Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (3 page)

This is that draft…

BEOWULF

 

as told by

 

Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary

 

Draft Dated:
June 10, 1997

Registered: WGA/w
© Copyright 1997

 

Hwæt! We Gar-Dena
peod-cyniga,
hu oå æpelingas

in geår-dagum,
prym gefrunon,
ellen fremedon!

Listen! We have heard
In the old days,
How noble princes

of the Spear-Danes' glory
the kings of tribes--
showed great courage!

 

“Beowulf”
Lines 1-3
Original Author Unknown

NORTHERN DENMARK
518 A.D.
THE AGE OF HEROES

FADE IN:

1 EXT. HEROT-DAY

1

EXTREME CLOSE UP ON: The face of KING HROTHGAR. He is a man past the prime of his years, but still a mighty warrior, and a charismatic leader of men. As he bombastically talks, with full volume, to a large audience, we SLOWLY PULL BACK.

HROTHGAR

A year ago I, Hrothgar, your King, swore that we would celebrate our victories in a new hall, a mighty hall and beautiful. Craftsmen from all over the land of the Danes, and from all the civilized world have worked on this hall to make it the finest mead-hall on the face of the earth.

PULL BACK TO REVEAL that Hrothgar is atop his horse in front of a huge mead hall, which is called Herot, and that around him are a HUGE BAND OF DANES--closest to him are WARRIORS, and ADVISORS, including ESHER, an elderly man, and UNFERTH (with long black hair streaming out from his winged helm and intense black eyes).

 

Further away are the MERCHANTS and the WOMEN and CHILDREN and DOGS. Everyone is Filthy. For that matter everyone in the film is filthy.

 

The queen, WEALTHOW (who is less filthy than everyone else), stands a little behind the King, with a COUPLE OF HER LADIES. Wealthow is over thirty years younger than Hrothgar, his second wife, and is radiantly beautiful. Her chief lady is YRSA, a girl with intense blue eyes and contrasting black hair to the queen's blond locks.

 

The King is happy, shouting loudly enough to be heard by the furthest dog.

HROTHGAR (CONT'D)

(continuing)

In this hall I shall have my throne. In this hall we shall feast and tell of victories. In this hall shall the scops sing their sagas. And in this hall we shall divide the spoils of victory, the gold and treasure. This shall be a place of merrymaking and joy from now until the end of time.

Hrothgar holds out a huge bejewelled cup to a PAGE, who pours mead into it from a jug. Hrothgar holds up the cup.

HROTHGAR

I name this hall…

He takes a huge swig of Mead. His eyes are bright. Then he pours the rest of the mead on the doorway.

HROTHGAR

(continuing)

…Herot!

And the crowd CHEERS.

CUT TO:

2 INT. HEROT-MEAD HALL-NIGHT

2

Everything is golden and burnished. The CROWD are NOISY AND CHEERING and happy. We see golden mead being poured from jugs into goblets. One warrior sticks out his helmet, mead is poured into it and soon he is drinking from it. A brace of golden roasted geese are brought out on wooden serving platters. The fire is burning golden-orange in the fireplace. It's noisy and riotous.

 

Hrothgar is sitting at a huge throne, and beside him is a pile of golden treasure --wristbands, rings, neck-rings, helmets and the like.

CUT TO:

3 EXT. HEROT - THE MOORS - NIGHT

3

We are a short distance away from Herot. All is blue-grey and still. Mists hang low on the moor. Smoke and MUFFLED JUBILATION come from the Hall. A door opens and a man stumbles out to piss.

CUT TO:

4 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

4

NOISE once more assaults our senses. Hrothgar is laughing loudly at some dirty joke. He picks up his queen, Wealthow, and kisses her long on the mouth, while she beats at his chest with her fists, demanding to be put down. His WARRIOR THANES cheer him on.

CUT TO:

5 EXT. THE MOORS - HEROT - NIGHT

5

The hall is now a tiny smudge of light in the distance. WE ARE MOVING AWAY FROM IT, and now are slightly above the ground. Mists writhe beneath us.

CUT TO:

6 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

6

They are dividing the treasure. Hrothgar is having a great time doing this. He's drunk, but then, everyone's drunk. With each distribution of treasure, with every joke, THE CROWD CHEERS.

