You know you are a book nerd when your four year old child wants to be Beowulf for Halloween. Despite my son’s love of mainstream superheroes, he completely bypassed Superman, Batman, Green Lantern – the usual - and went straight for a classic hero instead. The tales of Beowulf’s heroism have captivated my son ever since I first read him the story back in April.
It all started when my cousin suggested that I read him folktales from around the world as a stepping stone into historical fiction – a genre that my family tends to be a bit fanatical about. Since I love culture and anything international, I immediately headed to the library to see what sort of folktales they might have and which ones might interest my son. As I was browsing the shelves, my eyes fell upon Beowulf and the English major in me did a little dance. Really, I thought, and even though there wasn’t a mirror in sight, I knew my eyes were glowing with enthusiasm. A kids’ version of Beowulf – what could be more spectacular than that? I grabbed the book. I turned to the first page and then scanned the rest of the pages to assess the picture to word ratio. Too few words to a page and the story ends too quickly. Too many words and boredom will likely whisk my son away to dreamland. And the absolute last thing I want is for my son to think that reading has the potential to be boring. My initial evaluation was that the story might be too long, but I checked it out anyway. My son loved stories of adventure and was at that age where heroes are the equivalent of gods. Why not give it a shot? The worst that could happen was that he hated it, but that was the general consensus in high school anyway. At best, he might learn a little something. From the first page, when Beowulf slaughters the sea serpents, my son was hooked. The highlight, of course, came later when Beowulf rips Grendel’s arms from his body and blood pours from the severed limb. So enamored with the book was my son that he brought it to preschool for show and tell and recounted – in great detail - the gruesome scene to his classmates.
In midsummer, after having renewed and reread the book so many times both my son and I practically have it memorized, my son declared that he wanted to be Beowulf for Halloween. What an awesome idea, I thought. No other kid will have the same costume. Exactly, no other kid would conceive of being Beowulf, but that meant we couldn’t easily pop into Party City or Costco to pick up a costume. The law of supply and demand pretty much guaranteed that Beowulf would not be sold anywhere. We couldn’t disappoint our son – not when he was in the midst of idolizing a literary legend (albeit one very few people knew or even remembered from their boring high school days). And that is when my spouse decided that she would make the costume – tunic, pants, armor and helmet - from scratch. The project started in August and occupied her for nearly three months. Yesterday, my son even expressed a bit of anxiety when he asked me, “Do you think Mommy will finish my costume on time?” And his concern was well founded. My spouse is the Queen of finishing projects ten minutes after they are due. But Halloween is a week away, you might say. And it is. But my son’s school party was tonight. Therefore, with no extra wiggle room, my son needed his costume to be completed by 5 o’clock this evening. He was not disappointed. My spouse stayed up until well after midnight last night to ensure that the finishing touches had been added.
My son – as uncooperative as he was during the fitting process – was super excited to wear his costume this evening. And with Grendel’s arm proudly tucked under his, he headed off for a night of sugar, pizza and games.