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.

THE WINTER CHERRIES: Tales for the Holidays at Tillotson Center, Colebrook NH at 2 pm on Nov. 26th

Odds Bodkin will perform THE WINTER CHERRIES: Tales for the Holidays on Sunday, November 26th at 2 p.m. at the Tillotson Center in Colebrook, New Hampshire.  Free to the public, the storytelling concert features Bodkin’s most beloved tales for the Holiday Season.

Fun for the entire family.  Music on Celtic harp and 12-string guitars.

Or you can buy the album here!

Happy Holidays!

Math, Science and Philosophy Enabled by Children’s Storytelling

Long ago I read Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book, Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence. In a section on storytelling I found an astonishing quote: “This imaging is the foundation of future symbolic and metaphoric thought, both concrete and formal operational thinking, higher mathematics, science, philosophy, everything we consider higher mentation or education.”

By “imaging” Pearce refers to an invisible wonder at work inside us––the human ability to create novel mental images. Not on screens that we view, but in our minds’ eyes. “Mentation” is a fancy word for general mind use. What he’s talking about is what takes place in kids’ brains when they engage in creative story play (using toys to tell themselves stories) or when they listen to others tell them stories. In both instances, PET scan studies reveal that kids’ brains literally light up when they’re doing this. They’re firing up a sophisticated intra-web of brain cells that once they’re stimulated lock themselves in place and slowly build with other ones into flexible, creative knowledge that lasts a lifetime. They’re lassoing memories to assist in creating their images and learning new words that fuse those dreams with growing literacy. Not only that, their emotions are at work. The more emotion, the more vivid the imagery and the more indelible that memory becomes.

So as Einstein famously said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” On the surface it seems counter-intuitive that parents reading kids something as non-scientific as fairy tales, or kids listening to them if their parents don’t have the time, might well build the neural nets that will someday enable those same children to master mathematics, science, philosophy and formal operational thinking.

Pretty interesting. Instead of drilling children on numbers, letting them dream makes them better at numbers later.


Odds Bodkin