HROTHGAR

And to Wulf the Eight-Fingered, who was valorous in battle but puked like a seasick babe whenever he got into a ship--

We see WULF glowering, as his friends nudge him in the ribs.

HROTHGAR

(continuing)

--this golden wristband, and this ring.

He tosses them into the crowd. Wulf catches them.

HROTHGAR

For Unferth, my wisest advisor, violator of virgins and boldest of brave brawlers--where the hell are you, Unferth, you weasel-faced bastard? Here you go--

Hrothgar puts a huge golden torque or a thick gold chain around Unferth's neck. CHEERS. A man throws down a bone for a dog, onto the rushes of the floor.

CUT TO:

7 EXT. THE MOORS - NIGHT 7

The SOUNDS OF THE REVELRY are almost lost to us now. An owl HOOTS. We are travelling through the quiet blues and greys of the mist on the moor. OMINOUS BASS MUSIC starts, almost imperceptibly.

CUT TO:

8 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - MONTAGE - NIGHT

8

IN A SERIES OF SHOTS:

 

The revelry in the hall is reaching a fever pitch…

9 ERICK,

9

one of Hrothgar's Thanes, is talking to the King, Esher, and some other warriors.

ERICK

So I look up, wipe the blood from my eyes, and the bastard's gone and pulled a knife from his boot, he has!

ESHER

And what was it you did?

ERICK

Right. Well. I turned, like this, and I stabbed out, like this, but at the same time, I did this thing, right…

He's trying to show his THANE FRIENDS what he did…he lunges forward, using a leg of goose as a sword, loses his balance, falls back, knocking into the King, who goes down.

 

There is a moment of NERVOUS SILENCE in the hall -- what is the King going to do?

 

Hrothgar glares, for a moment, then begins to LAUGH UPROARIOUSLY, and the hall resumes partying.

10 WULF THE EIGHT-FINGERED

10

is in earnest conversation with a young lady, ISOLDE THE FAT. He's holding out his golden arm-bracelet.

WULF

You want to feel it? Yeah, of course it's real gold…

ISOLDE THE FAT

I don't think so, dearie.

WULF

That stuff he was saying about me puking. That was just his little joke. I got a stomach like a rock.

11 A BAND OF WARRIORS

11

are together in one corner of the hall, singing an obscene and lusty warrior song, more or less together.

12 ROLF THE BRAVE IS CHASING GITTE THE SLUT

12

through the hall. They are both giggling, as they play something close to hide and seek.

13 SEVERAL ELDERLY LADIES

13

sit, almost unaware of the chaos around them, primly sitting and eating goose with their fingers. One of them BELCHES with relish, surprising us.

14 A KNAVE BOY

14

is trying to pull a goose-leg away from a DOG. He succeeds, and begins gnawing on it himself.

 

We are seeing humanity, rough-cut, having a real festival, feast, celebration. It's NOISY and rude, and everything is burnished with the glitter of gold.

CUT TO:

15 EXT. DARK FOREST - NIGHT

15

We are at the nape of a dark primeval forest, just at the border of the high moors. The moon is out. It's silent we are much too far away to hear the noise in the feast-hall, Herot. Just the WIND HOWLING, an OWL HOOTING…

 

…and the sound of SOMEONE MOANING.

 

We cannot see GRENDEL properly. He is more or less a shadowy figure in the darkness. But he has his hands clutched over his ears, arms extended, and is swaying from side to side, as if trying to blot out a noise so loud it's filling his head. He is MOANING.

 

Then he lowers his hands from his ears, and we hear what Grendel hears -- the NOISE OF THE PARTY as an obscene and allengulfing babble of sound: a WALL OF NOISE.

 

Grendel steps out into the light of the full moon, a dark, huge shape…

CUT TO:

16 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

16

The Hall. The party is in full Danish sixth century swing.

 

Rolf the Brave and Gitte the Slut are locked in a passionate embrace under the table, possibly fucking. Some are passed out, some are partying full bore, all are drunk. A SCOP, a Bard of the time, is CHANTING and accompanying himself on the HARP. If we can hear the words of his chant, it's about King Hrothgar killing a dragon.

