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

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.

THANK YOU, DAVID MILLSTONE

Thank you, David Millstone.

“I’m writing to New England storytellers with a request,” David Millstone, a fifth grade teacher in Norwich, Vermont wrote many years ago. “Can any of you tell an episode from The Odyssey? The Sirens. The Cyclops. Calypso. Any episode will do.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was his basic request. I immediately wrote back (paper letter) and told him I could tell the whole thing.

I didn’t know the story at all.

To my delight, he wrote back and said I was hired. He was building an interdisciplinary unit around Homer’s great myth, and instead of asking his students to read a version, since Homer was a spoken-word artist, he’d like to introduce his students to the tale in this more authentic way.

My knowledge of The Odyssey was limited to a movie I’d seen as a kid starring Kirk Douglas, Ulysses. And having read Joyce’s take on the tale by the same name. I had three months to prepare. I got to work.

I’ll be telling THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST, the early episodes of what ended up a 4-hour epic, for an adult audience at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA this coming Sunday night beginning at 5:30. Introduction with music on Celtic harp, then into the tale itself with a 12-string guitar accompaniment.

The 12-string not a lyre, but it does have more strings.

A few tickets remain.

“Mythology Brain”–An Embarrassing Public Condition

I must suffer from “mythology brain” I’ve decided. This is an as yet undiagnosed condition, but could soon appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the renowned and ever-changing DSM). Symptoms include a Jungian fascination with myths, love of creating music and a sub-condition I’ve dubbed “dramatosis.”

Dramatosis presents itself not as hearing voices in your head that aren’t yours (a much more serious condition), but rather creating voices that aren’t yours for the benefit of listeners. “Mythology brain” is a strenuous form of public madness and I don’t recommend it to anybody.

Still, if you’d like to see what it looks like up close, I’ll be back at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square this coming February 11th to once again demonstrate the malady. Voices will include Odysseus of Ithaca, father, reluctant warrior, expert liar and all around great guy; enthusiastic drug takers called Lotus Eaters; sundry Ithacan crewmen; sheep and goats; and last but not least, Polyphemus the Cyclops, a giant cannibalistic shepherd who loves his animals but eats humans as they scream in horror. The huge, half-witted basso voice of Polyphemus is especially fun to make because despite the veneer of civility I try to maintain in my quotidian life, he feels the way I feel whenever I’m hungry and grumpy.

All kidding aside, the show is at 5:30 p.m. and seating begins at 5:00.

And there’s music throughout, of course. Celtic harp and 12-string guitar.

THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST/An Adult Storytelling.

Tickets are $15 ($10 for solo chairs) and you can get them here.

 

 

ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS Sunday Jan. 14 at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA

Adult storytelling this Sunday night!

Odds Bodkin returns to Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA to perform ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS: VIKING MYTHS OF ADVENTURE on Sunday night, January 14th at 5:30 p.m., with seating commencing at 5:00 p.m.

 

Eat and drink adult beverages like a Viking, then hear two epic Viking myths wrapped in little-known lore (Thursday is Thor’s Day; Wednesday is Wotan’s Day). First, a tale of magic and illusion as Thor and Loki journey to the city of their enemies, the Frost Giants. Meet Thor, big, strong, slightly dim and lovable, along with Loki, everything Thor is not. You’ll hear full characterizations for these mythic characters, along with peasants and immense giants. And of course, a full score on 12-string guitar. Then, the long tale of Odin’s search for the blood of his best friend who’s been murdered, his blood brewed into a wisdom-bestowing elixir. Hear another 12-string, along with more music and voices for dwarves, a dangerous, lonely giantess, and Odin himself.

 

Plus little-known Viking lore explained as Odds plays the Celtic harp. Last year, this show sold out, so grab your tickets now! Only a few remain!

 

Adventure, humor and great acoustic music.

 

$15 table seating, $10 at the bar. Get tickets here.

ADULT HORROR STORIES RECORDING EVENT at GRENDEL’S DEN

Years ago I made a recording called Dark Tales of the Supernatural and sold it on cassette. When I switched over to CDs and then to digital recordings (www.oddsbodkin.net/shop) I left it out. Mostly due to production values.

