A Realistic Twist on an Ancient Myth Essay

A Realistic Twist on an Ancient Myth Essay

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A thousand years ago peasants and kings alike were drawn to the epic and often-heroic tales told by bards. Much like the modern audiences of movies today, these often-fantasized tales captivated their listeners and gave a microscopic glimpse into the culture of the medieval period. Today, there is no doubt that 21st century America is a vast and very divergent world than that of the writers of early British literature. However, nearly a thousand years after the original stories were written, American culture is still greatly influenced by these early Anglo-Saxon stories of heroism. Contemporary adaptations of these films combine these stories with the thrill of the dramatic cinema and the modern ideal’s of western culture to tame the overt epics of heroism to appear more “realistic” to a modern viewer. Grendel’s attack on Herot in the 2005 film adaptation of the Beowulf epic, Beowulf and Grendel, appears a little more pragmatic than the native text. Sturla Gunnersson, the film’s director, changes key qualities in both Grendel and Beowulf’s medieval characters in order to portray them as more human versions of their ancient counterparts. The contemporary Grendel appears more like a warrior and less like a monster, while the contemporary Beowulf appears less heroic.
The original text depicts Grendel as nothing more than a monster, a descendent of Cain. Grendel is a product of punishment. He has few human qualities and appears more animalistic in character. He fights like an animal, mauling his victims and eating their remains. He does not maintain an “honor code” of any kind and attacks his victims while they sleep. This early version of Grendel is described not only as being savage in nature but as being monstrous in appear...

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...fight is not epic, the viewer does not see any unimaginable skill when it comes to either opponent. They are simply equal, both ultimately flawed. The contemporary version of the early text is much more realistic. It takes away the fantasized aspects of the text and creates a more rational version for the 21st century viewer. Modern-day audiences no longer respond to tales of “perfection and fantasy.” In order to maintain the attention of today’s viewers the film had to tell the ancient narrative while still remaining grounded in reality. The film version of Beowulf depicts the story as a more practical historic tale than as a sensational fantasy epic.


Gunnarsson, S. (2005). Beowulf and grendel [film]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MddPzFIZ9GM

Heaney, S. (2008). Beowulf. (pp. vii-260). London: W.W Norton & Company, Inc.

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