Beowulf Post 9/11
In the classic story of the heroic Beowulf, the theme of heroism is prevalent all throughout. Beowulf is revered for his massive strength, defeating Grendel, his mother, and even a dragon. As Alison Gulley points out “… Beowulf has been many things. It has been filmed a number of times, and the protagonist has been a comic book hero since the 1970s” (Gulley 804). This is highlighting the fact that Beowulf has been revered as a hero, and heroism of this period was through strength, honor, courage, and boasting. All of these qualities make up Beowulf, and he has become a beacon of hope in this modern era for people looking for a hero.
Beowulf paints a very dark, and vivid image of a villain. One who is mysterious, cowardly, and malicious is a villain, all these qualities make up the character that is Grendel. Through the book, Beowulf paints Grendel as a very bad being. Through modern interpretations, Grendel has been seen as misunderstood, and a victim “Grendel shows that America’s enemies are not simply evil, rampant killing machines, as Grendel was in the original…” (Gulley 810). Although this was a misunderstanding, Grendel was still a villain in the original book. By sneaking in the night, and hiding in the shadows, Grendel was the opposite of the grandiose fighters and heroes in Heorot. These qualities all add up to the epitome of a villain in the book of Beowulf.
The Article, “What We Need is a Hero: Beowulf in a Post-9/11 World” author Alison Gulley makes the comparison from Beowulf, to the hero that America needed at the time. Gulley points to films that victimize Grendel by making him seem misunderstood, and drawing a parallel to the 9/11 terrorists. She points out that these films are meant to make the attacker think as to why he or she is attacking, and to try to understand and reason with the enemy instead of making rash decisions. She also highlights how misunderstandings can lead to a bad result. Grendel in the movies has been portrayed as hated, and bullied by Hrothgar and Beowulf making him not the monster that he is, but a mere victim. This however is a wild misconception, although Grendel may be “bullied” but that is no excuse to murder and terrorize the great mead hall that is Heorot. All together, Gulley writes an article relating Beowulf to the United States, and Grendel to Al Qaeda, showing that the United States did not understand its enemy and ultimately hurt itself spending trillions of dollars on the black holes that were Iraq and Afghanistan. Gully merely brings in a classic writing to explain her point, and uses movies and modern interpretation to help the reader understand how important it is to try and understand the monster and help it.
Movies and media today depict a new and strengthening villain, ISIS. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is the new Grendel in our world today, planning in the shadows and coming in the dark of night, ISIS is cowardly in the first world. It seeks out misinformed, and misunderstood people and preys on them to do its bidding. As Grendel hides in his cave, ISIS hides within its boarders, only coming out to cause havoc. In the case of Beowulf, the United States has been perceived as the hero. The US has always been a strong courageous nation, and this was the obvious choice when the subject of hero came into the article. I do agree with this quote, because the generalization of people leads to the dehumanization of them eventually. Just as the Jews were rounded up and murdered with the logic of “all Jews are evil” the same logic has been applied to muslims today. Although it would be impossible to achieve the Hitler style genocide, the generalized fear of the group by the actions of some lead the public to be biased against that group. So I believe that there are always bad people in large groups, and the generalization of groups can lead to malicious things, although the majority of major terror attacks in recent years have been by Muslims, not all muslims are bad.