Over the years I’ve received numerous requests for it, and so this October 29th at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA, I’ll be recording a new version live.

Lycanthropes and wraiths, not to mention the Devil––both imitated by a fool and as a very real presence on the dance floor––comprise the four horror stories in this show. Plus the origins of Halloween, going all the way back to the Druids of ancient England and Julius Caesar’s comments about them in 55 B.C.

First, Rose Latulippe and the Devil, a French Canadian story deceptively scored with lovely Celtic harp music, even as Rose dances closer and closer to the elegant man with claws in his gloves. Unaware that her body parts are falling away, she just keeps dancing.

Next, The Storm Breeder, a classic New England ghost legend about how Jonathan Dunwell of New York received the hideous burn scar across his neck in the shape of a gripping hand. Wind, whiplashes, horse gallops and driving 12-string effects weave in and out of vivid characters in this tale.

In Eastern Europe they’re werewolves, in Russia, werebears, but in China, they’re werepanthers. In The Panther Boys, two fine young sons are cursed to take the skins of seven men of their village by turning to supernatural night cats. Kill they do, but the tale turns terrifying when their father realizes they must come for him next. This tale is told with creepy, wind-blown alto recorder and panther screams.

Last comes Treasure Trove, a tale from Russia’s serfs. It’s too dark and brooding even to begin to describe, other than there’s vodka, a funeral and hoof-prints of the Cossacks. That and it features a human devil.

HEARTPOUNDERS: Halloween Tales of Horror begins at 5 pm Sunday October 29th at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square. Spooky specialty foods and drinks will make it even more fun for these adult storytellings, all scored throughout with original music.

Come be part of a live recording event and enjoy some imagination entertainment for Halloween!

Tickets are $15 table seating and $10 at the bar.

Hercules, Rage and Women

In the genuine myth (if that’s not an oxymoron) of Hercules, he’s a prince destined to be king and early on marries his first wife, Megara. They have children until Hera, who hates him, sends a madness and while blindly raging, he kills his young family. The guilt that devours him afterwards is intolerable, but Zeus and the Fates decree that if he can perform his famous labors, the guilt will end. This promise drives him through much of the story, during which he avoids women, afraid he’ll lose his mind and kill them, too.

 
Halfway through his Underworld recounting of his life, Persephone asks him about women. Weren’t there any? All those years? No, he says, but talks about the finest woman he ever met, Queen Alcestis, who’d taken her own life so her husband could live on. Hercules had rescued her from the Underworld, for which Hades has yet to forgive him. Then he asks about the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, who he’d been tricked into killing by Hera, and how she’s doing in the Land of the Dead. After telling her story, Hades agrees to treat her ghost with a little more kindness.

 
Constantly filled with rage, Hercules spends a lifetime trying overcome it. It doesn’t really leave him until he spends three years as a slave to Queen Omphale for yet another murder. Accepting the punishment, he’s shocked when she takes his lion skin and commands him to dress like a woman, condemned to weaving with the girls. He learns to make his own dresses. Few people know about this cross-dressing episode in the myth. Yet it is only after this that he truly learns to appreciate women, and is finally free to love again.

 
Still, in the end, love is his undoing. His second wife, Deianira, loves him completely and they live together for years. Yet it is she who causes his death. To find out how, come listen to the tale, Hercules in Hell, this coming Sunday night, April 23 at 8:00 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA.

 
It’s a shocking, twisting tale. Told with 12-string guitar. An adult telling.

 

Tickets are here.

ADULT STORYTELLING IN CAMBRIDGE, MA: HERCULES IN HELL

“Oh, Hercules, I find your story so exciting!” effuses Persephone, Hades’ unhappy wife. Hercules has landed in the Underworld, a place he didn’t expect to be.

 
“Do you?” he asks, disgusted at the situation. He’s been telling his life story in order to get out of here and go to Olympus. Persephone, Hades’ unwilling wife, longs for news of the living, which until a moment ago Hercules was. But now he’s dead.

 
Hades doesn’t like his wife’s tone. “Oh, hold your heart back, Persephone,” he says jealously, wondering if this confession business was a good idea. He tries to make Persephone happy, but considering that he’s raped, abducted and imprisoned her here in the Land of the Dead, it’s a hard sell. She hates him. “He won’t be here long.”

