Tracing Mythos and Monsters

beowulf_and_grendel

Saxonic-Old Germanic monsters…

Grim and greedy, brutally cruel […]
This gruesome creature was called Grendel,
notorious prowler of the border land, ranger of the moors,
the fens and the fastness; this cursed creature lived in a monster’s lair…

Beowulf

 

And their possible origins…

OF THE ORIGIN OF ROMANTIC FICTION IN EUROPE

That peculiar and arbitrary species of Fiction which we commonly call Romantic, was entirely unknown to the writers of Greece and Rome. It appears to have been imported into Europe by a people, whose modes of thinking, and habits of invention, are not natural to that country. It is generally supposed to have been borrowed from the Arabians. But this origin has not been hitherto perhaps examined or ascertained with a sufficient degree of accuracy. It is my present design, by a more distinct and extended inquiry than has yet been applied to the subject, to trace the manner and the period of its introduction into the popular belief, the oral poetry, and the literature of the Europeans.

[…]

… In a word these volumes are the first specimens extant in this mode of writing. No European history before these has mentioned giants, enchanters, dragons, and the like monstrous and arbitrary fictions. And the reason is obvious: they were written at a time when a new and unnatural mode of thinking took place in Europe, introduced by our communication with the east.

–Thomas Warton, The History of English Poetry

 

Of the Norse pantheon…

A few years before the birth of Christ, soon after Mithridates had been overthrown by Pompey, a nation of Asiatic Goths who possessed that region of Asia which is now called Georgia, and is connected on the south with Persia, alarmed at the progressive encroachments of the Roman armies, retired in vast multitudes under the conduct of their leader Odin, or Woden, into the northern parts of Europe, not subject to the Roman government, and settled in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other districts of the Scandinavian territory. As they brought with them many useful arts, particularly the knowledge of letters, which Odin is said to have invented, they were hospitably received by the natives, and by degrees acquired a safe and peaceable establishment in the new country, which seems to have adopted their language, laws, and religion. Odin is said to have been stiled a god by the Scandinavians; an appellation which the superiour address and specious abilities of this Asiatic chief easily extorted from a more savage and uncivilised people.

–Thomas Warton, The History of English Poetry

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