My Mother and Beowulf

Clarence and His Mother Hermione, His Grandmother Gertrude Nicoli and Great Grandmother Henrietta (Wolski) Koehn

Clarence and His Mother Hermione, His Grandmother Gertrude Nicoli and Great Grandmother Henrietta (Wolski) Koehn

-Clarence Holm

My mother first read Beowulf to me when I was about 6 years old. She had returned to college that summer to work on an additional minor in drama. One of the courses she was enrolled in was a class called Oral Interpretation. To practice she decided to present the entire story of Beowulf to me by reading it aloud.

In hindsight, a case may be made that the story was at the very least rated “R” for violence (Not to mention the incestuous heritage ascribed to tragic Viking mythology) but I would argue that Wiley Coyote was subjected to far worse treatment on a far greater number of occasions. – Besides I was allowed to close my eyes when she recited the gory passages.

Now to a casual observer, there could be no more pastoral scene then a mother sitting on a blanket next to a gooseberry bush with her son on her lap. The rapt attention I paid to the slaughter of Beowulf’s men in the hall was only eclipsed by mother’s rendition of Beowulf ripping Gwendolyn’s arm off and using it as a club.

As a young man I devoured the story and reveled in it. Later, during an afternoon nap, I dreamed that I was a hero, a true giver of rings.

Actually, now that I think about it, I should be glad that my mother decided not to share the arrow scene from Deliverance with me that same summer.

One thought on “My Mother and Beowulf

  1. Delightful! Your Mother must have been a very special lady. I can’t even imagine my Mother reading Beowulf to me. It was my Junior year in college when I first met Beowulf, one of many literary “treats” to which we English majors were subjected. Maybe I would have liked it better if my Mother HAD read it to me as a child. But I doubt it!

    As for the arrow scene in “Deliverance,” I think you and I both remember a far more frightening scene! Need I say more?!

    Bottom line on this post — A fascinating look at a most unusual and intriguing lady, the post is written with style and the easy grace of a born storyteller. I hope we see more of your Mother in future posts…as long as she’s not reading James Dickey stories!

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