“Out from the marsh and rotted logs,
The misty hills and sinking bogs,
Arose the one God’s hatred clothed,
Rose Grendel, bloodlust fully posed …”
This is one of James’ favorite quotes from his new novel Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, and a bloody good one, I concur, soon to be released from Stitched Smile Publications. James is one of the friendliest guys here at SSP and didn’t need any real pressure applied to get him to share with everyone a little teaser for his novel. (Basically I just asked. He’s real generous like that.)
Beowulf: The Midgard Epic
Called from across the ocean, BEOWULF responds to KING HROTHGAR’s plea. Bringing a small band of warriors, he arrives in Daneland under Hrothgar’s instruction. There the mighty fighter learns of the terror GRENDEL, a heinous monster, inflicts night after night on the king’s people. Murders by the dozen craft panic and fear into the citizens of Daneland. Seemingly unstoppable, Grendel devours flesh and bone as he sees fit.
Weaponry cannot penetrate the creature’s hide, but Beowulf does not need sword or shield to accomplish his duty. Choosing to lay all weaponry aside, the warrior prepares for battle. Feigning sleep, he waits, until the beast arrives. The two battle. Conquering the creature’s horror, the mighty one surpasses Hrothgar’s expectations. Ripping Grendel’s arm from its socket, the beast flees into the night howling. Beowulf and all of Daneland celebrate in HEROT, Hrothgar’s monstrous mead hall construction. Its creation lured the now defeated monster from the depths of the unknown.
Victory, short lived, ends in yet more tragedy. Grendel’s MOTHER appears, unleashing the full fury of a woman scorned. Dismembering and beheading Hrothgar’s closest friend nearly brings Hrothgar’s ruin. However, as with Grendel, Beowulf answers the call to battle. Diving beneath murky waters, slaying serpents and sea beasts, he makes his way to the lair of the demon. Grendel’s mother awaits, prepared for the mighty warrior. Her venomous touch brings some difficulty in the undertaking, but as with Grendel, Beowulf prevails. Using a magical sword from the days of the giants, he courts her doom. Severing her head, the Geat fighter brings peace to Hrothgar, Herot, and the lands beyond.
Spanning fifty years, peace ensues. Once a thief steals a cup from a sleeping DRAGON’s hoard, this alters the state of retirement Beowulf enjoyed. Silent no longer, the giant wyrm rises from its pile of hidden treasure unleashing fiery death upon the great hero’s countryside. Many lose their lives, but their cries do not fall on deaf ears. WIGLAF, a young pupil of the now aged warrior, aids him in what will become Beowulf’s final conflict. Many thanes flee during the altercation, for the dragon’s bite means sudden death. However, Wiglaf stands by until the bitter end. Beowulf triumphs over the old wyrm, but in the process is bitten by its venomous fangs. The ancient legend of a man passes into twilight as Wiglaf chastises his comrades for their cowardice. Beowulf lives on in song and story for generations to come.
I sat down and talked with James about his love for Beowulf, the inspiration for the novel and how his artwork goes hand in hand.
Mike: When did you first discover Beowulf and what were your impressions the first time you read it?
James: I first discovered Beowulf at around the age of five. I got this book with monsters from legends all around the world. It had a section about Grendel, and as I was already fascinated with Star Wars and The Hobbit, it just seemed to fit. My mom subscribed to Childcraft books, and their 1984 annual, Great Myths and Legends, had this amazingly illustrated section on Beowulf and his battle with the dragon. This occurred around the time I turned ten. Once I got to high school, I’d already read most of the tale. I remember being the only senior who loved it. It became my favorite story outside of my normal sci-fi, horror, and fantasy tropes. When I went to college, I took courses I knew would have Beowulf somewhere in the mix. It’s such a pet of my creative drive … I can’t imagine my life without it!
Mike: What inspired you to write your own Beowulf tale, particularly in epic poem format?
James: I had written several stories, and even a fantasy based novella, all in rhyme by 1997. Since I’d always loved Beowulf, by the time I was finishing my Master’s degree in English/Language Arts, I came up with a plan. I loved to write, but poetry seemed to define me. At this time I was teaching middle school English. I wanted to make Beowulf into something fun; enjoyable. I also wanted to recreate it in a way I’d never seen it … Thus after many moths of research, I opted to use rhyming iambic tetrameter to compose the story we had all been told for generations. Mine doesn’t change anything. I wanted to remain faithful to its roots so it could be used academically as well as for entertainment. Hence Beowulf: The Midgard Epic burst from my mind and onto the blank pages before me. My version also includes an old poem called The Wanderer, where I conclude that its narrator must be Wiglaf, the young warrior who aids Beowulf fight the dragon. Again, I want this to be everywhere, and appeal to as many different areas as possible.
Mike: When did you begin your artistic endeavors and how have they affected your life?
James: I began my artistic endeavors around the age of three. My first major film to watch in the theater came in the form of a little movie we call Star Wars. Add in the Rankin/Bass Hobbit cartoon, and the rest is history. My favorite story my mom tells happened when I was in kindergarten. The teacher called her in for a conference and told her she was worried because I didn’t want to go out at recess. I wanted to stay in and write stories and illustrate them. Art; poetry; story telling … they are my life. I wouldn’t be me without them.
More Bits of Bone and Fleshy Quotes to tantalize your tongues:
“His claws pushed back behind and caught
In Beowulf’s imprisoned taught
And mighty hold, who leaned upon
The arm of Grendel, pressing bone …”
“When fifty winters turned the page,
And Beowulf grew ripe with age,
A dragon woke from slumber’s keep,
Aroused amid its ancient sleep …”
I’m sure you’re all ready to get your grubby old paws on this one in the flesh. Well, thankfully the wait is not long at all. Join James and the rest of us at SSP on Halloween night for the pre-release party of Beowulf: The Midgard Epic on Facebook!
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.
Find out more about James Matthew Byers and Beowulf: The Midgard Epic on:
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Mike Duke, Author, Stitched Smile Publications
I’m 44, married 25 years, and have a son and daughter who are both grown and out of the house (pretty much). My German Shepherd, Ziva, is my baby now.
I was a cop for 12 years (and even spent a few years on the SWAT team) before getting into the training industry. The last 10 years I’ve been teaching military, law enforcement, bodyguards and private citizens High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving and Hand to Hand Combatives. I also did a few bodyguard gigs.
I have been writing since high school off and on but started to tackle it with conviction in 2009. I’ve self-published two short novellas – Ashley’s Tale and Ashley’s Tale: Making Jake and one short story – The Awakening. Stitched Smile Publications will be publishing my novel Low before the end of 2016, plus I have a story in their Monsters vs Zombies anthology.