Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (12 page)

who is cowering behind a rock, as the SOUNDS OF THE SEARCH begins to fade.

 

Cain is shivering and scared. The SOUNDS OF THE PURSUERS are fading away into the distance. And then, close to us, we hear the HOWL of a wolf-pack…

Cain bolts for it, running through the moors, when suddenly the ground gives way beneath him and he is seemingly swallowed into the Earth.

125 INT. THE BARROW - NIGHT

125

Cain is under the ground. It's dark…but Cain realizes that we are somewhere that glimmers…. that glimmers golden.

 

Cain SWEARS to himself as he bumps into something…and then slowly his eyes begin to get used to the darkness and he sees…

 

GOLD!

 

It's a treasure horde, unimaginable to these times: rings and bracelets, necklaces torques and plates, coins and statues and goblets, piled all around. Helmets and mail-shirts, swords, daggers and spears, shields and harps, statues of hawks and horses…the
world glows in gold
.

 

Cain moves through the gold like a dark shadow….

 

CLOSE ON: Cain's feet as he walks past…

126 A SLEEPING DRAGON

126

THE DRAGON is the color of the hoard, a glittering gold. In fact at first we think it
is
a statue. It's half-human, half dragon, winged and tailed (the wings are folded, the tail is curled) but its face is part human, part reptilian. It is played by the same actor who played young Beowulf, but this should not be immediately obvious.

 

To repeat, this seems like a statue, and might indeed, for the first few shots, be a statue. Eyes closed…

CAIN

Such riches…

And, as he says that, the Dragon's eyes slowly begin to open, and a smile spreads across its face.

 

CAIN reaches out, tentatively, for a golden goblet, similar to the one Wealthow gave young Beowulf earlier.

CUT TO:

127 EXT. GUTHRIC'S HALL - DAY

127

Guthric is standing at the door to his hall. Then, almost to his surprise, in comes Cain, edging towards him in a servile,

scared sort of way. He is cradling the goblet, so it cannot be seen.

GUTHRIC

Cain!

CAINI…

I'm sorry I runned away, master. I brought you something -- what I found. Please don't hurt me no more.

CLOSE ON: Guthric's face -- he says nothing, and then he viciously hits Cain.

GUTHRIC

I thought you'd come back when you got hungry.

Cain goes tumbling to the ground, WHIMPERING and MOANING and pleading.

CAIN

Sorry master, sorry, please no master, please no…

Guthric kicks at the fallen Cain, and the Golden cup falls from his grasp, and rolls onto the snow.

CAIN

Brought it for you. Good master. Nice master. Sorry. Sorry.

Guthric looks at Cain, and then reaches down and picks up the goblet.

 

The weal across Cain's face has started to heal and scab. He looks scared.

CAIN

Please don't kill me.

GUTHRIC

(taking the goblet)

This is quite exquisite. Where did you find it?

CAIN

(too scared, initially to speak, he says nothing but points to the moors, then, nervously)

Up there. On the moors--

GUTHRIC

You didn't steal it?

CAIN

I swear I didn't master!

Guthric holds the Goblet up to the light…

CUT TO:

128 EXT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - DAY

128

The sea spray lashes the rocks in front of Beowulf's castle. We are looking in at from the sea.

129 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - ANTEROOM - DAY

129

There are A COUPLE OF GUARDS guarding the way. Old Wiglaf is standing beside Guthric, who is holding something wrapped in cloth at his side.

OLD WIGLAF

Well, I really do not know, Guthric.

GUTHRIC

It is vitally important that I see the King, Lord Wiglaf. I am certain that Beowulf wants to see what I have brought to him.

OLD WIGLAF

Hmm…I, um, I'll tell you what, Guthric, you leave it with me and I'll make sure his majesty gets to see it. Yes?

GUTHRIC

(keeping his temper but the effort is showing)

No! Look, I have brought something for King Beowulf's eyes. I'm not going to give it to just anyone and watch it vanish into thin air.

