Thursday, 14 May 2009
A mother in laws epic
I have just finished reading "Beowulf" for the first time. I found an old copy on our bookshelf and thought I would give it a try on the basis that it is something you should have read. The boss has identified the copy as probably belonging to my mother in law.
It was a surprisingly good read. I had no expectations of what it was about. I had a vague idea that there was a monster called Grendel but that was about it. It is a short read as it only took a couple of days to finish just by dipping in while waiting for the bus. I have to say that I really enjoyed it. However I was left with the feeling that I had just read something special.
For those interested in history, mythology, the links between ancient Britons and Scandinavia and Norse Mythology this short epic poem will probably already be familiar. For those who have only read as far as The Lord of the Rings you will find much that is familiar. For me and with the books I have read recently it is the similarities between Beowulf and the Kalevala that strike me most.
I don't wish to suggest that the two works are the same and I am looking beyond the "epic" format of both. I am even trying to go beyond the thematic similarities that bind them together and reaching more into the appreciation that epics in most European cultures, both ancient and modern, show a commonality that has contributed to the world I meet around me everyday.
It is this aspect of History that causes me to think: that where we are today is just the latest in a long line of toppling dominoes and from certain places the line backwards is clear. That is not to say I can thread a path back to great uncle Beowulf, I also appreciate the escapism of the epic itself.
We had some friends over from the UK at the weekend and we had a wonderful time with them. Catching up with people who have been in and out of your life over a number of years is rewarding and I did laugh to myself a little when I remembered our university selves as I watched us all play with their lovely one year old daughter. The thing with dominoes is you can look back and make sense of how it happened. It doesn't work the other way. I laughed precisely because I knew at University I never imagined we would be grown up enough to be parents.
Luckily for us we had a few nice days weather wise and were able to take a boat trip around the harbour and see most of the main sites in Helsinki. However the weekend was over far too quickly and I hope we will see them all again soon. I know that Polar Bear sends his best wished to Catherine!
This afternoon my Finnish classes begin again I must admit to being a little nervous. However I think this is due to the fact that I have had a 5 month lay off from studying the language and it has been progressing organically at work and I am worried that I will have to have my bad habits beaten out of me!