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Beowulf
Baba Brinkman

Yo, listen up, I wanna say some things

About the days of ancient Danish kings

One of the first was a foundling

Who flourished called Shield Shaefing

Whose great grandson Hrothgar

Was in charge of the Danes when this tale is told

The tale of a mead hall harrowed

By a terror, and a hero called Beowulf

A massive mead hall – Heorot

Hrothgar had it built

And after he filled it with dancing and drinking

And laughter and singing, happy people

Yeah, but that was brief though

There was a monster prowling on the moors

Grendel, and for him the sound

Of carousing was just an obnoxious roar

Now Grendel’s been called a fiend

Cursed by God, a powerful demon

Yeah, lots of awful things,

And it’s true that the works that he wrought were fiendish

But these were superstitious folk,

And yes, I mean both the Christian poet

And the old pagan text he re-wrote

Grendel’s flesh was physical

Now I’ve heard some outlandish conjectures

From critics about how Grendel’s cannibalism

Was essentially different from the psychopathic

Pleasures of a man like Hannibal Lecter

One theory goes that he was the last

Of a band of Neanderthal wretches

Another says that he was an apparition

The province of psychoanalysis

Yeah, rabid secularists like me

Wanna cut to the heart of a story

Maybe he had some deformity

In his eardrums, now that would be parsimony

It doesn’t matter – you know as well

As I do that there’s no hell

No gods, no demons, no elves

Delivering gifts on Noel

And I say “Oh well”

So what if Grendel’s nature isn’t clear-cut?

All that matters here is the level

Of fear that he brought to Heorot

They say at night he snuck in

Greedy and grim, and murdered thirty men

But even if it was just three men

Would he be any less of a demon?

Grendel left the Spear-Danes screamin’

And they couldn’t even deal him a cut

He just killed when he wanted and spilled so much blood

That it left a bit of a chill on their fun

So they prayed to their pagan gods for relief

If only they had Jesus!

If only they knew what we know now

How Jesus comes to your aid when he’s needed!

Forgive me for being facetious

It’s just that divine intervention

Was just as non-existent then

As now as a help in a time of oppression

What happened instead was

That word spread to the seven seas

To the friends and enemies of the Danes

That Hrothgar’s hall stood empty

And it spread to the Geats, to Sweden

To the land of Beowulf

And him and his men donned their chain-mail coats

And sailed for the Danish coast

And it wasn’t long before they stood

Sea-swept, and rain-soaked

In Hrothgar’s great mead hall

And there Beowulf made his famous boast

He said: “Anyone who’s ever seen me fight

Knows that I’ve never been the type to back down

I’ve suffered extremes defending the Geats

And I’ve never had a match ‘til now

But I’ve heard there’s a fiend in your land

A demon who has no fear of reprisal

Who creeps in the night and eats you alive

And threatens your mere survival

So here’s my boast: I’ve heard it said

That Grendel fights with no weapons

So I’ll go toe to toe with no sword in my hand

And no shield by my side for protection

Yeah, hand-to-hand combat!

Just me and the fiend in a fight to the death

And if Grendel wins

Well then best believe he’ll be feeding tonight on my flesh!”

Well, Hrothgrar was quite impressed

With the strong words of this conqueror

And he ordered a feast to be served to the Geats

And the mead hall was soon full of drunkards

But their comforts were soon disturbed

By a servant of the king called Unferth

A weaselly little flea who was eager to see

Beowulf’s pride get punctured

“What vanity!” he cried to the crowd

“This man lives in a fantasy

If he thinks he can defeat

Such a powerful enemy single-handedly

His accomplishments are nothing

But narcissistic non-existent nonsense

How can you defeat a monster when you even lost to

Your friend Breca in a swimming contest?”

But Beowulf wasn’t nonplussed

By this obnoxious onslaught, naw

He said: “You’s a flea, and I’m the big dawg

I scratch you off my balls with my muthafuckin’ paws

Besides, bitch, your information is wrong,

I beat Breca and cut off the python

Tentacles of every muthafuckin’ leviathan

That tried it on up in that quiet storm

And anyway

If you had any skill

Then Grendel couldn’t kill all your men

And still go back to his den at the end and chill!”


