Beowulf @ Ellis

Sara L.

            In my artistic representation of the epic Beowulf, I painted and drew the scene of Beowulf slaying Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair.  I also wrote a poem portraying Grendel’s mother’s side of the story.  In my tapestry, I portrayed various themes, such as pain, revenge, hatred, and death, but my main theme was good vs. evil.  By using this theme, I was able to represent how good will always triumph over evil, and how a man and God’s power will always vanquish malevolence.  “Only Beowulf would risk / His life in that lake; Unferth was afraid / Gave up that chance to work wonders, win glory / And a hero’s fame.  But Beowulf and fear / Were strangers; he stood ready to dive into battle.” (1469-1472)
            In the poem Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is described as a loathsome creature;  “And all at once the greedy she-wolf / Who’d ruled those waters for half a hundred / Years discovered him, saw that a creature / From above had come to explore the bottom / Of her wet world.  She welcomed him in her claws” (1497-1501).  However, I represented Grendel’s mother as somewhat human and not a complete monstrosity.  To show her two sides, human and monster, I created contrast in her body parts, such as her hands.  One of her hands is a mangled, scaly claw clutching a dagger in rage; “Squatting with her weight on his stomach, she drew / A dagger, brown with dried blood, and prepared / To avenge her only son” (1545-1547).  This claw shows her monstrous side, and also symbolizes her hatred, anger, and revenge tormenting her soul.  However, her other arm is normal and delicate, showing that some of her is human and perhaps even beautiful.  This is ironic, considering her other arm is horrid and wicked.  Her hair also has contrasting qualities.  The multiple colors of her hair represent her multiple feelings, such as love for her son, insanity, and revenge and hatred towards Beowulf.  The colors do not harmonize, symbolizing chaos in her mind and soul, and her insanity and focus on revenge.
            As a part of my artistic representation of Grendel’s mother, I also wrote a poem that focused on the defeat of Grendel’s mother, and her thoughts of how she would complete her revenge, even after she had descended into hell.  Each subtitle in the poem (such as PAIN, REVENGE, and HATRED) represents Grendel’s mother’s thoughts and feelings.  They also represent (at that exact time) what is happening in her life (such as POSSESSION and DRAGON).  Throughout the poem, Grendel’s mother dies, and then escapes hell in order to possess the glittering dragon to finally defeat Beowulf.  Yet in the end, good triumphs over evil.  As Grendel’s mother descends into hell once more after being defeated by the power of man for a second time, she observes her hated enemy ascend into the light of God; “His soul / Left his flesh, flew to glory” (2819-2820).  She realizes that all she ever really wanted was to know the LORD’S eternal love, but she cannot.  Since she is an ancestor of Cain, she is therefore eternally damned;  “Conceived by a pair of those monsters born / Of Cain, murderous creatures banished / By God, punished forever for the crime / Of Abel’s death” (105-108). 
            The main character, Beowulf, is also a main part of my artistic representation.  Obviously, Beowulf is the heroic protagonist who defeats the malicious Grendel’s mother; “He drew it (the sword) / From its scabbard, broke the chain on its hilt / And then, savage, now, angry / And desperate, lifted it high over his head / And struck with all the strength he had left / Caught her in the neck and cut it through / Broke bones and all” (1561-1567).  I represented Beowulf as a man with regular stature, and not the typical, huge and muscular fantasy hero.  To me, a hero is someone who isn’t picture perfect, but someone who is brave enough to stand up for what is righteous (in this case, Grendel’s mother) The sword that Beowulf used to kill Grendel’s mother was also equally important in my artistic representation; “Then he saw, hanging on the wall, a heavy / Sword, hammered by giants, strong / And blessed with their magic, the best of all / weapons / But so massive that no ordinary man could lift / Its carved and decorated length” (1557-1561).  I colored it a bright silver, to represent light shining in darkness, and how good has power over evil.  The swords size also represents power.  The sword is massive, larger than Beowulf’s torso.  The sword was also forged by mighty, wicked beasts of the past.  This shows that justice could come out of something originally made to do harm.  The sword, in a way, was Beowulf’s partner in the vanquishing of immorality, which is why I made it quite noticeable, and I consider it personification.  The sword also represents the power of God.  Without God, Beowulf escaped Grendel’s mother’s clutches, and lived to defeat her and the sword enabled him to do exactly that.  “He’d have traveled to the / bottom of the earth / Edgetho’s son, and died there, if that shining / Woven metal had not helped-and Holy / God, who sent him victory, gave judgment / For truth and right, Ruler of the Heavens” (1551-1555).
            As another part of my artistic representation, I drew attention to something that was not focused on primarily in the poem, and that is the sunken mead hall’s walls, only I represented them as abstract rocks.  Their shape is twisted and distorted, to symbolize the world; “Below them was the lake, its water / Bloody and bubbling” (1416-1417).  The color of the rocks symbolized distress as well.  All are colored a dull, dark brown, representing hatred and despair.  However, one rock I did not color brown, but instead, I painted it gold.  This was the rock behind the hero, Beowulf.  The gold represents Beowulf and God’s power and peace finally returning to the lake; it represents the light of God finally shining through in the dark world; “The brilliant light shone, suddenly / As though burning in that hall, and as bright as Heaven’s / Own candle, lit in the sky” (1570-1573).  This ultimately shows that good triumphs over evil. 
           As a final part of my artistic representation, I drew and painted the scaly, swirling sea monsters peering in from behind the rock wall; “They could see the water crawling with snakes / Fantastic serpents swimming in the boiling / Lake, and sea beasts lying on the rocks / The kind that infest the ocean, in the early / Dawn, often ending some ship’s/Journey with their wild jaws” (1425-1430).  Each sea monster is differently colored, and each color is either sickeningly bright or a grimy dark.  Some are yellow, orange, or speckled while others are black, blue, or patchy with sludge colors.  The array of colors again shows confusion and insanity in the noxious lake.  As well as having frenzied colors, the sea monsters also have gleaming red eyes.  The red eyes represent monstrosity, and again, the immorality that dwells in the lake.  However, the abundance of sea monsters in my tapestry shows the power of man and God.  In order to reach Grendel’s mother, Beowulf had to vanquish the sinful monsters both on his descent to her and his ascent to land; “Beowulf aimed an arrow at one / Of the beasts, swimming sluggishly away / And the point pierced its hide, stabbed / To its heart; its life leaked out, death swept it off” (1433-1436).
           In my artistic representation of Beowulf, I represented not just the simple theme of good vs. evil, but how the power of God and man united can accomplish terrific feats.  As for my poem, I showed a different side of what is known as evil.  I showed that atrocious monsters, such as Grendel’s mother, can feel emotions such as pain and sorrow, as clearly as readers can.  Overall, the point of my artistic project was to show the greatness of man and God united, working together to defeat evil, while also portraying a more sympathetic side of Grendel’s troubled mother.   
     


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