More Than The Monsters Seem

While finishing Beowulf, I had a lot of thoughts, which led to two questions I was wondering about other people’s opinions of their understanding.

TW: Sexual Assault, if this is something that would raise unwanted feelings in you please feel free to skip my questions

While annotating with Sara-Ann, we were noticing a few particular words that paint Beowulf in perhaps an even darker light. When the dragon’s rage is explained to the reader it states, “She slept, trusting in human frailty to keep her lair unmolested. That trust would turn to dust, like everything” (2321). This is not the last time the dragon’s lair is referred to as “molested”, which of course brings up terrible connotations.

My main question is as follows; Could there be a much darker connection to Grendel’s mother and the dragon than originally is there? My immediate answer is yes. We discussed in class the nature of the time period, as well as the fact that Hrothgar could be Grendel’s father. In my small group discussions, we talked about how even Grendel’s mother’s lair is described in a more sensual light; “she felt his presence in her realm, and knew a man from above was invading the below” (1497). Multiple times the dragon’s lair is referred to as “unmolested/molested” or being taken advantage of; “He robbed her of nothing else, just the cup – but. Up she rose, raging, grieving, though to cry out was to confess she’d been stripped while sleeping” (2215-2216). This also usually occurs with one man alone with the “creature”. I think there’s a disturbing possibility that can be talked about with this particular word choice.

Connecting to my previous question, I’m wondering what others are thinking about the battle with the dragon. Moreso than with the previous battles, the dragon is described as having more masculine traits; “a dragon ranged, unchecked. She was a scar-skinned warrior, long accustomed to shadow-soaring by moonlight, defending her claim, hoarding in her own high hall” (2211-2214). Is there a connection to Beowulf noticing the dragon is “a larger threat” and therefore describing her in words he’d describe himself, or is it a conscious change from Headley or any previous translator? I personally think it could be either, as the dragon, although dies, she is the one to bring Beowulf down. It would also follow in Beowulf’s lens of the world, as he tends to only look at anyone as his equal if he can potentially be bested.

5 thoughts on “More Than The Monsters Seem

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I think you made some good connections in what you were saying. Until now, sexual assault was something I didn’t even think about in this story, but I think it was cool that you caught or came up with something like this. All in all, I think you did a good job with this and I can tell that you put some time into this post. Keep it up.

  2. I totally also noticed the language surrounding the dragon really felt a lot like a woman being assaulted and invaded. I think this conversation, as well as the conversation we had last week surrounding the mere representing a womb, and Grendel’s mother being invaded in that way go hand in hand. This poem really does seem to be a tale of women’s bodies constantly being invaded, taken advantage of, and then brutally murdered.

  3. Hey great post! I really enjoyed our conversation about this in class as well. I agree, I think the language in Beowulf is quite sexually aggressive and it’s littered throughout the poem. Great work finding supporting detail in the text, I was particularly moved by your quote from line 1497 that reads, “she felt his presence in her realm, and knew a man from above was invading the below.” If that doesn’t scream sexual assault I don’t know what does. Great work addressing this issue in Beowulf! I’m excited to hear and read more of your opinions this semester.

  4. I think it’s very possible that Hrothgar is Grendel’s dad. It makes so much sense then that he would be trying to rid any possible connections that could remain. The language use is wildly inappropriate in the text, especially with a modern sort of translation. If a friend told you their car was broken into and used the word “molested”, you’d at least give them a weird look. It’s certainly possible that the text is hinting at a darker past here.

  5. I think you have a very valid argument and it wouldn’t surprise me if this does represent sexual assault. How messed up would that be? Describing sexual assault as an epic slaying of a dragon… and why? I’m just thinking more and more about how the bar is raised throughout Beowulf, but the dragon ‘supposedly’ has nothing to do with Grendel or his mother… it’s just the climax. One hell of a climax but very strange, yeah?

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