Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (25 page)

Beowulf's eyes dilate. She has hold of his mind.

BEOWULF

I don't need…a sword…to kill you…

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

Of course you don't, my love.

She suggestively runs her fingertip along the edge of the blade…

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

You took a son from me. Give me a son, brave thane. Stay with me. Love me.

This sends a shudder of horror into Beowulf's heart. Beowulf shakes his head as if to clear it. But she's whispering in his ear once again, whispering her temptations:

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

Love me…and I shall weave you riches beyond imagination. I shall make you the greatest king that ever lived.

BEOWULF

(whispers)

You lie.

She brushes the golden drinking horn with her hand, slowly, suggestively. She circles Beowulf, her fingers kissing his skin.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

To you I swear: As long as this golden horn remains in my keeping, you will forever be king.

She reaches down, like a woman touching a man, and runs her finger tips lightly along the sword's hilt…then places its tip between the swell of her breasts.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER (CONT'D)

Forever strong, mighty…and all powerful. This I promise.

Instantly, the blade melts and drips like an eruption of mercury, over her hand and onto the ground, where it pools and puddles into reflections…

 

She moves in close, closer…

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 75.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER (CONT'D)

…This I swear.

Each reflection shows Beowulf and the “GOLDEN WOMAN”…LOCKED IN A PASSIONATE KISS!!

SMASH CUT TO:

59 INT. MEAD HALL -- DAY

59

 

CLOSE ON: GRENDEL'S HUGE HEAD

 

As it tumbles out of the sack and onto the floor…a woman SCREAMS.

 

Everyone is assembled in the mead hall of Herot. Beowulf is at the front of the hall, with Wiglaf behind him.

BEOWULF

(calming the lady)

It's dead, my lady. It will harm you no more. After I finished off Grendel's monstrous mother, I cut off the brute's head.

HROTHGAR is staring at the head, a mixture of excitement and disgust -- the head stares back at the room with dead, milky eyes. And then joy.

HROTHGAR

Our curse has been lifted…?

Everyone CHEERS. Hrothgar looks the happiest we have seen him since Grendel's first attack, but his eyes are oddly crazed.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

Take this head from my sight -- nail it to the, no…

Hrothgar looks into the eyes of Grendel. In death it bears an uncanny resemblance to him.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

(shuddering with fear)

…into the sea!

Two Danish Thanes spike the head and carry it to the balcony. As they toss it over the railing…a CHEER RISES then…

 

SEGUES to the SOUNDS OF CELEBRATION…

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 76.

60 INT. MEAD HALL -- LATER

60

A huge roasted pig is dropped onto a table. Mead flows.

 

We are in the final FESTIVITIES at the mead hall and it has the atmosphere of a real party. Beowulf, Wiglaf and the king's court are seated on the dais, at the table of honor. Unferth leans over to Beowulf…

UNFERTH

Beowulf, mighty monster-killer. There is something I must ask. Hrunting, my father's sword, did it help you destroy the hag?

BEOWULF

It…it did. The demon would not be dead without it. I plunged Hrunting into the chest of Grendel's Mother. When I pulled it free from her corpse, the creature sprang back to life…so I plunged it back into the hag's chest and there it will stay, till Ragnarok.

Unferth nods, it is a noble enough image for him to relay to his children's children. He takes Beowulf's hand and kisses it.

UNFERTH

Our people shall be grateful until the end of time.

Beowulf downs some mead…strangely guilty.

 

PULL BACK TO REVEAL Wealthow seated beside him. She holds a jug of mead.

WEALTHOW

I thought you might need some more to drink.

BEOWULF

Aye.

WEALTHOW

And the drinking horn. Do you have it?

BEOWULF

No…I knew the greedy witch desired it so I threw the horn into the swamp, and she followed it. And that's where I struck.

(MORE)

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 77.

BEOWULF (CONT'D)

(nods to Unferth)

…with the mighty sword Hrunting.

