Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (7 page)

And with these enigmatic words, she returns to the King's throne, Beowulf following her progress back with his eyes.

 

Someone SHOUTS “Speech!” and the CRY is taken up by the whole room, slamming mugs and feet against the floor and the bench.

 

ALL

(rhythmic chant)

Speech! Speech! Speech! Speech!

CUT TO:

55 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S LAIR - SUNSET

55

Grendel writhes in agony as we hear this NOISE, louder and harsher than anything he's heard so far. He MOANS. He hits his head against the cave floor, as if trying to distract himself from the noise, causing his forehead to bleed.

CUT TO:

56 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - SUNSET

56

Beowulf clambers onto a table. He raises the goblet high…

BEOWULF

When we crossed the rolling sea to come to you, we knew, my men and I, that we would either triumph over evil, or we should perish in Grendel's grasp. Tonight, here in this very hall, we shall live forever in greatness and courage, or, forgotten and despised, we shall die!

WIGLAF

(sotto voce)

Well that pretty much covers all our options, doesn't it?

CUT TO:

57 EXT. THE SEA - SUNSET

57

The red ball of the sun falls in the Western sea, and goes out, with an almost imperceptibly green flash. It is now night.

CUT TO:

58 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

58

And now, Hrothgar leans back in his throne. He yawns, ostentatiously.

HROTHGAR

Well, this old man needs his sleep. Shall we pound the pillow?

He claps his hand, and the four thanes lift his throne and carry it, and him, out of the room. Wealthow follows, and looks back at Beowulf.

UNFERTH

Good night, Beowulf. Watch out for sea monsters. I'm sure your imagination must be teeming with them.

BEOWULF

I will. Watch out for brothers.

CUT TO:

59 EXT. HEROT - NIGHT

59

The sun set half an hour ago. Hondshew and the plum girl are arguing outside the mead hall, in the shadows. While the conversation is going on, DANES are SLIPPING OUT OF THE HALL and going to their homes, looking about nervously…

HONDSHEW

Oh, go on.

YRSA

I said no

HONDSHEW

Oh go on, please…

YRSA

I
said
no and I
meant
no

HONDSHEW

Why not?

YRSA

Because it's too
late
. Sorry.

HONDSHEW

I could transport you to paradise, Take you to ecstasy and back with my magic spear. No other man will be able to satisfy you again.

YRSA

I don't think so.

HONDSHEW

Well how about a quick blowjob?

CUT TO:

60 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

60

Beowulf and his men are sitting around a table, drinking, SINGING and generally having a party.

 

PULL BACK TO REVEAL: No one else there.

 

It's just Beowulf and his men. Hondshew comes back in. The thanes HOOT AND JEER him:

THANES

Oy, Hondshew. Did you get any? How was she?

HONDSHEW

Nah. Not my type.

The rest of the thanes laugh at him.

OLAF

Yeah? What's your type? A sheep that runs slow enough for you to catch her? Baaa!

Hondshew throws himself at Olaf, and they roll around on the floor, fighting -- or mock fighting, anyway. The other
thanes are laughing, cheering for Olaf or for Hondshew, chanting.

THANES

(chanting in unison, two teams)

Hondshew! Hondshew! Hondshew! Olaf! Olaf! Olaf!

CUT TO:

61 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S LAIR - NIGHT

61

Long shot. The mouth of the cave. We can hear, Grendel-style, the CHANTING of 'Olaf' and 'Hondshew', but we can only see the mouth of the cave. We are waiting for something to happen, and then…

 

Grendel SCREAMS. It's a scream that tears at our hearts and guts, a noise as animal as it is human.

DISSOLVE TO:

62 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

62

The fight between Olaf and Hondshew is pretty much over. We hear, from a distance, GRENDEL SCREAMING. The men stop what they're doing and look around.

WIGLAF

What was that?

BEOWULF

A wolf. Or an owl.

OLAF

Maybe it was…Grendel…

(then he laughs to show us he was only joking)

Someone cuffs him in the head. Beowulf stands up and walks across the hall, to the fire. Then, almost like a strip-tease, with the firelight behind him, he begins to take off his clothes, starting with his wolf-bear fur cloak.

