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Author Comment
Valusa Zagnol
Registered User

(12/27/05 3:11 pm)
Grendel's dam
Is there any parallel in all of literature to Grendel's dam (mother)? I can't think of any other instance in which the mother of a monster is revealed to be an even greater menace than her offspring.

I have sometimes wondered if there were some sort of anti-gynocracy story behind this part of the Grendel tale--some reaction against an imagined or rumored tale of a matriarchal society. That's purest speculation on my part, mind. I just can't otherwise explain why Beowulf must deal with his foe's mother, and not the father, whom one would expect to be the more likely exponent of strength and ferocity. Or is there a theme of mother-and-son pairings among trolls and the like that I'm not familiar with?

Steve/Stacey

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/27/05 4:05 pm)
Re: Grendel's dam
Gorgo! One of my favorite B movies, with the moral "Don't kidnap monster babies."

Valusa Zagnol
Registered User

(12/27/05 7:32 pm)
Re: Grendel's dam
Thanks, Veronica. I think that I'm persuaded that Gorgo really is a parallel-themed story, likely of independent origin. Well, it's possible that Lourie consciously imitated the Beowulf story, but that doesn't really matter: What's important is that it seems that "angry mama" is an inherently entertaining story element--and that's enough to explain Grendel's dam without a critical analysis.

But I'd still be interested in hearing of any, um, somewhat more classical parallelisms.

Steve/Stacey

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/27/05 10:27 pm)
Re: Grendel's dam
Ah, a more classical allusion! At your service. I just remembered these lines from the Odyssey, Book 12, 125-130 (Lombardo translation):

If you pause so much as to put on a helmet
She'll attack again with just as many heads
And kill just as many men as before.
Just row past as hard as you can. And calll upon
Crataiis, the mother who bore her as a plague to men.
She will stop her from attacking a second time.

Circe is telling Odysseus what to do as he goes past Charybdis. I guess in this case, the mother of the monster would save people, not do worse damage, but I think the implication is that Crataiis is an even more powerful creature than her daughter. Anyway, Odysseus doesn't call on Crataiis as he goes past Charybdis; maybe he felt it wouldn't be cool to tattle to her mom. What do you think?

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(12/28/05 12:03 am)
Tiamat, Lilith
Well, the idea of a mother as a powerful monster avenging her children goes back to Tiamat and Lilith. Spenser had one of those in FAERIE QUEENE too.

Valusa Zagnol
Registered User

(12/28/05 3:47 am)
Re: Grendel's dam
Veronica,

Interesting, that Circe should appear in both this thread and the one on Yukionna :) But although I read up on Circe (or Kirke in the Fitzgerald translation) for the Yukionna variant I wrote, I didn't come across this reference to the mother of Skylla that you cite:

"Just row past as hard as you can. And calll upon
Crataiis, the mother who bore her as a plague to men.
She will stop her from attacking a second time."

In the Fitzgerald translation (what I have at home), it says,

"No, no, put all your backs into it, row on;
invoke Blind Force, that bore this scourge of men,
to keep her from a second strike against you."

I guess that Crataiis is a personification (monsterification?) of fate or chance.

Looking on the web: Butler translates these lines thus:

"so drive your ship past her at full speed, and roar out lustily to Crataiis who is Scylla's dam, bad luck to her; she will then stop her from making a second raid upon you."

Johnston:

"Row on quickly past her,
as hard as you can go. Send out a call
to Crataiis, her mother, who bore her
to menace human beings. She'll restrain heró
Scylla's heads won't lash out at you again."

Whether monster or symbol of fate, plainly something of more power than her child. But I think it's not the same kind of human-sized familial relationship that the Beowulf author invokes. Still, it's a parallel worth noting.

Steve/Stacey

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