Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (21 page)

 

But everyone else seems subdued -- like a reception at a funeral. Still, MUSIC IS PLAYING, and maidens are pouring mead.

 

BEOWULF stands on the dais steps, looking quizzically at a primitive sundial carved into the wall. A prism mounted on the anteroom balcony focuses a point of sunlight on the dial face.

WEALTHOW (O.S.)

It can measure the length of a day.

Beowulf turns to find WEALTHOW. She points to the dial…

WEALTHOW (CONT'D)

…when the sun touches the lowest line…soon the day will be finished.

BEOWULF

And Grendel will arrive?

She stares at him, her face, unearthly in its beauty.

WEALTHOW

I hope that God is kind to you, Sir Beowulf. It would be a great shame on this house, if one so brave and noble were to die in it.

BEOWULF

There is no shame to die in battle with evil.

WEALTHOW

And if you die?

BEOWULF

There will be no corpse to weep over, no funeral to prepare, and none to mourn me. Grendel will dispose of my body in a bloody animal feast, taking my bones and sucking off my flesh…swallowing me down.

Wealthow is a little turned on by the thought of swallowing Beowulf. She collects herself, upset by her reaction.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 36.

WEALTHOW

I would mourn you, my lord.

She looks up at him. It's a moment of romance, or naked lust…

HROTHGAR (O.S.)

Ah, Beowulf…there you are.

FOUR BRAWNY THANES lower HROTHGAR and his portable throne to the floor. He gets up and approaches Beowulf. His court assembles behind him.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

…I was thinking about your father. There was a feud, I believe. He came here fleeing the Wylflings. He'd killed one of them with his bare hands.

BEOWULF

Heatholaf.

HROTHGAR

(nodding vigorously and then continuing)

--that was him! I paid the blood debt for your father, and he swore his oath to me. No good deed goes unrewarded, though. I saved his skin, now you're here to save ours, eh?

He SLAPS Beowulf on the back.

 

We hear A LOW, BITTER, LAUGH from the shadows behind the throne.

 

UNFERTH steps out of the shadows into the light, CLAPPING his hands.

UNFERTH

All hail the great Beowulf! Here to save our pathetic Danish skins, eh?

(bitter irony & plenty of it)

And we are so damned grateful, mighty Beowulf. But can I ask a question -- as a huge admirer of yours?

Beowulf simply stares at him, with the sort of unblinking stare that Clint Eastwood made famous.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 37.

UNFERTH (CONT'D)

You see, there was another Beowulf I heard tell of, who challenged Brecca the mighty to a swimming race, out on the open sea. Was that you?

Beowulf wonders if he's being set up. But he nods.

BEOWULF

I swam against Brecca.

UNFERTH

Hmm. I thought that it had to be a different Beowulf. Someone else of the same name. You see

(he raises his voice)

--the Beowulf I heard of swam against Brecca, and
lost
. He risked his life, and Brecca's, in the deep ocean to serve his own vanity and pride. A boastful fool.
And he lost
. So I thought it had to be someone else…

Beowulf slowly walks toward Unferth. You could hear a pin drop.

BEOWULF

I swam against Brecca.

UNFERTH

(loudly)

But victory was
his
, not yours. A mighty warrior who cannot even win a swimming match. Speaking only for myself here, I not only doubt that you will be able to stand for a moment against Grendel, but I doubt you will even have the belly to stay in the hall all night.

Unferth downs his cup of mead and grins.

BEOWULF

I find it difficult to argue with a drunk. And it is true that I did not win the race…

DISSOLVE TO:

30 EXT. OPEN SEA -- DAY -- FLASHBACK

30

Beowulf is swimming in a race with BRECCA, a young warrior the same age as Beowulf.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 38.

Great swells of the sea lift and toss the two swimmers like driftwood, but the two men power alongside each other. Brecca swims with a dagger in his mouth, Beowulf with a sword in one hand. The rugged coast of Finland can be seen in the distance.

BEOWULF (V.O.)

We swam for five days, neck and neck. And I was the more powerful swimmer. I was conserving my strength, for the final stretch.

