Dr. Seuss' Beowulf

Every Geat
Down in Geat-land
Liked Heorot a lot…
But Grendel,
Who lived north of Geat-land,
Did NOT!
Grendel hated Heorot! The whole Heorot Hall!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows it all.
It could be his arm wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be , perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason,
His heart or his feet,
He stood there MidWinter’s Eve, hating the Geats,
Staring down from his den with a sour, Grendel pall
At the warm lighted smokeholes below on the Hall.
For he knew every Geat down in Geat-land he spied
Was busy now, drink great goblets of mead.

“And they’re eating their lutefisk!” he snarled with a sneer.
Tomorrow’s Midwinter! It’s practically here!"
Then he growled with his Grendel fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop MidWinter from coming!”

Tomorrow, he knew…

…All the Geat Men, Women, and pups
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their cups!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
It just hit me that the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas parallels Beowulf very exactly. They’re stories told in characteristic rhyme about a solitary creature living away in the cold from the warmth of a celebrating town (with Christian overtones not quite explicit) who is disturbed by the noise of the celebration, and slips into the place by might to wreak havoc and destroy the joy of the celebrants. Grendel gets away with it because he’s more ruthless, and doesn’t have a change (or expansion) of heart, so we have to have a hero go out and extinguish him.
It’s not completely a parallel. There’s no Beowulf, and no dragon, and no Grendel’s Mother (although, in the version I rewrote, the Grinch’s dog Max plays much the same role). And there’s NOTHING in HtGSC about the past kings and battles of the Whos. (Nor anything about their encounter with Horton, or Beezlenut oil). It was probably in the part that was destroyed by the fire in Colton Library.

No doubt the poem was more interesting in Old English, with an alliterative scheme, split lines, and fewer rhymes at the end of lines. Fortunately, a latin transcript has survived:


Nice catch! It would be interesting to have a list of Geisel’s favorite books.

But then, lots of people are exposed to Beowulf in school, so it could have influenced him even if the poem wasn’t on his bookshelf…

I will save this and read it to my grandson at frequent intervals. Thank you!

Perhaps you could try a version in which the Cat in the Hat (playing Beowulf) tears the Grinch’s arm off.

Y’know, either the literary analysis or the pastiched poem would have been enough by itself to make for a good thread, but you just had to show off…


If Grendel is The Grinch, does that make Little Cindy Lou Who (who’s no more than two) Beowulf?

This is freaking genius. :smiley: A delight to read.

Shouldn’t that be Cindy Lou Geat (who’s only one-fourth of eight)?

Though Seuss would structure a later work around a series of battles.

Which begs the question: How, excatly, is “Geat” pronounced?

Does it rhyme with “sweet” or “eight”?

The former seems to be preferred, although there is a variant that makes it two syllables.

So “Cindy Lou Geat, who is very petite”?

Could we please have some more of this? Because it is GREAT.

Thank you.

(I’ll put it in Threadspotting if there’s more; it’s that good. Please!)

Yes, please. Encore!

Awww. I’m touched.

(Pepper Mill will attest to that)
I’ll put more of it down tonight.

The next lines derive from the TV special, and not the original book version. Obviously parts of the manuscript discovered later. But they’re too good to leave out

And they’ll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing ‘round on their hest vogn.
They’ll dance while playing with their vaben.
They’ll swing their svaerd sabel. They’ll bang their stav scepters.
They’ll strike with dolke. They’ll bang their spyd lanses.
They’ll kaste their okse. They’ll slam their skjolde.
They’ll beat their brystharnisk. They’ll wham their hovedbeklaedning.
And they’ll play noisy games like knude haevning,
A dislocation-type mix of tug-of-war and misbehaving!
And then they’ll make ear-splitting noises a-tootin’
On their great big falster-pibe fljoten!

Then the Geats, young and old, will sit down to a fest.
And they’ll feast! And they’ll feast! And they’ll FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!

They’ll feast on Geat pudding, and rare Geat roast beast,
Roast beast is a feast I can’t stand in the least!

And then they’ll do something I hate most of all!
Every Geat down in Geatland, the tall and the small,

They’ll stand close together, with Jul bells ringing.
They’ll stand hand-in-hand, and those Geats will start singing!"

Sorry I haven’t added to this – I spent three hours in traffic last night, followed by shoveling snow at home, then I decided to eat. I was kinda tired.

During this break, I’d like to observe that I googled “Grinch” and “Beowulf” together, and got a lot of hits. I’m certainly not the first to connect the Dr. Seuss story with the Old English epic. I notice, though, that these are all relatively recent posts, dated from 2009 or later.