WIGLAF

My lord Beowulf…What are you doing?

BEOWULF

(continuing to undress, taking off his armor)

When Grendel comes, we will fight as equals. The creature has no sword, no (more)

BEOWULF (CONT'D)

armor, no boots. I shall fight him on equal terms. Fate shall decide.

WIGLAF

Oh.

BEOWULF

Wake me when the monster comes.

He lies down on the floor, his head pillowed by his rolled-up clothes.

WIGLAF

(repeating to himself -- not quite as under his breath as he thinks)

"Wake me when the monster comes" -- what are we here for, then?

BEOWULF

(his eyes closed, to himself)

Bait.

CUT TO:

63 EXT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

63

The moon is almost full, and is high in the sky. Night surrounds the hall of Hrothgar like a black velvet cloak. We can hear RAUCOUS SINGING, muffled, inside.

CUT TO:

64 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

64

Beowulf is sleeping, naked, in front of the fire.

 

A couple of the thanes are having a knife fight with their hands tied together, and they have a small audience.

 

More of the thanes are standing around in a semicircle, arms linked, singing. The tune is rough-and-ready, rugby song type thing:

THANES

(singing in verse)

There were a dozen virgins, All Friesians and Franks! We took 'em for a boat-ride, and all we got were wanks!

(chorus)

OOohh, We are Beowulf's army, we are mighty thanes, we'll steal your cattle, and take your girls, then we'll do it all

(more)

THANES (CONT'D)

over again!

(verse)

The prettiest of the virgins, she was the fairest swede! I told her I'd an urgin', for where to spend my seed!

(chorus)

Singing
we are Beowulf's army, we are mighty thanes, we'll steal your cattle, and take your girls, then we'll do it all over again!

(verse)

The oldest of the virgins, she was a Vandal lass! I showed my mighty weapon, and she showed me her ass!

(chorus)

Singing
we are Beowulf's army, we are mighty thanes, we'll steal your cattle, and take your girls, then we'll do it all over again…

They SING happily and obscenely, taking it in turns to alternate verses, all joining in on the choruses. They are all sweating -- the fire's heat has turned the hall into a sauna, and anyway, they are drunk.

CUT TO:

65 EXT. HEROT - NIGHT

65

SLOW ZOOM OUT OF Herot, its heavy stones can't hold the JUBILANT LAUGHTER of the rowdy Thanes. A monument to mankind's resilience, it may hold out warring hordes but it can't hold the BOISTEROUS SINGING inside.

CUT TO:

66 EXT. THE MOORS - NIGHT

66

The song inside the mead hall seems to echo through the moors as if it were some great parabolic transmitter amplifying the fete du soir.

CUT TO:

67 EXT. DARK FOREST - NIGHT

67

WE SLOWLY MOVE through a dark forest of primordial origin. The THANE'S SONG still resounding through the night, stillness carrying it beyond the realm of man.

CUT TO:

68 EXT. THE GREAT CAVE - NIGHT

68

SLOW ZOOM INTO the mouth of a great cave into which feeds a mighty torrent of water. The SINGING, now louder than ever, seems to be coming from inside the murky burrow.

 

The CHANTS have reached a fever pitch. Swollen to an amplitude of unprecedented intensity. Never before has a song of happiness seemed to warp into a TORTUROUS REQUIEM. An aria of joy and light, underscored by darkness and self doubt…

69 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S LAIR - NIGHT

69

To hear it all there is GRENDEL, a deformed man of gargantuan size. His skin like stretched leather over ancient muscles. His hands clutched tightly over the sides of his oblong skullcap. His golden eyes pinched tightly shut, tears of blood drip from them. This is a monster born of pain. Once a man, now twisted into a caricature of insanity and depravity.

 

He writhes in pain at the song inside his head. His naked body scarring the sodden floor of the cave around him.

