Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (11 page)

She pours for him.

WEALTHOW

All the things you say about yourself, Beowulf. Are any of them true?

BEOWULF

(speaking quite honestly)

I say nothing that I do not believe, my lady.

WEALTHOW

That was what I was afraid of. The hall will be quiet when you are gone. But you must go soon. Or I will make love with you, and then you will have to fight my husband, and kill him, and then we will have to hang you from the highest oak-tree, and I will be so sad. So you see, you must leave soon.

She goes up on tiptoes and kisses him, gently, on the cheek. And then she goes away.

 

Beowulf begins to walk along, on his own, while the party sounds happen in the background.

 

And he sees Hrothgar, standing beside a wall, waiting for him.

 

Hrothgar takes Beowulf aside and holds him by the arm. They walk together.

HROTHGAR

Have you seen my wife?

BEOWULF

She went back into the hall. She said she thinks I should leave soon, so that she does not have to make love to me, and then hang me for your murder.

HROTHGAR

That's a woman for you. They're so sensible. And talking about women -- Tell me…You brought back the head of Grendel. But what about the head of the mother?

BEOWULF

With her body, sunken into the mire. Is it not enough to return with one monster's head.

HROTHGAR

You
did
kill her?

BEOWULF

Why do you ask?

HROTHGAR

I was a young man once too, Beowulf. Answer my question straight -- it's important for me to know: You did kill her, did you not?

Beowulf stops walking and looks Hrothgar dead in the eye. There is a long moment between them.

BEOWULF

(in a way that could be construed as an accusation)

Would I have been allowed to escape her had I not?

Hrothgar knows the answer, and it chills him to the bone. He begins to step away.

HROTHGAR

(trying to convince himself)

Grendel is dead. That's all that matters to me. Grendel will bother me no more.

BEOWULF

And if the mother did still live, would you care then?

HROTHGAR

She is
not
my curse. Not any more.

Hrothgar reaches one hand to his other arm, and pulls off a big golden armband. It's worth a King's ransom.

HROTHGAR

Catch!

BEOWULF

(catching it)

You are too generous.

HROTHGAR

Aye. Maybe I am at that. The wind stands fair to the west. How soon can you be gone?

BEOWULF

Tomorrow morning.

HROTHGAR

Make sure you are.

He walks away. Beowulf smiles, uncaring, tosses the armband in the air, and catches it. Then he toasts it, with his goblet, and drinks from the goblet, and we

FADE TO BLACK:

111 EXT. THE QUIET SEA - DAY

111

The ocean is as calm as the deep azure sky above it is clean. A perfect day. Sea-spray is liquid drops of diamonds. It's a great day to be alive -- the first real sunshine we've seen in the film so far.

112 EXT. RECESSED BEACH - DAY

112

Four of Beowulf's thanes push the boat off the sandbar and into the sea, clambering in at the last moment, pulled in by the men in the boat. Strong winds, all blowing toward Geatland, fill the red newly repaired sails of Beowulf's ship, billowing the golden dragon.

113 EXT. THE CLIFFTOPS - DAY

113

The Scylding's Watch stands on his cliff, with his arms folded, and stares out at Beowulf going away.

114 EXT. THE QUIET SEA - DAY

114

Beowulf and his men are LAUGHING as they scud along in their ship, in the perfect weather and the swift breeze. The oars are shipped and unneeded. The storage hold in the middle of the ship is piled high with glittering golden treasure. Beowulf glances back at the shore.

 

BEOWULF'S POV: Wealthow is standing on the cliffs watching him sail away. He can not see her expression.

 

We realize that Beowulf only has six men plus Wiglaf in the boat. There are lots of empty seats, for the dead men they set out with.

BEOWULF

(to Wiglaf)

There now, old friend. The scops will sing of our brave deeds from now until the day the sun grows cold.

WIGLAF

Your deeds, perhaps. Not mine.

BEOWULF

(perfectly satisfied)

Isn't that enough?