 
Hercules has lived a hard, terrifying life. The last thing he wants to do is remember it for these two. “Let me go now and I’ll stop right here,” he growls sarcastically.

 
“Calm yourself,” Hades demands.

 
“Calm myself,” he retorts, getting angry. “Do you think it makes me calm to sit here and tell all this to you two dreary souls?” His voice has risen.

 
“Hades, he is rude!” she complains.

 
“Uh, yes,” Hades responds, “Hercules, shades like you typically do not speak here. If you’d like me to remove your voice…”

 
“No, no, no, I’ll calm myself,” the dead hero replies. “Oh, yes. I learned to do it. Took a long time…”


This is the fictional setting I use to tell the myth of Hercules. Only the characters speak. There is no narration from me. Just Hercules, Hades, Persephone and a host of other voices from Hercules’ sad, shattered life. That and a full, ongoing score on 12-string guitar with an introduction on Celtic harp. The tale is a long one, but it’s filled with humor, tragedy, adventure and in the end, hope. And I hope you’ll join me this coming Sunday evening, April 23rd at 8 p.m. in Cambridge, MA to hear it and imagine along with me. The venue is Grendel’s Den. Enjoy a mythic Greek meal, good drinks and some adult storytelling!
Tickets are here.

The Real Hercules Was A Rage-Filled Killer

When the Art Institute of Chicago commissioned me to tell the story of Hercules for an exhibition, I wasn’t aware that the glossy hero Hollywood had told me about was actually a sociopath and killer. His temper was volcanic and nobody near him was safe. This is the actual myth we’re talking about.

 
In order to free himself from the guilt of murdering his young family in a blind rage, Hercules is given a way out: ten labors (it ends up twelve). Worse, he must perform them for his weak, cowardly cousin, the king of Mycenae. It makes for a good story, though, how his cousin hates him and tries to send Hercules on labors that will kill him. The Nemean Lion, for instance, has a hide that blades or arrows cannot pierce. Hercules breaks its neck and ends up skinning it with its own claw, hollowing out its skull and wearing the dead lion as a helmet and robe. After that, arrows bounce off him.

 
Later, as poison blood hisses onto his lion’s skin, he kills the Hydra by knocking off its many heads, but makes a fateful mistake by dipping his arrows in the blood, which kills on contact like VX. That one act haunts his life and in the end, kills him. But being less than immortal, he can’t know that will be his end. At first he thinks nothing of people, or of slaying them, until after his labors he is forced to live as a woman and a slave for three years. Something in him changes and he is free to love again, but even so, he must still kill again to save his newlywed wife.

 
Hercules in Hell is a full-blown immersion into Greek mythology, told in a very fun way. Lots of amusing character voices and a score on 12-string guitar. The show is on the The Boston Calendar. 8 pm, Sunday April 23rd. Tickets are here.

HERCULES IN LOCK-UP

Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall is the lock-up for dangerous teens in California’s Central Valley, and until that day, the girls and boys incarcerated there had never been allowed into the same room. The warden, however, had okayed it for my show. With arms crossed and hands on opposite shoulders so nobody could hit anybody, the kids filed in, about forty miserable, thrown away children, past the guards with sidearms and pepper spray. There wasn’t a single African American kid among them, I noticed, just whites and Latinos. Some were quite young, nine or ten, but most were twelve to sixteen. Forbidden to speak to each other, they sat in chairs and listened to the 12-string guitar music I was playing through a couple of massive speakers. They were seated about six feet away from me. What these kids had done to end up in this hellhole, I had no idea. My friend, Roy Stevens, opera singer and polymath, had set up the show.

 
By then I’d told this hour-long story, Hercules in Hell, many times. Earlier in the week I’d performed it at the men’s prison, and they’d asked for autographs afterwards, so I knew the story worked. It moves people who are in trouble because the genuine Hercules of myth is nothing but trouble. Incredibly strong, he suffers from blinding rages, even as a teen. After each one he wakes up and sees the death he’s just dealt. But like a werewolf returning to human form, he can’t remember having done it.

