VOICE OF A MONSTER/Video

VOICE OF A MONSTER

I know it’s weird, but it’s fun. Enacting an eighteen-foot tall demon beast, Grendel. And playing his creepy music while doing it. A monster who eats Vikings, this Grendel cannot speak. He just feels. Essentially he’s a giant wolf who walks on two legs and no Dane can kill him because his fur repels all metal blades. It’s not until Beowulf arrives on a mission of mercy to rid an old king of the monster’s nightly visits that Grendel meets his match. Beowulf must use his bare hands in what I like to think, considering the limitations of storytelling, is a pretty darn good battle scene.

All in the mind’s eye.

Tomorrow night, Sunday March 11, 2018, I’ll be enacting Grendel and a host of other characters in my performance of BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE at Grendel’s Den club on Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Showtime is 5:30 p.m.

Come eat Viking food and drink strong spirits as you listen. A full evening of adult storytelling, this show is a bit too graphic for children. Still, as Beowulf says, “Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage holds.”

Tickets

HARPING FOR BEOWULF

HARPING FOR BEOWULF/Video

I sat in my living room beneath my old tin ceiling this morning and recorded this quick extemporization on my Celtic harp. It’s a lovely instrument that creates an atmospheric music, which fits well while describing how in 1563, the year before Shakespeare’s birth, a scholar named Lawrence Nowell discovered the dusty manuscript of Beowulf in his master’s library. No one had seen it in five hundred years.

I’ll be returning to Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square this Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. to talk about that and then perform BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, probably my favorite story to tell these days. The score is on 12-string guitar, with leitmotifs for various characters. It’s a rather bloody and elemental story, and so children aren’t invited to experience it. But adults are.

Details and tickets are here.

Grendel’s Mother is Definitely Not Angelina Jolie in BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE

(a video of “Beowulf’s Theme” played by Odds Bodkin)

In Robert Zemeckis’s animated movie version of Beowulf, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel the monster’s mother. She is gold-skinned and womanly, a tip of the hat to Hollywood’s worship of the female form. Not only that, the she-demon’s voice is soft and seductive as she bewitches the men around her.

None of these scenes appear in the 1,000 A.D. Viking story, originally set down in Old English.

In the version of Beowulf I’ll be telling this coming Sunday on Harvard Square, like the monster Grendel himself, his mother is immense, wolf-like and anything but seductive. In fact, she’s terrifying. Creating a voice for her drags me to an extremity of dramatic expression I seldom visit in my right mind. Grendel the wolf-demon isn’t easy to voice either, roaring and slavering as he does; he has no language and speaks exclusively in aggressive animal tones. I just disappear and let him growl.

Both characters give me the willies, but this brand of storytelling—enacting characters—means I can’t legitimately leave them out of this wondrous old story. The human voices––Beowulf, Hrothgar and others––are much easier to embody.

In the past my storytelling style has been characterized as “over the top.” In the case of this tale, I’m afraid there’s no escaping it.

Beowulf: The Only One, a feature-length imagination entertainment for adults. Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at Grendel’s Den, Cambridge MA.

An adult performance. Not recommended for children.

Tickets are here.

HAUNTED BY THE MUSIC

Mostly the music haunts me. I still recall sitting out on my back porch under the sun umbrella one summer day trying to stitch the heartbreak together. “What can get at this tragic mood?” I kept asking myself, conducting experiments up and down the 12-string’s fingerboard. New chords I’d never played slowly revealed the sculpture-in-the-stone moment, the “ah ha!” release, when I finally said, “Wow. That’s it. That is beautiful. That has the dignity, the elemental loneliness and the magnificence I need.”

I was searching for a leitmotif for Beowulf the Viking hero. Having composed them for Odysseus in The Odyssey, David in David and Goliath, young Percival the knight in The Hidden Grail and other of my long-form bardic tales, musically it was a familiar creative process, but not emotionally.

You can get a flavor of Beowulf’s theme at 3:27 in this live recording of the tale.

 

I’ll be performing Beowulf: The Only One twice in the next weeks, and will be playing Beowulf’s theme and others as I do my best to enact him, King Hrothgar, Grendel the Beast and his vengeful monster mother. I still remember how when I recorded this tale live, the music worked. Two women in the audience felt the way I felt. Right there, in the middle of all those people, so loudly I heard it from the stage, they burst into tears.

 

Tickets and information:

Sunday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at the Riverwalk Music Bar, Nashua, N

Sunday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Grendel’s Den, Cambridge, MA

 

 

“No blades will kill it. Iron. Bronze. Silver. Gold. We have tried them all. If you wish to kill Grendel, you must do it with your hands.”

As Beowulf stands before him, King Hrothgar further describes the giant man-devouring beast that kills his people every night. Stunned, a thane whispers, “Beowulf. No blades? Then how…”

“Shhh,” Beowulf replies in low tones. “Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage holds.”

Beowulf: The Only One is an hour and twenty minutes long. Unlike movies about Beowulf, this storyteller’s version honors the original classic tale. Shot through with surging 12-string guitar music mapped precisely onto the story’s battle action in real time, it’s Odds Bodkin’s latest spoken-word tale. The character voices created by this master storyteller bring you close to every hope and fear.

Experience it today. Grab the download here and enter the dark, windy world of the Vikings.

Or get it as part of the Mythic Adventure Collection of Odds Bodkin’s epics along with The Odyssey, The Myth of Hercules, David and Goliath, The Hidden Grail and Viking Myths. Save over $50 on hours of imagination entertainment for teens and adults.

Listening samples for every tale.

“I Cannot Stop Listening”

Simon Brooks is an Englishman and fellow professional storyteller. He recently wrote a review of my latest epic audio story, Beowulf: The Only One. I’ve excerpted it below.

“Like all of his work, Odds Bodkin’s ‘Beowulf’is deep, funny, and brilliantly told. Odds’ version is entertaining and pulls you in so you cannot back away from it… I have listened to it several times. In fact I am at the point where I cannot start it unless I have the time to finish it all. I cannot stop listening to the words and music which flow so wonderfully throughout the hour and twenty minutes or so it lasts.”

Want a good story to listen to? Told for adults? You can listen to a sample and buy it here.

Happy Summer! And thanks, Mr. Brooks.

Beowulf: The Only One/Listening Sample

Beowulf: The Only One, an Odds Bodkin epic storytelling audio with music, will be published at https://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 https://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.

THE MONSTER’S VOICE/Beowulf:The Only One

Beowulf, the oldest known work of English literature, is about a man fighting monsters. Beowulf fights three of them over the course of the story. The first is Grendel, an ancient demon who is terrorizing the Viking Danes. Since he has no powers of speech, to create a character voice for Grendel took some experimenting, but in this prototype recording of Beowulf: The Only One, my hour-long audio story coming out later this fall, you can hear Grendel growl a few times and catch a whiff of his theme music. He’s a beast.
Enjoy.

 

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.