Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Raping the darkness, d-d-death by his side

So I have had the misfortune to hear Marillion's SEVENTEEN minute long song 'Grendel'. About one minute in I couldn't help but be reminded of Spinal Tap's 'Stonehenge' (except at least that's actually good). Apologies in advance to any Marillion fans. Let's agree to disagree.


I. Heorot's plea and Grendel's awakening 

Midnight suns bid moors farewell, retreats from charging dusk 
Mountain echo, curfews bell, signal ending tasks 
They place their faith in oaken doors, cower in candlelight 
The panic seeps through bloodstained floors as Grendel stalks the night 

Earth rim walker seeks his meals 
Prepare the funeral pyres 
The shaper's songs no longer heal the fear 
Within their eyes, their eyes 

Wooden figures, pagan gods, stare blindly cross the sea 
Appeal for help from ocean fogs, for savior born of dreams 
They know their lives are forfeit now, priestly head they bow in shame 
They cannot face the trembling crowd that flinch in Grendel's name 

Earth rim walker seeks his meals 
Prepare the funeral pyres 
The shaper's songs no longer heal the fear 
Within their eyes, their eyes 

As Grendel leaves his mossy home beneath the stagnant mere 
Along the forest path he roams to Hrothgar's hall so clear 
He knows that victory is secured, his charm will testify 
His claws will drip with mortal blood as moonbeams haunt the sky 

Earth rim walker seeks his meals 
Prepare the funeral pyres 
The shaper's songs no longer heal the fear 
Within their eyes, their eyes 

II. Grendel's Journey 

Silken membranes span his path, fingerprints in dew 
Denizens of twilight lands humbly beg him through 
Mother nature's bastard child shunned by leaf and stream 
An alien in an alien land seeks solace within dreams 
The shaper's lies his poisoned tongue malign with mocking harp 
Beguiling queen her innocence offends his icy heart 

III. Lurker at the Threshold 

Hounds freeze in silence bewitched by the reptile spell 
Sulphurous essence pervades round the grassy dell 
Heorot awaits him like lamb to the butcher's knife 
Stellular heavens ignore even children's cries 

Screams are his music, lightning his guide 
Raping the darkness, death by his side 
Chants rise in terror, free round the oaken beams 
Flickering firelight portraying the grisly scene 

Warriors advance, prepare for the nightmare foe 
Futile their sacrifice as even their hearts must know 
Heroes delusion, with feet in the grave 
Lurker at the threshold, he cares not for the brave, he cares not for the brave 

So you thought that your bolts and your locks would keep me out 
You should have known better after all this time 
You're gonna pay in blood for all your vicious slander 
With your ugly pale skins and your putrid blue eyes 

Why should I feel pity when you kill your own and feel no shame 
God's on my side, sure as hell, I'm gonna take no blame 
I'm gonna take no blame, I'm gonna take no blame 
So you say you believe in all of Mother Nature's laws 

You lust for gold with your sharpened knives 
Oh when your hoards are gathered and your enemies left to rot 
You pray with your bloodstained hands at the feet of your pagan gods 
Then you try to place the killer's blade in my hand 

You call for justice and distort the truth 
Well I've had enough of all your pretty pretty speeches 
Receive your punishment, Expose your throats to my righteous claws 
And let the blood flow, and let the blood flow, flow, flow, flow

And there you have it. I'm not sure what makes me more embarrassed; the picture chosen for the video, the comments that say things like "Most unique, beautiful, fantasy, heroic song ever" or "Breath taking. gasping for air!" or the awful lyrics.
I feel bad for being so critical of this, but it really is awful. Apologies again to Marillion fans (as if any exist). On a good note however, the song is obviously influenced by Gardner's Grendel and some of the lyrics (despite their cheesiness) are....thought provoking? The last section of the song at least. 

Unfortunately for Grendel, his name hasn't had much look in the music industry, with the likes of this. It's also of little surprise that there's a Finnish power metal band also named Grendel. Those Finnish lads are crazy anyway. Whereas at least Grendel's Mother gets a good song, which I previously posted about. 

I think this explains everything

This is the kind of stuff you're driven to listen to (and write about) when you're supposed to be doing an assignment. But hey, at least I'm not doing something completely irrelevant. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Grendel and Cain

Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts (Beowulf, trans Seamus Heaney)

I'm finally going to talk about Grendel, who is probably more interesting to most people than Grendel's Mother (except when she's Angelina Jolie, of course). There's lots of different views on Grendel, mostly whether he's human or beast or human-beast or a bipedal dragon (seriously). I haven't quite made my mind up about Grendel - I do know I am sympathetic to his character, but I'm not certain how human he is. I don't think I can be quite so certain about Grendel as I am with Grendel's Mother, but I'm sure within the next year of studying my arse off I will have a better idea!

