Last week Beowulf took center stage. His youth will be explored again, but today’s post has two parts. The first deals with Grendel’s mother. As a lover of all things dark and fantastical, she has always appealed to me. As a child, I remember thinking, “Why doesn’t she have a name?” Perhaps you’ve wonder this as well? I mean, even men who had little to no part in the overall structure of Beowulf had a name. Perhaps it was a sexist ploy? Here, in the first of two poems, you’ll see it was indeed intentional on her part. Grendel’s mother had her reasons. The second poem connects to the first, and Unferth, the jealous warrior who Beowulf seemed to always best in his boastful speeches, gets some of the limelight. These mini projects will fill in gaps and add depth to certain characters who have remained mysterious for years. Prepare yourself for Beowulf: The Midgard Epic. Adventure awaits …
What’s In a Name
(The Seduction of Unferth)
“Cain’s descendants mated with the angels shunning grace.
Those of us remaining hide among you in this place.
Skin as stone and snake hide; hair like tentacles and scale;
Ruling from these caverns underneath where we prevail …
Magical and horrifying, sorcery and sword …
Weapons we have crafted will not harm me or my horde.
Hrunting I present you; it will grant the strength of ten.
Something in your eyes says you want more than mortal men.
Go ahead and take it; touch the blade and feel it burn.
Hrunting will possess you; it can sense the way you yearn.
Many splendid wonders in my kingdom I have made.
Over on the wall, some from my ancestors displayed.
Giants and the fallen angels course within my veins.
Mortals best be wary as I free their fear from chains …
None above on Midgard have the will to conquer me.
Yet the spirits whisper darker days that they can see.
Future set in motion can be altered if by chance.
I have seen this future; still I long for this romance.
Even evil beings know the treasures held in love.
Curse the ones who hate us; curses on God high above!
He condemned my fathers and my mother’s long ago,
Still they knew what love meant; still their hearts found room to grow.
Unferth, you shall wed me as you bed me in my home.
Grendel has departed up to your lands, set to roam.
Others, yes, my siblings, but you’ll never find them here.
Most are dead; forgotten; others hide bereft of cheer.
No one knows my name, for if a name becomes well known,
It can give the wielder power over flesh and bone.
Grindylin, I tell you, for to trust me is my aim.
Grindylin, dear Unferth, is my secret; is my name.
Only you and others, sisters, husband, and my brother
Ever will I share this; to the world, I’m Grendel’s mother …
Yes, I’m Grendel’s mother, Unferth; let me make that clear.
Soon the lands of Hrothgar’s keep will tremble, washed in fear.
I am darkness coming; I am nightshade; I am death.
Come to feast on mortals; come to taste a final breath!
Lay with me, my Unferth, lay while moonlight fills the skies …
Lay with my, my Unferth; drink the venom from my thighs …
Let yourself be welcomed by the love in my embrace,
Given all you’ve longed for in the pleasure of my space.
Heed a single warning, power in the name I grant …
Beowulf; beware him; now come nearer as I chant
Filling you with magic like no other witch can do.
Come and take me, Unferth; be the man I see in you!”
“I have lain with Grendel’s mother; she has been my income’s source;
Gave me pleasure like no other; gave me heartache and divorce.
Mortal men have known no measure; she, a serpent wolfskin drape.
Sultry, sensual; a treasure bound about me, noose to nape.
Claws as razors, cutting edge, demonic in her lusty suit;
Now I wallow in her flavor, tastes entice me to pollute.
When I gaze into my war-shield, me, not she, I realize
Is and was the only monster, waking from a dream’s demise.
Unferth, as this world may know me, magically sealed within.
I alone have brought this trauma; I alone have walked in sin.
Hrunting was the sword she gave me; Hrunting failed the warrior’s grip.
She designed it not to harm her, I had sent it on his trip.
Beowulf, the braggart boasting, how was I to know her fate?
He returned my sword while toasting; spoke of it as something great.
Yet it was not mine that ended life from Grendel’s mother’s chest.
No, it was Goliath’s blade that lopped her head and rend her breast.
Standing with my one reminder, Hrunting placed back in its sheath,
Heavy was my need to find her, hung about in sorrow’s wreath.
I had feared the seething waters teeming with destructive life.
Now I murdered someone’s daughter; in a sense I lost my wife.
Truth be told her venom soothed me; filled me with the strength of ten.
Now I felt the wind beneath me scale me down as other men.
Still beyond the deepest ocean, whale road’s open call to me
Cradled me with but one notion: I must brave the lonely sea
In the hopes that of her secrets, one might prove a flame to singe,
Pledging on the blade of Hrunting, Beowulf shall know revenge!”
James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is coming soon from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC.
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