Beowulf is in the prime of his life. He's grinning, and happy, and beautiful: the entire world -- the sea and the boat and the sun and the seagulls, everything -- simply exists as a frame to the picture, in the middle of which, grinning like his namesake wolf, is Beowulf.

 

The sun glints off the golden armband he was given by Hrothgar, and the PICTURE FREEZES.

FADE TO BLACK:

FIFTY YEARS AFTER

115 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - KING BEOWULF'S QUARTERS - DAY

115

 

We are looking, in CLOSE UP at the Golden Bracelet we last saw on young Beowulf's arm. It is worn, now, and slightly tarnished. As we look at it, a man's old fingers close around it. We pull back slowly, to reveal KING BEOWULF.

 

He is in very good shape, for his age, which must, simple addition tells us, be in at least his early seventies. His hair is streaked with grey and white, his skin is liver-spotted, and marked with old scars, long healed. He is still tall and proud, though scarcely recognizable as the young man he was fifty years before. He has a golden circlet, denoting kingship, on his head. His beard is tightly trimmed.

 

We are in his castle, a fortified Swedish stone building, on the moors. It is within sight of the sea. We are in his chamber. A rough bed, consisting of a pallet and sleeping furs, sits in one corner.

 

He is staring out to sea, through a window. He will not be going to sea again.

 

KING BEOWULF'S POV: The winter sea, grey, stormy and fickle, as it crashes on the rocks below. The sea has frozen to ice where it touches the rocks. Mid-winter in sixth century Sweden was bitter.

 

URSULA, King Beowulf's young mistress, comes up behind him. He does not register her presence. She is his personal maid, a young woman in her early twenties. Then she speaks and startles him.

URSULA

Your majesty?

KING BEOWULF

Unh? I was thinking, Ursula. Hundreds of leagues away, in my mind, over the ocean.

URSULA

My lord Beowulf. They are waiting for you, in the throne room.

KING BEOWULF

There is a moment at sunset at sea, when you watch the sun drop into the cold waters of the endless ocean, a red ball, and at the very moment it sinks beneath the horizon, it flames green as an emerald.

While he is talking, Ursula is picking up a robe, bringing it over to him, fastening it around his neck.

URSULA

I have never been to sea, your Majesty.

KING BEOWULF

Who is waiting?

CUT TO:

116 EXT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - DAY

116

We see that this is an old, stone castle, built overlooking the ocean. Sea-spray in the foreground. Snow on the ground.

CUT TO:

117 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - SPIRAL STAIRCASE - DAY

117

Ursula walks down the stairs behind King Beowulf.

URSULA

You are to give judgement today, your majesty.

KING BEOWULF

Live long enough, Ursula, and they think you're Solomon. Who cares who owns half-an acre of barren land?

URSULA

Well, obviously, Guthric does.

CUT TO:

118 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - THRONE ROOM - DAY

118

GUTHRIC is staring at us, his face red with anger. He is a young man, hot-headed and impetuous, and he is really really angry right now.

GUTHRIC

This is an outrage! That land is mine by right of birth!

PULL BACK TO REVEAL: We see that there are a number of other people in the throne room: OLD WIGLAF, again, fifty years older than the Wiglaf we knew in the earlier part of the film, and a few other THANES who are also elderly. There are also a couple of KING'S GUARDS. And King Beowulf himself.

KING BEOWULF

You have land enough, Guthric. That land was due to your sister as bride-price.

GUTHRIC

This is not justice! This is a travesty!

He advances on the King. The guards raise their spears. King Beowulf does not, however, need guards, for the anger of King Beowulf is a terrible thing to see, and now he's angry.

KING BEOWULF

How dare you talk to me like that? If it's treason you are talking, Guthric Olaf's son, then it's treason I shall punish you for.

GUTHRIC

(chastened)

I was not…I did not mean to--

KING BEOWULF

See that you did not. The land is your sister's.

Guthric sets his jaw. He seems on the verge of exploding with anger, but he somehow keeps a lid on it. What he actually says is

GUTHRIC

It shall be as your majesty has said.

