The Epic of Hellems

(continuation from blog post The Case for Alternative Assessment)

Fren 1200 Community Project excerpt: The Epic of Hellems 141.

Students wrote Beowulf-style journal entries about their everyday lives to explore the use of kennings, hyperbolic language, and heroic imagery in the poem. I compiled them into a single document that was shared among the class for discussion and within the French department. Below is an excerpt:

Elise (sophomore)

I was roused early by the fiery sky-fire and lamented the loss of a beautiful night-story.
Once I was accustomed to my situation, I entered the food-hall and prepared a morning feast.
I donned my carefully selected raiment, and began applying my war paint.
The vertical transport system bore me to the entrance of my dwelling-hall and I opened the wind barrier. The hot breath of summer greeted me and I hailed it as a sign from the gods that my contest would go well. I boasted that I would pass the ordeal or renounce my claim to the title I wished to earn. The beast Mathtest would not catch me unawares, I would use my keen-sharpened wits and my my true-edged writing blade to slay the monster and claim victory. When I came face to face with the horrid creature, it was uglier than even the bard’s stories had foretold. It had gleaming lines of unreadable runes etched into its soft flesh. My comrades in arms began to wail in fear but I rallied them with my cry: “We are allowed to use calculators!” Then I bestowed writing blades on those who did not have them, so that they might do battle alongside me.

Dan (freshman)

In the end, each man crafted a letter of rhymes,
To be handed in by the hour of academia.
I awoke in the morning and stepped in the waterfall of cleanliness.
Too long it has been, my old friend.
I placed my rear end on the rectangle of cushion,
Then opened my folder of electricity.
Thus I arrived here, at the portal of knowledge.
In the portal of knowledge, I found three challenges.
The first, a question of truth.
The second, a question of history.
The third, a question of the abstract.
After I had slain the noble challengers, I arrived here.
Here, the cemetery of quizzes.

Hannah B (sophomore)

In times gone by, the great knowledge-givers bestowed upon me
many quests, tasks both lofty and many in number.
A mind both sharp and patient, and my mighty lead-sword,
were to be my only weapons in these battles to come.
Upon learning of my quests, I mounted my wheeled-ship
and traveled home, home to the Creek of the Bears.
Far over the tar-and-gravel-sea I went,
longing to reenter my hall and home.

Upon my arrival, my most-trusted thane, Elise the Short,
greeted me with warm welcomes.
She, too, had honorable quests and tasks,
for she, like me, is a book-warrior.

Undaunted, sitting atop our pillowed-thrones,
I drew my lead-sword, she her ink-spear.
Without a second glance out
toward the meadows and squirrel-havens,
our struggles thus began.
From dusk till dawn we labored on,
exhausted in the fray.
But finally our glory had been won,
our legacy secured.
At dawn we would ride out again
to the hall of CU Boulder.

Caroline (sophomore)

I cast my gaze upon the girl in the hazy glass reflector
Salt water drips from her forehead as I take a deep breath in
I fill my air pockets with much needed refreshment
My armor is soaked through to the bone with salted blood from battle
I shiver as the wooden door swings open

so that the golden light from yellow in the sky may enter the room
The battle was hard, far more difficult than I expected
But we fought with all our heart and being
Moments ago, the fire and rubble had been overwhelming
We lay in our formation before the heat rained down,

buddhas braced for battle
And then we danced, and I balanced on my nose and on my toes
I breathed fire on the enemies within me, surrounded

by the greatest buddha warriors in all of Boulder land
Together, we conquered the orange and red tongues

and the dragons perished in the presence of our zen
Together, we bowed towards our bringer of bliss, and said “Namaste”

Brennan (sophomore)

A great warrior wakes just as the sun sets below the crags of the mountain top.
“Tonight is a momentous night. I – Brennan, son of Patrick, born of the sea, will slay a great foe tonight.”
Tis the beginning of a three night feast and celebration
to commemorate the years of hard work before us.
The wild and beautiful Grace stood before him,
Tonight’s festival was dedicated to her as she was hosting the feast in her great hall, The Monastery.
Although every warrior knew that there would be no praying tonight.
Great bands of kinsmen gathered beneath the roof,