After that, Unferth, basically

Well, he just shut the fuck up

Maybe because of Beowulf’s

Gratuitous use of the word “muthafucka”

Yeah, it’s offensive language

But come on, this is Anglo-Saxon

You can’t expect manners

From men of action, nah, that’s a plain distraction

After his word-clash with Unferth

Beowulf went back to the feast

And kept on boasting out loud

About how he was gonna tackle the beast

And then Hrothgar went to bed

And left the guard to Beowulf and the rest of the Geats

And the fires burned low

And the mead hall was soon fast asleep

And that’s when the shadow stalker

Grendel, came greedily loping

Down from the mountain and out of the mist

‘Cause he could smell fresh human meat for the gulping

And the mead-hall was dozing

Every single person in the place was unconscious

Except for Beowulf

Who lay awake in the darkness waiting for the monster

The hall was erected as a fortress

But Grendel just smashed the doors in

With his massive hands and grabbed the first warrior

In sight and viciously slashed and gored him

Mmm, the taste of his flesh was gorgeous

And Grendel was ready for more, just

Itching to turn the rest of these poor

Wretches into a pile of dismembered corpses

So he moved like a phantom

Over to the next man’s form on the floor

But that’s when he felt a strong hand

Clamp on to his wrist and twist back his arm

Then Grendel felt a kind of pain

That he never in his life had to contemplate

Squeezed! Like by an anaconda snake

And only one thought in his mind: don’t fight, run away!

But he was boa constricted

Beowulf had him in a death-grip

I mean, you know how much pain is inflicted

Right? When your arm gets twisted?

Well the intended victim was the predator now

And the hall filled with the most pitiful sound

This long, drawn-out, desperate howl

Like: “Aaaaooooooowww!”

And Geat warriors surrounded Grendel

With their swords drawn and tried to stab him

But none of them could get a blow past him

So they swore that his skin was enchanted

But some form of spell-casting

So that no physical weapon could scratch him

But what do you think the chances are

That they just chickened out and called it magic?

I mean, it does sound like one of those embellishments

Invented by storytellers just

To make Beowulf’s belligerence

And bellicose rhetoric sound like prescience

Yeah, so his men were ineffective

But Grendel’s howls were blended

Now with the sickening sound of ligaments

Twisting out of position and ripping tendons

Ow! Then his limb disconnected

And Grendel ran back out into the mist

And Beowulf raised the severed arm aloft

Still held in his fist

And the Geat warriors gathered ‘round

Eager to see the demon flesh

And they all agreed that, yes

Grendel was soon gonna bleed to death

Then they mounted the arm as a trophy

On the wall to inspire their fire-side boasting

And the troubadours immortalized

Beowulf’s heroic deeds in their poetry

And I wish I could end this scene

With the Danes and Geats on easy street

But heroes fight demons in threes

So, enter Angelina Jolie

As Grendel’s mother, a feminine killer

With collagen lips and swollen breasts-s-s

And when Beowulf confronted her

All he really wanted was sex

God damn it Robert Zemeckis

Your Hollywood epic with all of it

Marketing methods is confounding

My honest efforts to keep this poem authentic!

It’s pathetic! All I see when I picture

Grendel’s mother, instead of a hideous monster

Is Crispin Glover caressing his digitally-rendered

Mom like an incestuous lover

And I’ll never recover, so forget it!

If you want to know her actual facial features

Ask your twelfth-grade teachers, or college professors

They’re the last gate-keepers on tradition

Or read Seamus Heaney’s version

His verse is amazing!

But any pop-culture interpretation

Is subject to virtually unlimited changes

‘Cause if you try to please the tourists

Then the purists get Tourette’s and curse you

And if you try to do the reverse

Well, the tourists are known for their lack of endurance

So who do I try to please first?

Myself, and it usually works

So instead of judging like jurists

Just sit back and enjoy the experience

And I’ll go back to the story

Actually, forget it, I’d rather just leave it

If you really wanna know how it ends

Well then I guess you’d better just read it


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Lyrics by Baba Brinkman

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