So...what we know about Grendel from his first introduction is that he is of Cain's clan, or at least lives with the feckers. From Cain also sprang the orcs and the elves and the giants (or as translated by Edwin Morgan (presumably while on an intense high), "kobolds and gogmagogs, lemurs and zombies"....eh, sure). So, for the purposes of this post, we'll say he is of Cain's descent, because let's face it, I wouldn't be writing this otherwise.

File:Peter Paul Rubens - Cain slaying Abel, 1608-1609.jpg

We all know Cain - he's the feen who killed Abel, his brother, for some reason or another, and thus became the first murderer and the first to fall under a curse. As a punishment, he was exiled and so were all who descended from him, and bore the "mark of Cain" (not necessarily a physical mark).

So, as one theory goes, the sons of God (conflicted ideas of whether these are men of Seth or the "Watchers") mated with the daughters of men (Cain) and produced the Nephilim, a race of giants who inhabit the earth in Genesis. However, there are conflicting ideas about this theory - it never says directly that the Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men. Grendel being a giant, and being a descendent of Cain, means he is possibly connected to the Nephilim, but, the only problem here is that these giants were washed away in the Great Flood of Cork in 2014...or whatever time frame it was that Noah was around.

HOWEVER, fear not ( I know you were), another door lies somewhat ajar here. There are some roads leading from the statement in Genesis about the earth having to open her mouth and receive Abel's blood, quite the cannibalistic image. This is also repeated in the Old English Geneis A; "Feud occurred for the kin of men, since the earth first swallowed Abel's blood". In the Book of Enoch (aka I Enoch), a book which, judging what the good old Bede says, was somewhat popular with the Anglo-Saxons, it is said that the race of giants born from the daughters of men "devoured one another's flesh and drank the blood from it". It is possible that Beowulf was written in a time in Anglo-Saxon England when everyone from Ælfric to Bede and Wulfstan were freeaaking out about blood and laying down prohibitions about drinking it (this was mostly to do with animals in case you are wondering), along with major issues such as eating while taking a dump. Bede himself said that consuming blood was the greatest sin of the giants. And, finally getting to the point...Grendel also consumes blood - so in this way, he is linked to the Genesis giants and Cain.

File:Bonaventura Peeters - The Great Flood - WGA17128.jpg
The Great Flood, by Bonaventura Peeters

Yes, but still, the Great Flood. Well, apparently, Ham (or Cham), son of Noah, was the first person to be cursed after the Flood, as he inscribed secrets into stone and metal to preserve them from the Flood: "When the Flood was over he sought them out with the same curiosity for sacrilegious things with which he had hidden them, and transmitted the seeds of perpetual wickedness to later generations" (Book of Cassian). Similar episodes can also be seen in a number of Irish works, including the Middle Irish Sex aetates mundi, which states that Cham is the "heir of Cain after the Flood, and from him sprang leprechauns, and giants, and horseheads, and in general every unshapely form that men have", which is extremely, in a too-good-to-be-true way, really similar to the line in Beowulf about "ogres and elves and evil shades - as also the giants" (Alexander's trans). I really love that leprechauns and horseheads bit though. Kind of makes me wonder why I didn't study ancient Irish texts...too feckin' late now though.

File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Fall of the Rebel Angels.JPG
The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

According to Andy Orchard (who I owe much thanks to in this post: Thanks, man), there is another possible link in the sword that is found in Grendel's mere, the one Beowulf uses to finally kill Grendels Mother. In the Book of Enoch we are told about "The Watchers" or "Grigori", the fallen angels who are credited with teaching metalwork and weapon-making to men: "And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them . . . And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways." (I Enoch, Chapter 8). Such an inscription on a metal sword depicting the Flood and the giants may also be linked to Cham's inscription on the metals and stone of the earth. Although, a bit of a weaker link, but I am clutching at straws here!

So, with texts like the Book of Enoch floating about (a latin translation from Britain dating from around the possible time of Beowulf) and these numerous Irish texts with similar features, it's not impossible that Beowulf, and in particular the story of Grendel was influenced by them. Either way, it makes for some interesting reading (in my warped mind at least)