OLD WIGLAF

I am not just anyone. I am the King's chamberlain and I am certainly not going to

GUTHRIC

For the last time, you doddering old coot! I have a gift for the King, and--

But he is interrupted in his turn by King Beowulf. Who entered unnoticed.

KING BEOWULF

And you may at least show it to the king, Guthric.

GUTHRIC

Thank you, your majesty. It was found on the moors, a gift fit for a King.

He offers the goblet, still wrapped in oilcloth, to the King. King Beowulf unwraps the cloth.

KING BEOWULF

A fine piece, Guthric. Long it is since I have seen something as fine, and old. You found it, you say?

GUTHRIC

One of my slaves found it. It is a gift for you, my lord.

KING BEOWULF

It reminds me of something…

GUTHRIC

I thought perhaps we could talk again about my sister's bride-price.

CUT TO:

130 EXT. GUTHRIC'S HALL - SUNSET

130

Guthric draws his horse up outside his hall. He's in a good mood, and is singing happily to himself…breaks off as he realizes there's no-one there to meet him.

GUTHRIC

(calling out)

Cain! You good-for-nothing! Help me off my horse!

(to himself)

If he's run away again…

There's a pause. No-one comes. The place is in silence. Smoke…or mist…hangs on the air.

GUTHRIC

Hello? Anybody here? Gretchen? Children? Wilferth?

But there is silence.

Guthric slides off his horse, and walks into his

131 COURTYARD

131

There, in the courtyard, stand, in expressions of UTTER TERROR, as if caught trying to flee, standing and lying, CHARCOAL-BLACKENED, CARBONIZED CORPSES of Lady Guthric, children, slaves…but no Cain.

 

Guthric stares at them in horror. He reaches out and touches his wife's carbonized arm…

 

It drops off and CRUMBLES to charcoal.

 

Guthric looks around in terror and then he grits his teeth, summons what courage he has, draws his sword, and goes into his Hall.

132 INT. GUTHRIC'S HALL - NIGHT

132

The hall is in darkness. The only source of illumination is low firelight, and the dim dusk light coming through the open door. Guthric's sword glitters gold in the firelight. He walks in nervously, looking around, whirling around to stop someone attacking him from behind…and then the large door to the hall swings closed with a loud SLAM.

 

And the room is dark.

GUTHRIC

Who's there?

Silence.

 

And then, from one corner of the room, there is a glimmer of fire and smoke, illuminating something gold that we can barely see.

GUTHRIC

Come out and face me like a man!

DRAGON

(a low, inhuman, laughing, then)

I was asleep when he came to my barrow. The thief. He took something that didn't belong to him.

The dragon's voice is sly, insinuating, gentle. Guthric cannot see him…perhaps just two golden lights glitter in the darkness -- the dragon's eyes.

GUTHRIC

Oh god. He was a slave, I'm sorry, they're all thieves. If it's not nailed down, they're off with it.

(trying to fake it)

Um…what…what kind of thing was it that he took? Maybe it's still around…I could look for it--

DRAGON

I think you know exactly what it was. I can smell it on you, man-thing. I want it back.

GUTHRIC

I don't exactly have it on me at the present moment right now. If you could give me a day…

DRAGON

Who has it? Who has my precious prize?

GUTHRIC

What are you? What did you do to my household?

There is a GROWL -- the dragon is not pleased at all, and a thin stream of flame hisses out from the darkness where the dragon is, burning half of Guthric's face and hair. Guthric SCREAMS in pain and fright.

DRAGON

You are trying my patience. Who has it?

Guthric cowers on the floor, his attitude the same as that of Cain, when Guthric was whipping him.

GUTHRIC

I gave it to the King. To Beowulf! Please, don't hurt me! Please!

There is a moment of silence.

DRAGON

Beowulf?

The dragon LAUGHS.

 

Then the door opens, letting in a little moonlight, but not showing us the Dragon, and it closes again. There is silence in the hall. Guthric begins to sob--

GUTHRIC

(sobbing and babbling in his relief at still being alive)

Oh god. Oh god. Oh thank you, thank you thank you god. Thank you Odin. Thank you Christ Jesus. Thank you Thor of the thunder. Thank you. Oh god oh god…

Then from outside we hear A ROARING so loud that the walls begin to SHAKE.

