Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Beowulf Again??

What are the chances of seeing a reference to a 10th Century literary work that hardly anyone reads within 24 hours of referring to it myself? Not great, I would hope.

However, yesterday I was reading the most recent issue of The Horn Book, which includes an article on J.R.R. Tolkien by Susan Cooper (whose fantasy books are all over YA shelves). In it she says that Tolkien always began his lectures at Oxford by reciting the first lines of Beowulf--in Anglo-Saxon. Having read only The Hobbit (I read it aloud to my kids--a couple of the longest weeks of my life), I can't address whether or not the old hero seems much of an influence on Middle-earth. Though I do recall that the Anglo-Saxons were always giving each other rings, and I believe a ring is supposed to figure prominently in the famous Tolkien trilogy.

I've often wondered if the whole Beowulf/Anglo-Saxon thing about warfare being the highest form of manly endeavor and straightest path to honor didn't influence the Klingons in Star Trek. I also wonder if English majors don't read too much into things.

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