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ANAHITA  September 1999

ANAHITA September 1999

Subject:

Beowulf and the Goddess

From:

Robert Portlock <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 15 Sep 1999 23:11:52 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

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Film treatment of Michael Crichton's _Eaters of the Dead_ (The 13th Warrior):

Yes, finally, we have been granted an intelligent portrayal of our ancient European 
ancestors in their natural element.  Here is more of a cross between "Quest for Fire" 
and "Braveheart" than the usual Hollywood drivvle.  _The 13th Warrior_ re-enacts Norse 
culture on its own terms.  It dispels much of the mist clouding our view of this past era.  
Never is the audience talked down to, but instead is invited to participate in the 
rushing sounds, sinewy vitality, and survivalist terror that gripped the men, women, 
and children of Northern Europe in a real time not so long ago.   

This epic journey through the mind of ancient Europe conceals more than a mere fight-em-up 
story about bloodthirsty barbarians.  Political interplay between men and women
are actually tendered on a domestic level of mutual respect.  This is a view long understood
by students of the era but somehow overlooked in other film treatments where women are 
inaccurately shown to be valued as little above cattle.  Norse women stood with their men
in counsel, fought to protect their homes even as their men protected them, and perpetuated 
their kind in trysts of their own choosing.  

There is also quite another level of the film which does not need to be understood 
in order to enjoy the story.  Such a vantage will be lost on most of the audience, 
but it is boldly positioned for those who will recognize it to be there: that 
the indigenous people of Europe, the pre-Indo-European matriarchs of truly 
'Old Europe', were the demons written of in that first of English-language sagas, 
_Beowulf_, complete with their own culture, language and life-ways, and far more influential 
upon the landscape than we have been allowed to forget.

Such a visionary epic blends anthropological interpretation of primal mystique with subtle 
commentary. The stark contrast between human and almost human is juxtaposed throughout 
the film with the subtle interplay of Norse and Arabic cultures.  The main character is 
an Arab from Baghdad, rightly portrayed as the apex of civilization for the period.  
There is the unspoken idea that Baghdad/Iraq/Islam, then as well as now, is much closer 
in common humanity to Westerners than both are to the remnant race of near-neanderthals. Yet 
it is the human-ness of the "monsters" that creates the deeper terror, positing yet 
further origins of unsettling possibility. _The 13th-Warrior is willing to play with 
the questions of genesis and prehistoric race/species/sex relations--and attains the prize.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ANAHITA:
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Anahita's archives: http://lsv.uky.edu/archives/anahita.html

Diotima's address: http://www.uky.edu/AS/Classics/gender.html

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