(he inhales)

Once she was dead, I looked for it, but it was gone forever.

She looks at him, unsure. Hrothgar suddenly comes up from behind him and takes him by the arm.

HROTHGAR

Then find our hero another cup, my love. The hero and I must talk. And see to it that the mead keeps flowing.

Hrothgar, already drunk and gulping down mead, guides Beowulf into the…

 

61 INT. ANTEROOM BEHIND THE THRONE DAIS CONTINUOUS

61

HROTHGAR

Tell me…You brought back the head of Grendel. But what about the head of the mother?

BEOWULF

With her dead and cold, in the bog. Is it not enough to return with one monster's head?

HROTHGAR

Did you kill her?

BEOWULF

Would you like to hear the story of my struggle with that monstrous hag…

HROTHGAR

She is no hag, Beowulf. We both know that. Answer me, damn you: did you kill her?

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

BEOWULF

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.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 78.

HROTHGAR

(trying to convince himself)

Grendel is dead. That's all that matters to me. Grendel will bother me no more. The hag is
not
my curse. Not any more.

Beowulf looks at Hrothgar for a long, knowing moment. Then, Hrothgar removes the golden circlet from his head. He looks down at it.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

They think this band of gold is all there is to being king. They think because I wear this, I'm wiser than them. Braver. Better.

He puts it back on his head. Then he walks back to the mead hall, his eyes more crazed then ever.

61A INT. MEAD HALL 61A

He bellows out:

HROTHGAR

at the top of voice)

Listen! Listen to me! Because my lord Beowulf is a mighty hero. Because he killed the demon Grendel, and laid its mother in her grave. Because he lifted the curse from this land. And because I have no heir…

He looks over to Wealthow, who looks slightly scared.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

…I declare that on my death I leave all that I possess -- my kingdom, my hall…and even my queen. It all goes to this…hero.

UNFERTH

But -- my lord --

HROTHGAR

I HAVE SPOKEN! When I am gone. Beowulf, son of Edgethow, SHALL BE KING!!

A moment of shock. Then, CHEERS.

 

Wealthow gives Hrothgar the most bewildered look -- he winks.

 

Everyone surrounds the stunned Beowulf, paying tribute and congratulating him.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 79.

Wealthow, baffled at this turn of events, looks to Unferth who is gritting his teeth. She then looks into the king's anteroom, beyond which is the balcony.

WEALTHOW'S P.O.V.

Hrothgar is standing at the open ledge balcony. He has his back to his entire country, facing the ocean. He takes off his circlet, places it on the stone balustrade…AND JUMPS!!!

Wealthow SCREAMS.

WEALTHOW

(shrill)

HROTHGAR! Hrothgar--!

Her eyes go wide and she runs to the…

62 EXT. ANTEROOM BALCONY -- NIGHT

62

She looks over the edge. On the rocks below, is Hrothgar's body. Dead. Deep beneath the sea WE SEE something golden slithering, like a huge eel, or the form of a woman…

 

Beowulf, Unferth, and the others run to her side. They look over the edge with wide, horrified eyes.

 

Hrothgar's body is seen briefly in the crashing waves and then he's gone, lost to the sea, swept out in a powerful surge.

 

There is a moment of STUNNED SILENCE on the ledge. The only SOUND is the CRASH OF WAVES on the rocks below.

WEALTHOW

(weeping, full of denial)

He. He must have fallen.

Unferth, who is beyond understanding, holds her back from the ledge. Then, he picks up Hrothgar's circlet and turns to the Thanes behind him -- all silent and wide-eyed, Wiglaf at the front of the crowd. Unferth can barely choke the words out:

UNFERTH

All hail --
King Beowulf.

He places the golden circlet on Beowulf's head. There's a long, long pause, and then -- CHEERS!

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 80.

EXTREME CLOSE ON: Beowulf as he stands and looks at his subjects. He is the king. And then…

MATCH CUT TO:

MANY YEARS AFTER

63 EXT. DANISH COASTLINE - BLUFF -DAY

63

EXTREME CLOSE ON: KING BEOWULF, the golden circlet on his head.