And Guthric turns on his heels and storms out.

 

King Beowulf turns to Old Wiglaf, and shakes his head.

KING BEOWULF

It did not used to be so hard, Wiglaf, did it?

OLD WIGLAF

He's a young hot-head. He'll cool down, in time.

CUT TO:

119 EXT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - COURTYARD - DAY

119

Guthric leaps onto his horse, and GALLOPS off. He looks furious still.

CUT TO:

120 EXT. THE GEAT MOORS - THE BARROW - DAY

120

We see Guthric on his horse, riding past a huge barrow -- a raised mound -- on the snowy moors.

CUT TO:

121 EXT. GUTHRIC'S HALL - SUNSET

121

Guthric rides up on his horse. His slave -- CAIN -- stands beside the horse, with his hands cupped, to help his master down from his horse. Guthric puts his muddy boots in Cain's hands as he dismounts.

 

As Guthric gets down, the horse moves, nervously to one side, and Guthric misses his footing. He and Cain go down in the slush and mud together. Guthric gets to his feet as angry as it is possible for any human being to be.

GUTHRIC

You did that on purpose!

CAIN

Sire, it was your mare, she shied--

GUTHRIC

You pitched me into the mud on purpose, you creeping maggot!

And with that he pulls his horsewhip and commences to WHIP Cain within an inch of his life, while shouting--

GUTHRIC

You stupid--!

(whip!)

miserable--

(more)

GUTHRIC (CONT'D)

(whip)

pathetic--!

(whip!)

cankerous--!

(whip)

louse-ridden!

(whip!)

oaf!

(he stops for a moment to catch his breath)

Now get out of my sight!

Cain gets to his feet, nervously, and Guthric slashes the whip across his face. Cain's thin shirt is in ribbons down the back and he has a bleeding welt across his face. He runs off, and Guthric goes into the Hall.

122 INT. GUTHRIC'S HALL - NIGHT

122

A harpist is playing, and singing a ballad. The ballad he is singing is the “Saga of Beowulf”. Guthric is talking to LADY GUTHRIC. Lady Guthric is tending to the LITTLE GUTHRICS, a boy and a girl, who are sat on the rush-covered floor of the Hall, playing with dolls quietly.

GUTHRIC

The senile old fool. I could have run my sword through his doddering old head.

LADY GUTHRIC

Well, it's a good thing you didn't, dear.

GUTHRIC

Why? Why is it a good thing?

LADY GUTHRIC

He
is
King Beowulf. He killed Grendel. He killed Grendel's mother--

GUTHRIC

Fucking Grendel and fucking Grendel's fucking mother. Do you know how fucking sick I am of fucking hearing about fucking Grendel and fucking Grendel's fucking mother?

LADY GUTHRIC

(points to the kids in a 'not in front of the children' sort of way)

I really don't think--

GUTHRIC

It was a hundred years ago! It was in another country! What the hell was Grendel anyway? Some kind of giant dog, or something? And his mother? She doesn't even have a name!

LADY GUTHRIC

That's not the

GUTHRIC

And who was my Lord Beowulf's mother, if it comes to that? I tell you, he does not have long to live, and

But he is interrupted by WILFERTH, Cain's sister, who runs in and says:

WILFERTH

My lord Guthric! It's Cain! He's not in the stables! I think he's run away!

CUT TO:

123 EXT. THE GEAT MOORS - NIGHT

123

Guthric and some of his friends are riding around on horses, calling out to Cain. As we hear them call, we also see shots of the bleak and deserted moor. Night has not yet quite fallen, and rock shapes twist into shapes that remind us of monsters and demons.

GUTHRIC

Cain! Cain! Can you hear me! You don't want to stay out on the moors! There are things out here that'll eat your heart for breakfast! And you'll starve to death out here, you'll freeze! You'll die out here! If you don't come back, I'll fucking kill you!

Guthric's VOICE travels across the moors to

124 CAIN

124

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