 
It’s a good story for kids in lock-up, and for folks in general. I perform it often and will be telling an adult version of it this coming Sunday, April 23rd at 8:00 pm for my final appearance at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. The other shows have gone remarkably well, with wonderful audiences. As with all these epics, I’ll be playing the 12-string guitar to accompany myself. The Hercules score is unique among all my scores, employing a tuning I use for no other tale. It certainly mesmerized the kids in Juvenile Hall that day. They sat there for an hour in silence and then asked questions for twenty minutes. And nobody hit anybody.

 
Tickets for Hercules in Hell, if you’re interested, are here.

Mahabharata Backstory: Births of the Pandava Brothers

Once Upon a Time in Ancient India…

 
Out hunting one day, King Pandu comes upon two deer copulating and against all wisdom shoots them both in their helplessness. When he approaches to retrieve his arrows, the stag is still alive and says, “For killing us in our moment of delight, I curse you. If ever you make love again, you will die in that instant.”

 
Pandu’s two new wives, princesses Kunti and Madri, are horrified upon hearing this but stay with him anyway. The three go to live in the forest. However, before she was married, an old hermit, covered in ashes, has told Princess Kunti that if she ever wants sons by the gods, to utter a certain mantra. And so one night, alone in her bed, she calls upon the Sun, Lord Surya, and to her amazement, he appears in her room. The next day she gives birth to a son and sets him floating down the Yamuna River, which flows into the Ganges. He is found by a couple and raised, becoming the greatest warrior who has ever lived.

 
But then, two years later, Kunti wants sons to keep, so she summons Lord Dharma, the God of Justice, and the next day gives birth to Yudisthira the Wise, the first of the Pandava Brothers. Next, Vayu, the Wind, fathers a son destined to be the strongest man in the world, Bhima. Lastly, Indra, the God of a Thousand Eyes, fathers Arjuna, destined to be the greatest archer of all. When Madri, Pandu’s other wife, sees this, she asks for the mantra and summons the Aswins, Physicians of the Gods, and produces the Pandava twins, Nakula and Sahadeva. And so the five Pandava brothers come into the world, all with heavenly fathers.

 
In Yudisthira at Heaven’s Gate, a tale I’ll be telling this Sunday, King Yudisthira, now old, must journey to Mt. Kailasa to die, entering the the gates of heaven there. The battle discussed in the Bhagavad Gita is long past. But Arjuna and Bhima won’t let him go alone. Nor will Draupadi, wife to them all. What happens during their journey, and what happens at the gates, is one of the most dramatic stories I’ve ever learned to tell. With full characterizations, it’s accompanied by sitar-tuned 12-string guitar. Come here it!

 
The show is Sunday April 9th at 8 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. Tickets are $20 and $10 and you can buy them here.

 
India’s Ancients: Tales from the Mahabharata and Beyond.

Twenty-Seven Wives? Good Luck with that, Lord of the Moon

Lord Duksha is immensely fat and has the head of an Ibex, with huge curving horns. As a powerful mantra-wielding sage and deity, he’s convinced that there simply aren’t enough women in the world, and so has sixty-two daughters in all. As a doting father, he jealously guards their well-being, especially once they’re married. He wants them all to be happy. And so when Soma, the Lord of the Moon, shows up and asks to marry twenty-seven of Duksha’s daughters, the sage thinks he’s crazy.

 
“That is a great many wives,” he cautions. “How will you keep up with that?”

 
“Don’t worry,” Soma replies confidently, “I will pay equal attention to every single one. I’m quite the fellow.”

 
Of course, Duksha’s doubts prove true. Soma ends up spending all his time with just one wife, Rohini. Duksha’s fury and resulting death-curse upon the Lord of the Moon is at the heart of this hilarious adult story from India I’ll be telling this coming Sunday night, April 9 at 8 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. It’s called The Twenty-Seven Wives of the Moon.

 
I’ll also be telling other tales as part of India’s Ancients: Tales from the Mahabharata and Beyond.
The musical accompaniment is on a 12-string guitar, played with sitar scales. I hope you can make it!

 

Tickets are $20 and $10 and are available here.