“This is no mere hanger-on in hero’s armor…”

“Ironically we were studing the scarlet letter. Isn’t it always the way? The book you read in class always seem to have strong connection with whatever angsty adolescence trauma is going on. Exept for Huckleberry Finn, ’cause I don’t know any teenage boy who ran away with big hulking black guy.”
“Did you hear than Brandon ran away from home?  Yeah, totally.  He left his parents a note that said, ‘I’m gay, *******!’ and then he skipped town with some big hulking black guy.”
“…My apologies to Mark Twain.”
– Easy A

Mum called last night because she’s going to throw Beowulf into the mix for her class on Western Civilization this term and needed to know the pronunciations for some of the names, as she’s more at home with Greek and Latin.

And I knew the answers.   ‘Cause I’m a nerd.

Foundation of an unlikely friendship.

My knowledge of Beowulf was what initially won over the seemingly alarming and crusty high school teacher who went on to become my mentor and good friend to this day.  I’d read it for the first time in 8th grade and fell in love with Early English literature, so I knew whereof I spoke when I confronted him (trembling) about a test question that I was sure I’d got right.  He turned a baleful eye on me before apparently deciding not to disembowel me, and decided that if I could show him the reason for my answer in the text, he’d give me the points.  I could and he did.

And as it turned out, for a special few students who showed a genuine love to literature and history, he had heart of butter.  And once he loved you, he loved you.  I was one of the few who could misbehave at all in his class, and my mates didn’t even mind me being a teacher’s pet because I alone could persuade him to postpone tests when more study time was needed.  We debated vigorously across four classes for two years.  He wrote me glowing recommendations when I was applying to universities.  I still send him Christmas presents, he sent me the most lovely card and note for my wedding, and we exchange lengthy emails every couple of months.

All because of Beowulf.

See, kids, those required readings pay off eventually.

5 thoughts on ““This is no mere hanger-on in hero’s armor…””

    1. Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
      The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote..

      I love Chaucer, the sounds just rumble off your tongue.

      1. true story, my brother (!!) started reciting the Chaucer at some orientation at his uni, and the president (who had referenced it) fell madly in love with him for it.

        he also had to write a “modern” pilgrimage tale in high school, and one of the sections was “the bubba’s tale”, about rednecks. The finest quatrain:

        “I love my truck. Diggin is fun.
        I love huntin and shootin my gun.
        I never been wed, and I ain’t gonna be
        That heterosexual stuff ain’t for me.”

        Chaucer definitely brought out the best in him. That’s probably my very favorite thing ever, other than possibly

        “Julius Caesar was killed for one reason
        The senators decided to accuse him of treason
        The day was the Ides, and March was the season
        He wanted to be king; they wanted his head.”



    in my opinion, Anonymous must have just discovered alliteration before penning the epic. Remember how we got to write a new section of Beowulf for the Friar in 8th grade? I remember putting in so much alliteration it started hurting my ears.

    I had a physics prof in high school much like the lit prof you described…he hated everyone, but after I did some presentation he loved, I could get test postponed and assignments changed…and he even came to both my senior and post-conservatory-first-year recitals. haha.

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