Saturday, 18 June 2016
Greek drama retold myths;
pantomimes retell fairy tales;
a superhero retells the character's origin story.
In one Greek tragedy, a character recognized her returning brother by a garment he was wearing. In a later version, she asked herself whether she would recognize him by his garments, then reflected that he would not be wearing the same clothes after years abroad! (Audience laugh.)
In Hrolf Kraki's Saga, Poul Anderson summarizes the story of Beowulf:
"...Grendel...entered the new hall at night and grabbed men for his food.
"In England they say this went on for twelve years. The Danes call that unlikely. Would not a warrior like Helgi have rid his brother of woe? Suppose, instead, Hroar built Hart soon after..."
-Poul Anderson, Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), p. 65.
We are invited to "Suppose, instead,..." The story is being re-presented to iron out an inconsistency. "...Grendel shambled forth..." (ibid.) shortly after Helgi had departed on what became a three year voyage. Grendel devastated the hall for three, not twelve, years, then Helgi returned shortly after Beowulf had killed Grendel and departed. That all fits together much better.