Beowulf: The Only One/Listening Sample

Beowulf: The Only One, an Odds Bodkin epic storytelling audio with music, will be published at http://www.oddsbodkin.net/shop/ Thanksgiving Day 2016. The 65-minute audio is a new bardic telling of the ancient Viking tale, the oldest known piece of literature in English.

With character voices for Beowulf, King Hrothgar of the Danes, Unferth, Wyglaf and Grendel the monster and his mother, the tale is scored throughout with original music on 12-string guitar.

The download is priced at $14.95.

Enjoy this audio sample! 3:25 minutes.

BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE Audio Thanksgiving Day Release

Beowulf: The Only One
A New Bardic Telling with 12-String Guitar

Odds Bodkin’s new 65-minute bardic telling of the oldest story in the English language will be available at http://www.oddsbodkin.net/shop/ on Thanksgiving Day. Employing a cinema-like score on 12-string guitar, human characters and monstrous voices, the audio tells a tale of gratitude and simple courage in the face of ancient evils.

Beowulf: The Only One is gruesome in places and filled with vivid details of old Viking life. Unlike recent Hollywood versions of the tale, the audio closely follows the original poem’s story, from the monster Grendel’s first attacks on Hrothgar’s mead hall to Beowulf’s battle with the Fire Dragon fifty years later.

The story includes frank violence. Not recommended for listeners under 12.

This recording joins Bodkin’s collection of epic tales for older children, teens and adults that includes The Odyssey, David and Goliath, The Hidden Grail and The Myth of Hercules, all available as mp3 audios at www.oddsbodkin.net.

The download will be available for $14.95 using PayPal.

BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE/A Storyteller’s Creation Notes

When I heard the late Seamus Heaney’s reading of his 2000 translation of Beowulf on CDs, I was so struck by the golden language and Heaney’s glorious lilt I’ve recommended it to folks ever since. If you’ve never heard it, don’t miss it. Appreciative as I was of the original Beowulf’s heraldic detail (many sub-stories of kings and feuds, which go on and on like begats in the Bible), I wondered whether I might be able to create a bardic version of it, as I’ve done with other epics, that simplified the language and content enough to make the old story itself more accessible, while cleaving faithfully to its soul.

 

 
So a few years ago I set about to create characters and music for it, performed it at the University of New Hampshire once, and a couple of other times since, watching it and its musical score grow in my imagination. I purposefully left out the long-winded heraldic speeches, since unless you’re a medieval scholar they won’t mean much, and instead focused on a few characters. Hrothgar, the old king of the Danes. Grendel, the beast that haunts his mead hall for 12 years, killing men every night. Beowulf himself, of course, honor-bound, preternaturally calm and good-natured in my version, who’s not much of a trickster. Grendel’s Mother, a terrifying demon. Unferth, the drunk who insults Beowulf but ends up lending him his sword. Wyglaf, Beowulf’s faithful cousin, and a few other voices for thanes and thieves. Enough of them, I think, along with the narration and the music, to tell the tale I want to tell, because from my familiarity with various versions, there lies a literary theme in Beowulf that has yet to be explored.

 

 
The theme is this: how, at the end of his life, does a man like Beowulf feel about being “the only one?” He’s the only one brave and grateful enough to journey to Denmark and offer to free Hrothgar of his curse, but also the only one responsible for keeping the peace for fifty years afterwards back home among warring Franks, Friesians and Wylfings. And most heartbreakingly, the only one brave enough to face a fire-dragon that’s awakened, even though Beowulf knows he’s going to die for doing it?

 

 
Mulling this over, and reflecting on Beowulf’s stunning statement (in the original), “Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage holds,”–my favorite line in the story, which I feature three times in my version in Beowulf’s deep voice–I placed him on the battlements with Wyglaf, wondering aloud whether if something terrible happened now that he’s old himself, if some young man would come to rescue him? Beowulf is not who he was. Still big, but white-bearded and tired of strife.

 

 
Wyglaf says no, and then the dragon appears.

 

 
Beowulf: The Only One will be coming out this fall as a download from my shop at www.oddsbodkin.net. To explore other epics, feel free to visit.