“He seized one sleeping man, ‘biting the bone-joints, drinking blood from veins, great gobbets gorging down. Quickly he took all of that lifeless thing to be his food, even feet and hands.'”
This from the first epic in the English language. A heated discussion on the heels of my previous post about the “cruel” and abhorrent atrocities committed by the heroic figures in the Odyssey set off a bottle rocket in my so called mind. I had averred that art must be understood in its cultural historic context and to dismiss or condemn any work of art because we disapprove of the mores and ideals in it is to miss the point.
The history of literature and all art is in a very real sense the vivid history of our moral and ethical evolution. It is also, IMHO, a fossil record of our species’ attempts to restrain our basest most powerful instincts for a higher good: altruism, something that allows people to live harmoniously in communities and for civilization to rise and develop.
From the New Yorker on Beowulf Great overview from a contemporary perspective.
An interesting thing relative to my previous post is that though Beowulf was brutal and in a sense monstrous, he slays three MORE brutal, hideous monsters–to save his friends.
Inch by inch we become kinder, more considerate.