 

The dank walls, lichen covered and scared with roots, seem to close in on Grendel as if the monster were inside an immense trash compactor. A claustrophobic nightmare has manifested itself into Grendel's twisted reality.

 

Indeed, the cave is growing smaller. Or is it that Grendel is growing bigger?!

 

The behemoth has grown so large he can barely fit into the room. The tiny bones of many Thanes litter the sarcophagus chamber, some bleached with age, others still ripe with their fruity flesh. Their armor, now dwarfed by the monster's size, seem like small cans of ripped open tomato paste.

 

The monster can no longer take the haunting song of happiness inside his twisted brain. He scrambles for the exit to this tomb of song.

 

There is only one thing that can stop the noise inside his head. Murder. Murder of all things living and good. Murder of all things beautiful and proud.

CUT TO:

70 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

70

Beowulf, naked and laying on the floor, opens his eyes from his slumber. Almost as if he knows what's coming.

THANES

(still singing their song in verse)

The fattest of the Virgins, I knew her for a whore! I gave her all my codpiece, And still she wanted more!

(chorus)

Singing
we are Beowulf's army, we are mighty thanes, we'll steal your cattle, and take your girls, then we'll do it all over again…

CUT TO:

71 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S LAIR - CRAWLSPACE - NIGHT

71

Grendel squirms through the tight crawlspace, big enough for the shoulders of twenty men. The Thane's song has Grendel in a shrieking frenzy. Anything to escape from the cave, where the warrior's hymn echoes against the hard stone walls.

CUT TO:

72 INT. HEROT - NIGHT

72

Beowulf smiles. He knows what's coming.

THANES

(continuing their song in verse)

A virgin was from Norway, She cost me twenty groats! She showed me there was more ways, Than one to sow my oats!

(chorus)

Singing
we are Beowulf's army, we are mighty thanes, we'll steal your cattle, and take your girls, then we'll do it all over again…

CUT TO:

73 EXT. DARK FOREST - NIGHT

73

Grendel, in a frenzy of anger and hate is charging through the forest, knocking trees down in his tortured frenzy.

CUT TO:

74 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

74

CLOSE ON: Beowulf's open eyes.

THANES (O.S.)

(singing in verse)

There was a girl from Iceland, And she was mighty hot! She'd take a whole damn iceberg, To cool her burning tw--

The Thanes' song is suddenly interrupted by a BANGING on the heavy wooden door.

OLAF

That'll be Grendel now! Ooh! It's fucking Grendel!

The Thanes LAUGH raucously at Olaf's witticism.

 

Hondshew jumps from the table and turns to the other Thanes as he walks backwards toward the hallway that leads to the door.

HONDSHEW

It's Yrsa, my sweet plum! She's changed her mind and is ready to allow me to taste her ripe and juicy fruit!

The Thanes LAUGH LOUDLY. Hondshew, drunk as a particularly drunk drunkard, stumbles down

THE HALLWAY

to the large main double doors to open them up.

HROTHGAR

Patience, my lovely! Give a Thane a chance to open the door and invite you…

He swings the door open only to find Grendel, looking quite large and hideous.

HONDSHEW

(continuing, but a tad more sober)

…in.

Grendel SNARLS a sort of hideous laugh.

75 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

75

The other Thanes are waiting for Hondshew to come in carrying the fair woman.

THANE

Save some for us, Hondshew! We've got pricks that need a waxin', as well!

Suddenly Hondshew's bloodied and ripped up corpse is thrown from the hallway and into the great hall. It flops on top of a long table like a rag doll whose joints allow his limbs to move in any direction.

THANE

Hondshew?

But Hondshew is clearly dead as a doorknob.

 

And at that moment, in the flickering golden light of the fireplace, Grendel comes from out of the hallway, his SNARL is preceded by a horrific gaping grin that shows off his yellow canines. His sick skin glistens a wet shade of greenish gold, but appears to be scarred and nicked from scratching at himself nervously. His talons are simply broken nails as hard as marble, sharpened by scraping at the earthen soil of his cavernous lair. Simply put, Grendel is one scary motherfucker.

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