Thursday, 4 October 2007

Beowulf, Folklore and Fables

“Don’t look at me, I ain’t gonna tell ya.” Is the parting shot from Ray Winstone about whether to eat some generic cereal, as it contains more fortified vitamins than another brand. If he uttered the same sentence as Beowulf, when asked how to take care of the Grendel problem, it probably would have gone down just as well.

The story, or should I say epic poem, of Beowulf (I only know this thanks to my comprehensive school education) is about a warrior from the Geats tribe (Germans) who goes to Denmark to stop the people of Heorot from getting repeatedly done over by a monster called Grendel.

He kills him, there’s something about nailing his arm to a door (they were hardcore back then) which antagonises Grendel’s mum to no end. She comes to settle the score but Beowulf, the original action hero, dispatches her too.

He becomes king with a throne very much like that of Conan the Barbarian’s. Years later a dragon comes along, Beowulf a little bit passed it, like Steven Segal is now, decides to give it a go. He manages to take out said dragon but is mortally wounded in the process. Phew.

The film version is co-written by Neil Gaiman, who did the heavily folklore influenced Sandman series. He’s also got another film out, Stardust which again is big on the monsters, pirates, princesses, magic etc shtick.

All this leads conveniently to the recently, magiked into existence game, Folklore. As the name implies, it’s about Folklore or rather, just ‘Folks.’ You play either as Ellen whose issues over her mother’s death lead her to the seaside town of Doolin, or as Keats (not the poet) who is a paranormal journalist (I want that on my CV).

The ‘Folks’ are spirits that can either be captured by Ellen for use against other folks or simply absorbed by Keats to modify his journo brawling style that I’m sure many on Fleet Street will be familiar with.

The last verse in this folk song is Fables, a long running comic strip by Bill Willingham. It follows the lives of famous folk story characters such the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming, Snow White etc living in a residential building in present day Manhattan after being exiled from ‘The Homelands’ by Gepeto (Pinnocchio’s dad) posing as the totalitarian Adversary.

What’s interesting about Fables is how all the characters are the polar opposites of what you’d expect; The Big Bad Wolf now goes by Biggy and is the resident sheriff, a kind of film noir detective character, that constantly has to smoke to keep all the modern day scents at bay. Prince Charming is a complete cad and constantly tries to seduce someone new, so he has a place to sleep for the night and Goldie Locks has matured into a gun toting, animal rights revolutionary with more than just a platonic relationship with youngest of the Three Bears.

I couldn’t leave without mentioning ‘The Storyteller.’ Everyone likes John Hurt and what better vehicle for him, than to tell old folk stories with the help of Jim Henson’s unique puppets. Here’s a link to one of the many interesting tales. Beats the Hogwarts out of Harry Pothead any day. So, with all this folk about, it’s probably a good idea to get yourself a fire place

1 comment:

Scott said...

Be aware that Gaiman's "Beowulf" isn't the only version of everyone's favorite Geat.
Coming close to the same time, but to the small screen and DVD's, "Beowulf: Prince of the Geats," starring Jayshan Jackson and Damon Lynch III as the younger and elder Beowulf. Take a look at [] for more info!
Scott Wegener
Executive Producer