Beowulf pulls ahead…

BEOWULF (V.O.)(CONT'D)

…Then a storm blew up, and with the storm, came sea monsters.

We HEAR the Thanes in the hall MURMURING with approval.

 

A SERPENTINE SEA MONSTER -- comes up from the depths. Its tentacles grabbing Brecca, crushing his rib cage and causing Brecca to loose his dagger.

 

For a moment, Beowulf looks satisfied. He can win the race. But he knows what he must do…

 

He sighs then plunges down, and with his sword, stabs the serpent…in the eye. Purplish blood stains the ocean.

 

The serpent relaxes it's grip on Brecca…but Brecca swims on…Beowulf on the other hand isn't going anywhere…

 

ANOTHER SERPENT emerges and wraps its tentacles around Beowulf's legs. Beowulf slashes at its throat.

BEOWULF (V.O.)(CONT'D)

I hacked and lashed at these foul beasts with my sword…spilling their guts into the sea.

THEN ANOTHER SERPENT APPEARS and Beowulf slices off its tentacle…

 

THEN FIVE MORE SERPENTS APPEAR AND Beowulf quickly dispatches each of these terrifying, deep-sea monstrosities…

BEOWULF (V.O.)(CONT'D)

Again and again the monsters attacked…dark things from the sea's dark depths.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 39.

Exhausted and bleeding, Beowulf breaks the surface and swims mightily. With his sword still in hand, he pulls even with Brecca.

 

The shoreline and finish are a mere 50 yards ahead. A DOZEN GEATS CHEER them on from the beach.

 

Beowulf passes Brecca and is ahead by a length when…

BEOWULF (V.O.)(CONT'D)

Then…

Beowulf is suddenly pulled violently underwater…

31 BACK TO THE MEAD HALL

31

EXTREME CLOSE ON: Beowulf's face, remembering something else…something forbidden.

BEOWULF

…one of them seized me in its jaws, and dragged me to the bottom…

Something in his face tells us we may not be hearing the truth. He shuts his eyes…

32 EXT. SEA -- DAY -- FLASHBACK

32

Underwater…Beowulf raises his sword at the creature that has him by the legs…but stops!!

 

What Beowulf sees is not a sea-serpent, but A BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN WOMAN…not human, but some sort of Mermaid-form, with sea kelp hair and glistening, golden skin (She has a striking resemblance to Grendel's Mother).

 

BEOWULF is awestruck, mesmerized by her beauty.

 

THE WOMAN seductively beckons Beowulf to swim closer…

 

BEOWULF (V.O.)

…I killed the monster with my own blade…plunging it into it's heart…

THE WOMAN wraps her golden arms around Beowulf and kisses him…Beowulf kisses back.

BEOWULF (V.O.)

(CONT'D)…I did not win the race.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 40.

33 BACK TO THE MEAD HALL

33

Beowulf shakes himself out of the memory, forcing it somewhere deep into his subconscious. He continues…

BEOWULF

They sing of my battle with the sea monsters to this day, my friend. And they sing no such songs about Brecca. But I braved their hot jaws, making those lanes safe for seamen…and survived the nightmare.

UNFERTH

(magnificently unimpressed)

Of course. The sea monsters. And you killed, what, twenty was it?

BEOWULF

Nine
. But…will you do me the honor of telling me your name?

UNFERTH

I am Unferth, son of Ecglaf.

Beowulf addresses the thanes like a seasoned politician.

BEOWULF

Unferth? Son of Ecglaf? Your fame has crossed the ocean ahead of you. I know who you are…

Unferth does not know if Beowulf is telling the truth. But he starts to preen a little…

BEOWULF (CONT'D)

Let's see…. they say you are clever. Not wise, but sharp. And they say that you killed both of your brothers when you caught them having knowledge of your mother, “Unferth Kinslayer”.

(laughs)

A crime for which you will roast in agony forever.

After a protracted moment of hate, Unferth throws himself at Beowulf, growling. Beowulf steps aside and Unferth trips and falls to the floor. Beowulf crouches beside him.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 41.

