I’m reading Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and I’m about two thirds of the way through. He’s just off to deal with the newly awakened dragon who is pissed because someone snagged a goblet. Beowulf has been king for 50 years after having defeated Grendel and his ma. More and more over the last several years I’ve been interested in quest stories, particularly medieval works like Parsifal and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Quest, the Hero’s Journey. In fact I’ve always been attracted to this type of work, from Star Wars to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Last Wednesday I was babysitting my two girls and two other kids. The weather looked like it was going to be crappy so I rented Eight Below. When I got home, Y cringed and said D had taken her son to see it and they were both very upset by it, that dogs died in a terrible manner and so on. So I watched it myself last weekend and despite the Frank Marshall - Disney schmaltziness moments it was pretty good. And not that different from Beowulf, actually in that it comprised two separate hero journey’s: one by the main character and one by one of the dogs.
The hero has comrades but has to leave them and wander alone for a while. Then something or someone unexpected shows up (the sword which Beowulf uses to slay Grendel’s Mother is found, the old man who tells the main character the story about his father in Eight Below) to put the hero back on the path. In the end the hero must observe correct protocol (presentation of gifts to his king in Beowulf, asking the question in Parsifal, acknowledging Coopers girlfriend in the picture in Eight Below). This last part is like a restoration of balance after the quest and critical.