Beowulf and the Sovereignty of God

For long ages past - longer than I've been around - people have been arguing about whether or not God is completely sovereign, or if Man has a say in the whirling of the spheres. I don't know about the whirling of the spheres; I'm not sure I want to be responsible for how those massive structures chart their dance. In brief, I must say that my view is thus: that God, being God, must by his very nature be totally, utterly, and completely sovereign, and that Man, in some way, must be responsible and be held accountable for his actions: i.e., he must have a self-functioning will. Both are necessary. How they work together, God alone knows; but that is not the point of this musing.

The point is Beowulf. More generally, the old, old writers, but I will stick with Beowulf. Now, I am sure that Beowulf's original tale was not so clean and God-fearing as it has come down to us today. I am sure Christians got a hold of it and tidied it up. But I like the tidiness, and I'm not going to argue. What I like about Beowulf is the lack of arguing. As the writer narrates, whoever the writer may be, several times there crops up remarks on God's firm, unfailing, foundational sovereignty. Most vivid in my memory is a passage concerning the dragon's tower:
All this ancient hoard, huge and golden, was wound about with a spell: no man could enter the tower, open hidden doors, unless the Lord of Victories, He who watches over men, Almighty God Himself, was moved to let him enter, and him alone.
A beautiful and poignant image. Not a footstep was allowed inside that tower unless God had so ordained it, and then in his own self-sufficient pleasure. It is a message rarely heard today, a message I find refreshing. Beowulf, in a free-will-of-man sort of way, pronounces his own ability to vanquish the dragon; yet not long after he also acknowledges that his fate, the fate of the dragon, and the fate his kingdom all rest under the dominating will of the Almighty God. While ancient almost to the point of being culturally incoherent to us, Beowulf's message is as true today as it was then: and possibly more urgent. How many of us, with so much required of us, find ourselves facing our dragons, not knowing the outcome, only knowing that somehow we have to win, even if we go down winning, remember that all rests finished and good in the hand of God? How many of us can find solace in that? Knowing that all is finished, we can take comfort in Beowulf's own assurance as we, like him, go out conquering and to conquer.

Fifteen Things That Inspire Me to Write (Adamantine)

Not to be left behind, I'm toddling in Abigail's footsteps, writing up a list of the fifteen things that inspired me to write Adamantine. While not my first piece of writing, it is Leah's Joseph and the apple of my eye. So here we go, a patchworky peek at what inspired me to write the darn thing.

1. A year and a half after reading Beowulf in literature class, I got it into my head that people needed to remember Beowulf's story. So, as Inkyscrubs puts it, Wiglafwin was born, and he gets a book, while he only got the last couple of pages in the original tale.

2. The Roman Empire. Easy as pie, it's something I know well. It was the perfect foundation for a vast, efficient, and overpowering civilization on my new world scene.

3. Victorian England. Stereotypically stark in class-ranking, Dickensian literature aside, I wanted to throw a well-bred Victorian girl into a startlingly new world.

4. The Romanish empire had to have enemies, particularly peoples they hadn't quite conquered. Tweaking actual tribal names, I came up with my cat-like people, the Catti. Since their warriors could crush your skull with one hand, please don't say that's cheesy.

5. One of my favourite authors, she was my mentor and pretty much taught me how to write a decent story, even though we never met. She died when I was one year old. But many of her stories have glimmers and inklings inside my own writings now.

6. The best tea ever. Enough said.

7. Loreena McKennitt's music is as wild and otherworldly as Rosemary Sutcliff's literature. I find the combination of the two a great mix for making up new worlds.

8. The English countryside: inspiring authors for millennia.

9. Since my ancestry is partially Sicilian, I felt inclined to tie in some Mediterranean culture and 'scapes.

10. John Newton's famous hymn "Amazing Grace" wound up being an important thread in my sequel to Beowulf's epic.

11. No matter what I am writing about, horses always seem to worm their way in. There is something magical about them. Here's to the horses.

12. Lena, from George MacDonald's The Princess and Curdie, was a great influence for one of my characters. While I gave my character fewer brains than Lena, I owe a lot to MacDonald's curious Ugly.

13. Another George MacDonald, North Wind has a sort of cameo in my story, the Windress.

14. King Arthur and the General Mythos of Britain. Again, inspiring authors for millennia.

15. The last one doesn't really have an image. I owe just about everything to Christ and the work of the Spirit, without which this whole story would another pack of words on pages without any real meaning. Because of the Truth, I have Something Worth Writing About.

Under Contract and Doing Homework

We went down to the publishers today, Abigail and my husband and myself. It was a whirlwind meeting: in and out, scribbling our lives away on a sheet of paper. My husband got to meet my publishers, if only briefly, and he likes them, which is wonderful. So there it is, I'm under contract. Now I'm rifling through book covers, pulling together an idea of what I like to send to the designer, so he can figure out what he is going to clothe my book with. It would be a lot more fun if I did not have a cold, but this too shall pass. Onward, ever onward!

Messrs Lowry

With some anxiety about meeting new people, which is something I will have to overcome eventually, I went down to my up-and-coming publisher and met the proprietors today. Since my sister Abigail had already been there, done that, I had no real qualms about meeting the fellows themselves. It was the newness of the thing that made me get up this morning with an upset stomach and butterflies in my middle. A new chapter - or a new paragraph - in my own story. It had not yet dawned on me until that moment that I was moving ahead into the wild, uncertain rapids of the publishing world. I could not gauge how I was going to react, though I promised myself I would conduct the affairs with an admittedly bewildered smile and as much decorum as I could.

I found Messrs Lowry to be charming. Both of them are gently-spoken and articulate, something a young lady appreciates. I have had people speak very firmly and frighteningly at me, which does nothing in selling one's services. Added to that, they had paintings and wood-cuttings of many of the great lights of Christian history hanging in their building, such as Wycliffe and Cranmer, Knox and Luther. It helped to dumb down the feeling of strangeness to see so many familiar faces looking back at me. So with these illustrious fellows watching over us, we discussed the matter of book-making.

Mr Lowry, the father, had read through The Shadow Things. He found it similar in style to Abigail's book The Soldier's Cross, which is a compliment, and discovering that Abigail and I are related, he was adamant about having the two books come out simultaneously, in time for Christmas. Thankfully Abigail and I get along swimmingly, two peas in a pod, so jealousy will be at a minimum. Mr Lowry, the son, very kindly asked me if I had any questions and, since I'm new to all this and can't even formulate questions, answered the most common ones for me. They are down-to-earth, God-fearing folk, and it is rather a relief to have my book washing up on their doorstep so favourably.

The next leg of the trip is to run over the contract and sign it with them, sealing my story's fate in their hands. Their designer, Mr David, has asked me to look over book covers that I like to give him an idea of what I would like for The Shadows Things. Never a dull moment!