BEOWULF (CONT'D)

I'll tell you another true thing, Unferth Kinslayer. If your strength and heart had been as strong and fierce as your
words
, then Grendel would never feel free to murder and gorge on your people, with no fear of retaliation. But tonight will be different. Tonight he will find Geats waiting for him: not frightened sheep…like you.

SUDDENLY, DANES on the side of Unferth, pull their weapons and take an angry step toward Beowulf…

 

BEOWULF'S THANES draw their swords and daggers…the two lines of warriors stand eyeball to eyeball…then…

 

HROTHGAR starts CLAPPING. Is he senile, or sensibly breaking up the fight? He steps out between them.

HROTHGAR

Well done! That's the spirit, young Beowulf! That's the spirit we need! You'll kill my Grendel for me. Let's we all drink, and make celebration for the kill to come! Eh?!

Beowulf smiles and places his hand on Hrothgar's shoulder. Everyone relaxes.

CUT TO:

34 INT. MEAD HALL -- LATER

34

A FINGER PLUCKS a harp string. PULL BACK TO REVEAL WEALTHOW SINGING a balled, beautiful and melancholy.

 

Beowulf's thanes are eating, with their fingers and with knives, from a huge cut of beef on the table.

 

Hondshew cuts a slice of beef, with his knife, and feeds it to Yrsa, who passes with a jug of mead.

 

Beowulf sits in a place of honor at the bottom of the throne dais. Gitte arrives and re-fills Beowulf's cup.

 

Hrothgar calls down to Beowulf…

HROTHGAR

The High King's mead! The finest mead! Careful. Three cups of that and they'll be carrying you out of here.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 42.

Beowulf raises his cup and toasts…Wealthow.

 

Still strumming the harp, Wealthow nods and smiles what looks like an inviting smile.

 

Hrothgar has completely missed the moment of strange romance between his wife and the young warrior. Or perhaps he hasn't…

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

Beowulf, son of Edgethow…come close, I want to show you something…

Hrothgar claps his hands then motions to Unferth to get out of his seat. Hrothgar pulls Unferth's chair next to his throne and Beowulf sits. Wulfgar arrives with a carved wooden box.

 

CLOSE ON BOX:

 

Inside is the ROYAL DRAGON HORN that we saw in the opening scene.

 

BEOWULF'S EYES WIDEN at the sight of the horn, gleaming in the firelight.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

The Royal Dragon Horn.

Hrothgar hands the horn to Beowulf. He holds it up…

BEOWULF

It is beautiful.

HROTHGAR

Isn't she magnificent? The prize of my treasury.

Beowulf runs his fingertips over it.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

I claimed it after my battle with Fafnir, the dragon of the Northern moors. It nearly cost me my life.

(confiding with a loud whisper)

There's a soft spot just under the neck.

Hrothgar points to the ruby set in the dragons throat.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

You go in with a knife or a dagger…it's the only way you can kill a dragon.

(more)

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 43.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

(admiring the horn)

I wonder how many men have died for love of this beauty?

The light glints off the cup alluringly.

BEOWULF

Can you blame them?

Hrothgar takes the horn, holds it up in front of Beowulf.

HROTHGAR

If you can take care of Grendel, she's yours forever.

BEOWULF

You do me great honour.

Wealthow finishes her song.

WEALTHOW

It is we who are honoured.

Another furtive look between Wealthow and Beowulf. Unferth watches this exchange from the shadows.

 

Beowulf clambers onto a table. He takes an ordinary goblet from a thane and raises it high…

BEOWULF

My lord, my lady, people of Herot. When we crossed the rolling sea to come to you, we knew, my men and I, that we will either triumph over evil, or we will perish in Grendel's grasp. Tonight, we shall live forever in greatness and courage, or, forgotten and despised, we shall die!

CHEERS from the hall. Wealthow smiles sadly.

CUT TO:

35 INT. MEAD HALL - SUNSET

35

CLOSE ON THE SUNDIAL: The pinpoint of sunlight focused on the carved wall…extinguishes.

 

Hrothgar points to the dial…

HROTHGAR

Ah, I see the hour is upon us.

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