 

Now decades older. He is in very good shape for his age. 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 as the young man he was thrity years before. His pepper-and-salt beard is tightly trimmed.

 

PULL BACK TO REVEAL that Beowulf and OLD WIGLAF are atop their horses on a small bluff that overlooks the shoreline.

 

AN ARCHER sitting on horseback, behind Beowulf, charges his bow. Then, on Wiglaf's COMMAND…RELEASES HIS ARROW…

 

THE CAMERA FLIES WITH THE ARROW…soaring backwards away from the clifftops revealing MORE ARCHERS and the KING'S COMMAND…

 

WE CONTINUE WITH THE ARROW, PULLING BACK over the sand until suddenly…WE LAND in the middle of a FEROCIOUS BATTLE.

 

BEOWULF'S THANES are in the process of annihilating A BAND OF FRISIAN INVADERS…using swords, hammers, axes and horses…

KING BEOWULF

watching it all from the line of the moor, shudders and closes his eyes in disgust.

KING BEOWULF

This isn't battle, Wiglaf. It's slaughter.

OLD WIGLAF

The Frisians want to make themselves heroes, your majesty.

(MORE)

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 81.

OLD WIGLAF (CONT'D)

They want the bards to sing of their deeds.

KING BEOWULF

It's going to be a short song.

OLD WIGLAF

Can you blame them? Your legend is known from the high seas and the snow barriers to the great island kingdom. You are the “monster slayer”.

KING BEOWULF

(with longing disdain)

We men are the monsters now.

Beowulf shakes his head…sad.

KING BEOWULF (CONT'D)

The time of heroes is dead, Wiglaf. The Christ God has killed it…leaving humankind nothing but weeping martyrs and fear…and shame.

At that moment, down on the beach, a VOICE erupts from the LINGERING BATTLE…

FRISIAN LEADER (O.S.)

Show me to King Beowulf! I would die by his sword and his alone…show me to Beowulf!! Beowulf spurs his horse, and shouts…

KING BEOWULF (CONT'D)

Leave him!

64 EXT. DANISH COASTLINE - ON THE BEACH

64

THE FRIESIAN LEADER is still alive. The rest of the Friesians are dead, or dying. The Frisian leader is kicked in the head by a laughing mob of thanes who have him surrounded and are humiliating him by not killing him. They all LAUGH with every WHACK.

 

Beowulf arrives, scowling…

KING BEOWULF

What is this? You think it sport to mock your opponent in this fashion? Let him die quickly…with some honor left intact.

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 82.

He turns, disgusted, and begins to ride away…just as Wiglaf has caught up.

FRISIAN LEADER

Kill me yourself, if you would have me killed…coward!

Beowulf stops his horse, but remains with his back to his thanes and the Frisian leader. He just sits there, holding the reigns to his horse…we can't see his face.

 

Wiglaf interjects.

OLD WIGLAF

Balls! The king can never engage in direct battle.

(ordering to his thanes)

Kill the invader now. Do it quick and put his head on a spear.

Beowulf's men, feeling a little less boisterous, raise their weapons to comply.

KING BEOWULF

Stop!

Beowulf turns his horse around.

KING BEOWULF (CONT'D)

You think me a coward?

FRISIAN LEADER

I think you've forgotten how to wield an axe in battle. I think you're an old man.

Beowulf dismounts his horse, never taking his eyes off of the Frisian leader.

OLD WIGLAF

My lord, the king can never engage in direct battle!

KING BEOWULF

Silence!

(he turns to the Frisian leader)

So you want your name in the song of Beowulf? You think that it should end with me killed by a Frisian raider with no name?

BLUE Rev. 2005-09-11 83.

FRISIAN LEADER

I am Finn, of Frisia, and my name shall be remembered forever.

KING BEOWULF

(matter of fact)

Only if you kill me. Otherwise you're nothing.

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