 

And the walls of the hall begin to glow with a bright orange, golden light. The dragon is bathing the hall in fire, but Guthric does not realize that, as he gets to his feet trying to work out what's going on…and then he…and we understand…as the entire hall becomes, in the twinkling of an eye…
an exploding fireball
.

CUT TO:

133 EXT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - WALKWAY - NIGHT

133

The night sky shines brightly.

 

King Beowulf stands on the castle roof, staring up at the constellations. He is alone. He SIGHS, and goes inside…

134 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - SPIRAL STAIRWAY - NIGHT

134

He walks along, down the narrow winding stairs of his castle, descending slowly.

135 INT. KING BEOWULF'S CASTLE - MEAD HALL - DAY

135

About TWENTY THANES are standing around in the hall, partying. There is something insipid about their partying though -- the Thanes of 50 years ago had more fun. These guys are -- well, some of them are watching and betting on a gambling game being played with ivory cubes, rune-dice, others are talking by the fire.

 

A couple of them -- BONSTAN and FRODA -- are looking at the souvenirs hanging on the wall:
Beowulf's Bow
;
The hilt of the giant sword
that “killed Grendel's Mother”;
a huge shield
; the
wolf-skin/bear skin
that Beowulf wore when he was younger…

 

The Dragon Cup
is on display in the hall, taking pride of place, beside the throne.

 

Old Wiglaf wanders over to Bonstan and Froda, who are staring at the things on the wall.

OLD WIGLAF

That sword hilt, that's the hilt of the sword that the King used to destroy Grendel's mother. He cut Grendel's head off with it, and Grendel's blood burnt the brave blade, leaving nothing but the hilt, and a thumb's span of blade. They say it was made by the gods themselves.

BONSTAN

And the bow? Was that from the fight against Grendel too?

OLD WIGLAF

That comes from later, in the war against the Franks. No other man alive there is but Beowulf who can bend that bow.

FRODA

You are jesting with us.

OLD WIGLAF

No, not at all.

FRODA

Well, I am a pretty strong fellow--

And over Wiglaf's protests, he reaches the bow down from the wall. Then he tries to bend it, and fails, hurting his finger on the string of the bow.

 

LAUGHING, Bonstan takes it from him and tries to bend it, and perhaps others of them try and fail -- through all this Old Wiglaf is saying things like--

OLD WIGLAF

Please, just put it back, men, boys, please--

King Beowulf likes to enter unannounced it seems, as he has done so yet again, and he says:

KING BEOWULF

My old bow, eh? Put it back, Froda. It belongs on the wall.

FRODA

Your majesty -- can you
still
bend it? The war with the Franks was thirty years back.

He passes the bow to King Beowulf, who looks at it, for a moment -- will he try to bend it? We wonder -- and then King Beowulf puts it back on the wall.

KING BEOWULF

Thirty years is a long time, Froda. And a warrior does not bend his bow unless he plans to kill something -- or someone…but we are at peace, now…the days of heroes are done.

BONSTAN

Mead, sire?

Golden Mead pours into the dragon's golden cup…and he sees, golden and distorted, his own reflection.

DISSOLVE TO:

136 THE DREAM OF GRENDEL'S MOTHER

136

In Beowulf's dream, the Jan Svankmajer-esque doll of young Beowulf is facing a monster -- a huge, golden, monster woman, being animated by stop motion. The monster picks up the Beowulf doll when suddenly the DREAM SHIFTS TO…

 

Grendel's Mother and Young Beowulf, in real life, kissing each other desperately, passionately, underwater.

 

They break the surface and Grendel's mother begins LAUGHING, in slow motion, water drops glistening around her and SUDDENLY IT'S…

 

King Beowulf, who has replaced Young Beowulf…his old fingers touch her cheeks and the swell of her breast.

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