. You can stick to a topic we discussed in class or you can write about a topic we didn't get to. 300 words or so. Be thoughtful. Deal with complexity. Take a position. Support your thoughts with examples and reasons. Do this tonight. If for some reason you can't post your response on the blog, write it out by hand, bring it to class, and post it later. [Note to C-block: I was supposed to introduce a grammar assignment that you'll be completing over the next several weeks. Read the directions here. Then ask questions tomorrow.
Chapter 6 (Virgo, the virgin):
“A hero is not afraid to face cruel truth…. [Grendel,] you talk of heroism as noble language, dignity. It’s more than that, as my coming here has proved. No man above us will ever know whether Unferth died here or fled to the hills like a coward. Only you and I and God will know the truth. That’s inner heroism.”
“…I didn’t know how deep the pool was,” [Unferth] said. “I had a chance. I knew I had no more than that. It’s all a hero asks for.”
“I sighed. The word “hero” was beginning to grate. He was an idiot. I could crush him like a fly, but I held back.
“Go ahead, scoff,” he said, petulant. “Except in the life of a hero, the whole world’s meaningless. The hero sees values beyond what’s possible. That’s the nature of a hero. It kills him, of course, ultimately. But it makes the whole struggle of humanity worthwhile.”
I nodded in the darkness. “And breaks up the boredom,” I said.
What is inner heroism? Is it important to you to strive for inner heroism? Or, is inner heroism a form of foolishness and stupidity?
Chapter 7 (Libra, the scales/balance)
Beauty and Kindness
When drunken men argued, pitting theory against theory, bludgeoning each other’s absurdities, she came between them, wordless, uncondemning, pouring out mead like a mother’s love, and they were softened, reminded of their humanness, exactly as they might have been softened by the cry of a child in danger, or an old man’s suffering, or spring. The Shaper sang things that had never crossed his mind before: comfort, beauty, a wisdom softer, more permanent, than Hrothgar’s.
The queen smiled. Impossibly, like roses blooming in the heart of December, she said, “That’s past.” And it was. The demon was exorcised. I saw his hands unclench, relax, and—torn between tears and a bellow of scorn—I crept back to my cave.
I slammed into the bedroom. She sat up screaming, and I laughed. I snatched her foot, and now her unqueenly shrieks were deafening, exactly like the squeals of a pig. No one would defend her, not even suicidal Unferth at the door….
Do you believe in beauty—in all forms—as a way to inspire people to be better?
Do you believe in the importance of kindness, empathy, and sacrifice for the good of others?
Chapter 8 (Scorpio, the scorpion)
Government and Political Change
[Hrothulf] said angrily… “Nobody in his right mind would praise violence for its own sake, regardless of its ends!”
The old man shrugged and put on a childish smile. “But I’m a simple man, you see,” he said, “and that’s exactly what I do. All systems are evil. All governments are evil. Not just a trifle evil. Monstrously evil.” Though he still smiled, he was shaking, only half controlling it. “If you want me to help you destroy a government, I’m here to serve. But as for Universal Justice—“ He laughed.
Do you believe in the necessity of government and law—even when you disagree with them?
Do you believe that through political change the world can be improved?
Chapter 9 (Sagittarius, the centaurian archer)
God and Religion
[The Chief God] is the eternal urge of desire establishing the purposes of all creatures. He is an infinite patience, a tender care that nothing in the universe be vain.”
“The ultimate evil is that Time is perpetual perishing, and being actual involves elimination…. Such is His mystery: that beauty requires contrast, and that discord is fundamental to the creation of new intensities of feeling. Ultimate wisdom…lies in the perception that the solemnity and grandeur of the universe rise through the slow process of unification in which the diversities of existence are utilized, and nothing, nothing is lost.”
The Fourth Priest: … Now I see, I see! The will of the gods! The rhythm is re-established! Merely rational thought—forgive me for preaching, but I must, I must!—merely rational thought leaves the mind incurably crippled in a closed and ossified system, it can only extrapolate from the past. But now at last, sweet fantasy has found root in your blessed soul! The absurd, the inspiring, the uncanny, the awesome, the terrifying, the ecstatic—none of these had a place, for you, before. But I should have seen it coming. O I kick myself for not seeing it coming! A vision of the Destroyer! Of course, of course! Before we know it, you’ll be kissing girls! Can’t grasp it, brothers? Both blood and sperm are explosive, irregular, feeling-pitched, mess—and inexplicably fascinating! They transcend! They leap the gap! O blessed Ork! I believe your vision proves there is hope for us all!
Do you believe in a supernatural power (God) that gives purpose to all things? What is the nature of the supernatural power you believe in?
Chapter 10 (Capricorn, horned goat)
Memory, History, Storytelling
I think of the pastness of the past: how the moment I am alive in, prisoned in, moves like a slowly tumbling form through darkness, the underground river. Not only ancient history—the mythical age of the brothers’ feud—but my own history one second ago, has vanished utterly, dropped out of existence. King Scyld’s great deeds do not exist “back there in Time”…They do not exist at all. My wickedness five years ago, or six, or twelve, has no existence except as now, mumbling, mumbling, … I strain my memory to regain it.
Are memory, history, and storytelling about the past important to you? Are they necessary for our culture? Or, is the past gone, irretrievable, irrelevant, and meaningless?
Chapters 11 and 12 The rest of the book (Aquarius, water bearer; Pisces, fishes):