Archive for June, 2008


“Tusk…tusk…”

Years ago, in days of old, I was an aspiring cartoonist. Pathetically, I still nurse vain daydreams about literally going back to the drawing board—so it made my week to learn that I helped inspire, however tangentially, a character in a forthcoming Kid Beowulf graphic novel. Can Charlemagne plush toys be far behind?

Here’s an interview with Kid Beowulf creator Alexis Fajardo, who explains why he chose to develop an all-ages comic in which a 12-year-old Beowulf and his brother, Grendel, romp through the epics of the world:

I was always a bit of a mythology nut when I was a kid so I was familiar with these types of stories. But BEOWULF was the first epic poem I ever read and I remember being struck by the language of it; it was very different from the language of Bulfinch’s or those dreaded “novelizations” of epics that seem crop up. Believe it or not, the poetry really popped: the specificity of the visuals and the characterization of the heroes clicked for me in a way that those other stories didn’t. Epic poetry sounds boring, but it really isn’t, a lot of it depends on the teacher you get and the translation you read, because these heroes are bad-ass and worth reading about.

Fajardo describes his work as “a weird hybrid of the humorous and the heroic,” a worthy combination. It’s no secret that English teachers often inspire cartoonists; it’s neat to see a cartoonist returning the compliment.

“And the fox is on the town-o…”

Do you ever feel like a crepuscular critter in a diurnal world? I do, because I am, but sleeplessness hath its benefits: while most of Washington is lost in slumber, I can go outside, walk ’round the corner, and catch a rare glimpse of our neighborhood fox.

Foxes are uncommon in the middle of cities, but this one appears to be prospering; he’s getting so big that he’s easy to mistake for a coyote. I worry, though, because he’s been spotted darting across our busy intersection at night. The life of a fox is, alas, precarious. How long can his good fortune hold out? I pose this question as a flimsy pretext for reproducing this wonderful medieval image of foxes on the Wheel of Fortune.

For more about this illustration (which comes from a medieval psalter) and to learn more about the foxes of story and song, check out Carl’s latest post at Got Medieval (whence swiped I yonder image) or hark back to his April post, which he illustrates with a medieval fox behaving rather lewdly. Both posts will introduce you to Reynard, the ultimate bad-boy of medieval animal stories and a varmint who always seems to be at the top of Fortune’s wheel.

If you’re more keen on seeing a fox get busted—perhaps you’ve lost a chicken to the jaws of le renard?—enjoy a little “Quid Plura?” flashback and read a poem by Theodulf of Orleans about an incident at the monastery of Charroux. Fortune’s wheel is always whirling, even for a fox in dapper clothing.

While I’m going on about foxes, here’s Nickel Creek’s rendition of the folk song “The Fox,” and here are several video variations on a modernized medieval beast fable: the “Oo-De-Lally” scene from Disney’s Robin Hood in English, German, Swedish, Russian, French, Catalan, Hebrew, and Arabic. Let it not be said that we’re not multicultural on this site—or that we can’t find ways to string together a variety of trifles to give you something, however flimsy, to browse on a humid June morning.