Way back in high school, and for me the way back is in caps, we had to carry back and forth to school a tome that was an anthology of world literature. An excerpt from “Beowulf” commenced the tome. I read it. Remember nothing of it. Of late I decided I needed to improve my knowledge of the history and traditions of the Nordic area. Recently watched the four-hour series entitled “Storm over Europe – The Wandering Tribes” concerning the Nordic and Germanic tribes that eventually overwhelmed the Roman Empire. I rated the series 4-stars in my review. So, I thought I’d try a visual account of that first story in the anthology, lo’ these many years later. It was directed by Sturla Gunnarsson and released in 2004. Gerald Butler is Beowulf and Stellan Skarsgard plays the often-drunk King Hrothgar, leader of the Danes. Beowulf is a Geat, who comes from just across the straits, in modern day Sweden.
Its 500 A.D. A child sees his father murdered by Hrothgar and his lads. The child clings to the side of a cliff, escapes and grows up to become a super strong being, Grendel, who is called a troll (long before the Internet!), who repeatedly attacks Hrothgar and his forces, killing many. Beowulf comes from Geat-land, with a score or so of warriors, to the rescue. There is also Selma, a very attractive witch, whose had a hard life, which is not revealed on her face or body. Naturally, Beowulf sees some merits in her… as has, hum, that very strong troll. Lots of fighting, lots of drinking, some passable sex, at times ribald dialogue about sex with walruses, all in an extremely bleak landscape that is not actually Denmark, but rather Iceland. Also wandering around is a warrior-monk, Brendan, who is trying to convert them to Christianity and reminds them of Clovis. Hrothgar eventually takes the full-immersion dip in the river.
What to make of all this? It was a passable tale that I might have given 4-stars to, with Selma helping to boost the score. The problem though is that I never read Beowulf, which, one of my Danish friends has insisted, is some pretty good stuff. I read a number of other reviews that were highly critical, denouncing it for being cliché ridden, politically correct, et al., with too many changes from the original. The 1-star review of Grolar and the 2-star review of Hale seem to be quite valid, from viewers who know the source material, and were not “bewitched,” as I might have been, by the beautiful Selma.
Thus, will lower my rating to 3-stars, and commit to reading some Nordic source material, particularly the one provided by one of my Danish friends, more than a decade ago, entitled “The Sagas of the Icelanders.”