I’d like to suggest that the inspiration for all of these light bulbs going off linking the two stories are due to the 2007 Robert Zemeckis film – the one with the CGI that is so close to photography that it sometimes resembles the heavily rotoscoped parts of the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings. I really liked this film a lot, and that’s largely due to its intelligent and interesting variation on the original, through the sc ript by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman. One of the things the script emphasized was how Grendel was driven to attack Heorot because of the noise of the celebration there*. In fact, in interviews the filmmakers stated that their design of the creature Grendel was to emphasize that he was a creature of pain. Beowulf also is able to defeat Grendel by playing on his sensitivity to noise, hitt8ing his ears, and ultimately, he shrinks from the assault. I can’t think of any other interpretation of the poem that made such a big deal about this aspect of Grendel’s makeup. You might think that Avary and Gaiman made it up – but it’s there, in the original poem. With that sort of emphasis, the fact that Grendel was piercingly agonized by the noise was made really clear for, I think, the first time.

And, of course, the Grinch 's main complaint about the Whos is the noise, as well. Again, it’s clear in the original poem, but it was the Chuck Jones cartoon adaptation that made this REALLY clear, with an extended section on the noises that the Who children made that was NOT in the original book (Seuss wrote the new lines himself for the TV special), and with animated vignettes of the children playing with exceptionally noisy toys, with accompanying sound track, all culminating in the image of the Grinch’s head being played like a drum, with two padded tympani sticks beating on his ears.

He complains about the singing, too, but you just KNOW that it’s the damned noisy toys that set him off.

So, in both the case of the Grinch and of Grendel, you have a literally animated adaptation that emphasized the role of the noise of the village assaulting the ears of the lonely hermit monster. Visual stories make a deeper impression. I know that in my case it was this Assault By Noise that suggested the similarities of the two stories. I submit that it was the same for those other observers. Some of them have actually pointed to this obsession with noise to make their case.

it’s interesting, by the way, that this interest in Beowulf and Grendel seems so recent. It didn’t used to be this way. It’s true that the epic has been a part of lityerature for a long time, and that it got new life from Tolkien’s speech (later rendered as an article “Beowulf and the Critics”, issued LONG before his fiction became popular with the general public. But it was still relatively obscure, lurking in the darkness of pop consciousness, like a lake monster. My middle-school-level reader had an excerpt from it, but there were no adaptations of the story. No movies or TV specials. It was absent from Bulfinch and from Hamilton’s mythology. There were no Little Golden Books of Beowulf, or Classics Illustrated adaptations. During an era when pop novelists were adapting mythology for “serious” novels, this story was notably absent. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it showed up in pop culture, with John Gardner’s Grendel (which actually got turned into an animated film. Which I’ve never seen) and Michael Crichton’s The Eaters of the Dead. But then it went dormant again.

But in the past 15 years there’s been a Beowulf renaissance. There was the weird Christopher Lampert Beowulf (from which I think the Zemeckis film cribbed some important stuff) and the Science Fiction channel’s Grendel and the Michael Crichton film, adapting his book, but wisely renamed The 13th Warrior, and the Iceland-filmed Gerard Butler film Beowulf and Grendel, and the Science Fiction version Outlander (which owes nothing to Diana Gabaldon’s books, but a little, I think, to Niven et al’s Legacy of Heorot), and the History Channel’s Clash of the gods episode on Beowulf, in addition to the Zemeckis film. There’s also another shoestring budget adaptation that came out recently, but which I haven’t seen.

Why all this recent interest, I do not know. The Zemeckis film didn’t start it, but was part of the trend. Maybe filmmakers are casting a wider net for source material, and this one just came up simultaneously in several radars.

More pseudo-Seuss tonight.
*It’s not that he’s driven by hatred of Civilization or of the comradeship suggested by the noise, as some commentators have suggested. Grendel is oppressed by the bnoise itself.

Thank you, and moar, Moar, MOAR, please!

I don’t think it went completely dormant-- Niven and Barnes were able to make extensive reference to the myth in The Legacy of Heorot in 1987, with the expectation that their readers would catch the references. Of course the details are very different (the Avalonian Grendels attack just because they’re hungry fierce predators, and are no more intelligent than high-end Earthly animals), but there’s still the recognition that Grendel is a mythical monster, and that Beowulf was the hero who slew him.

Perhaps because too many college students followed Alvy Singer’s advice in Annie Hall?