 

The King, on his throne, one huge hand pawing his wife's waist, closes his eyes and begins to sleep.

CUT TO:

17 EXT. THE MOORS - NIGHT

17

We are travelling towards the hall Herot from Grendel's POINT OF VIEW. We are about 15 feet above the ground and moving inhumanly fast. More OMINOUS MUSIC.

CUT TO:

18 EXT. HEROT - NIGHT

18

A handful of THANES burst out of the great doors of Herot, and begin to adjust their clothing and to piss against the side of the wooden walls. They are chatting while they relieve themselves. They are slightly drunk, and thus taking themselves very seriously. They all have newly-awarded golden torques, armbands and rings.

PISSING THANE #1

So if Christ Jesus and Odin got into a fight, who do you think would win?

PISSING THANE #2

A knife fight?

PISSING THANE #1

Any kind of fight.

And then it's the same location, but we're coming towards them from

19 GRENDEL'S POINT OF VIEW.

19

The Thanes must have heard something, because they turn towards us in horror, piss spraying each other, mouths opening soundlessly, but it's too late, because--

20 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

20

We hear SCREAMS from outside the hall. The screams of the pissing Thanes being torn limb from limb.

 

Hrothgar opens his eyes, waking.

 

People start sitting up, worried. Warriors reach for swords, knives, spears.

 

A DOG BEGINS GROWLING, its fur on end, backing away from the great door.

 

There is a pause. A BEAT OF SILENCE, which goes on almost longer than we can bear and then…

 

Grendel enters.

 

We see Grendel in fragments, glimpses. Eyes, sharp-clawed hands, scaled golden skin, teeth. We see him in fragments and glimpses, but we do not see him clearly or as a whole as he seems to bring shadows in with him.

 

Grendel is huge.

 

Torches and candles snuff and go out as it enters.

 

We see Grendel's hand slash out, and a THANE'S HEAD goes flying, spilling blood as it goes.

 

Wulf the Eight-Fingered attacks Grendel with a sword. The sword shatters, and Grendel's fist goes into Wulf's chest, pulling out his heart. Blood splashes.

 

Grendel is moving inhumanly fast.

 

Hrothgar, now awake, is on his throne. An arm comes hurtling across the room, golden bracelet on its wrist, splattering blood over him.

 

Grendel picks up a WARRIOR, bites off his head, sucks the blood that pours from the neck. Drops the drained thing onto the floor.

 

HROTHGAR is about to attack it himself, when Unferth pulls him back.

HROTHGAR

Let me go. Am I not the King?

UNFERTH

You are the King. And that is a monster from Hell. There is no dishonor in fleeing from such a beast.

Hrothgar pulls away from him, and stumbles toward Grendel, his sword in his hand.

 

But Grendel avoids him, with ease.

 

Grendel has pulled a man apart at the legs, as if it were splitting a wishbone. It throws the body at the fire, putting out the last of the light.

 

The room goes dark.

 

We hear PEOPLE SCREAMING AND SOBBING, in the darkness.

 

Then a torch is lit, and another, and another….

 

In the silence, we see that the room is literally awash with blood. And that many of the men are gone.

WEALTHOW

What was…that?

We spiral in, dizzyingly, into HROTHGAR's blood-spattered face. And he says:

HROTHGAR

Grendel.

CUT TO:

21 INT. GRENDEL'S LAIR - NIGHT

21

Grendel shambles into his lair -- a cave mouth, beside a pool. He is dragging two or three bodies in one hand, and has a couple of other dead warriors slung over his shoulders. We are watching him from behind, as he moves.

 

Then he steps into the water, walking down. The dead eyes of a dead warrior stare at us sightlessly, and then vanish under water.

CUT TO:

22 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S MOTHER'S LAIR - NIGHT

22

Somewhere under the water there is an underground cave. It is a strange and unnerving place. There are bones, many of them human. Greenish-golden light flickers in this place. Old weapons, of enormous size, are strewn around, hanging on
the glimmering rock walls - particularly a huge GIANT SWORD. There is a pool taking up some of the place.

 

Grendel comes, step by laborious step, out of the pool, dragging his warrior-bodies with him.

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