paying their affections to the fair woman as they drank their drink and ate their fill.
But soon it was time to duel.
A great table was laid out in the center of the hall
Goblets littered in patterns across the top
The warrior Brennan must defeat his sworn enemy, Meredith of Castle Rock.
The two faced off at either ends of the table, gnashing their teeth and spitting towards each other.
Brennan held his weapon of choice close to his heart, a ball known only as Ping shall bring him great victory this night.
And with that, Brennan lifted Ping to his lips and kissed before whipping it across the hall table with great speed and flourish.
Meredith was no match for the warrior.
A volley of Pings flew back and forth for what seemed and eternity
Meredith stood, drunk and bitter, in front of the great warrior and the wild and beautiful Grace.
The duel was at a tie.
She took her last shot and sank it deep within Brennan’s goblet.
The hall cheered loudly as she had seemingly won the duel.
The warrior need only utter his most powerful incantation to stop her now.
“Rebuttal.”
The hall shook with the gasps of men and women, cowering all around the table. Murmurs and whispers broke out.
“SILENCE!” bellowed the wild and beautiful Grace.
The warrior stood fierce and proud. He gazed into the eyes of the she-devil and made his final shot.
Ping sailed through the air and landed squarely in her goblet.
A great roar shook the hall nearly to the ground. Brennan’s mighty ball Ping had won him the battle
But before long a new foe had appeared
A band of men in all black had stopped outside of The Monastery
The men carried long sticks and dazzled their eyes with the light of the sun captured in small tubes.
“The police! Kinsmen, run for the hills!” Grace hollered over the din.
And with that, the night of the first feast was over. Men and women scattered from beneath the roof of The Monastery.
But tales will always tell of the night where Great Brennan of Providence slayed the witch Meredith of Castle Rock.

Katrina (junior)

Stars and moon leave the sky as Katrina the Half-Roman awoke from slumber.
Staring into the image-reflector, she placed the lenses of seeing into her eyes. She exclaimed,
“With these lenses, no fiend is a match for I, Katrina the Strong and Advisor of Residents.”
The machine of calls sounds and the Half-Roman answers.
The Queen of Baker Hall spoke in distress, “Daughter of Ann the Fearless, I call upon you to uphold your fealty.
The people of Baker Hall are in need of help. Grace me with your presence at once.”
The Half-Roman donned her light mail and tamed her golden mane.
Thus prepared for her journey, Katrina the Strong knelt before the Queen.
“I am honored to be in your presence and I uphold my fealty.
What would you have me do, Director of Halls?”
The Queen replied, “This resident has lost their door-unlocker. Go, help them in their quest to find it.”
“I, Katrina, daughter of Ann the Fearless, finder of keys, will aid this resident in her quest.
I will bring honor to your house and Hall, my queen.”
Accompanied by the resident, the Half-Roman set off on her quest for glory.

Hannah F  (sophomore)

As I lay in my cotton covered throne, I dare to drift back into my earthly-heaven.
Hours of morning moaned of mediocrity, simultaneously screaming, Spontaneity is awaiting!
Thus a voyage was to awaken my bones, exploration is key for a noble warrior.
Shouting to the Gods my call for greatness, I cascade down the dragon-guarded tower.
I mount my two-footed steed, thus riding my way to the mead hall of Chi Omega.
The odyssey took twelve-minute time, yet many obstacles lined this fearful travel.
The generally bubbling river of traffic seemed more of a flooding stampede of chaos.
The metal horses pumped oil in their veins, nearly trampling my ride as I cross their path.
The Castle shined brightly over the horizon, water-beads lined my forehead.
My mail weighed my joints down, as I galloped toward the front door.
I unlocked the wooden-mouth from her hinges, boasting loudly of my prior triumph.
“Let us feast upon the babes of clucking-pigeons, sizzled-oinkers, and milk of the orange!”

Andrew (junior)

I was awakened by the rooster box.
Still not ready to meet the maker of day,
I sent the one that crows to reach me when my eye nap had finished.
After cleansing myself of the land’s smudges,
I rode my metal stead, the Suburban of the Chevy House hailing from Detroit Land.
To the great hall of books they call Norlin.
Here the breaker of rings gives the thanes of Boulder their power.
Once finished and ready for the battle of Calculus in the Engineering Maze,
I journeyed through the sea of knowledge learners while fighting the breaker of trees.
My destination had been reached; either my death or that of the Math dragon would be the outcome.
Fortunately, by the Grace of the Almighty, I was not the food of the eagles.

David (junior)

So. I arose this morning two hours after light’s-birth.
The burrow I inhabited was far from the hall of my father, Dave the Daunting.
My meal-chest grumbled and I rushed to quell the disturbance.
The picture-box spoke and the minstrels told the grave tales of the day as I prepared the feast.
Having feasted on chicken-spawn and cow-water, I, David of the Mary Land, prepared to don my battle regalia.
My trusty mount Toyota awaited me in the hitching-lot but today I gathered my thanes for the march.
Many battle-dodgers failed to rise as they suffered from the mead-plague.
The few that were summoned were all seasoned campaigners in their own right.
We commenced our daily journey to the knowledge-dens, emboldened by the bitter bean-drink.
Finally we happened upon the dens, guided by the stone-path.
There our battle awaited.
Each letter-marker lurked in their dens, ready to evaluate us into an early demise.

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