The LA Times ran a piece about the coming Beowulf movie, which included this very odd paragraph:
His knack for a good scrap is on show in one of the film's pivotal fight scenes when Beowulf battles Grendel in the nude, mano a beast-o. ("Bob asked if he had to be nude, but we said, 'It's in the poem,' " Gaiman explained.) So in a crafty bit of staging to allow a PG-13 rating, Beowulf's naughty bits are obfuscated by random objects in the foreground. It's more subtle and subdued, but shadows, swords, mead flagons and shoulders block all in a sequence not unlike the prankish cloaking device used in "Austin Powers" films.
Er, how's that? "Bob," I assume, is Robert Zemeckis, and the "he" is the CGI Beowulf. So Gaiman is insisting that Beowulf be nude in his battle with Grendel, because "It's in the poem?!"
Now, Gaiman has complained before that the reporting on Beowulf is less-than-accurate, specifically in the area of actor nudity, and this is the LA Times, so perhaps the report isn't quite right. Assuming for now, though, that it IS right, Gaiman's reading of the poem is that Beowulf fights Grendel nude?
Let me confess that the only Beowulf I have at home is the Seamus Heaney translation, and not a single copy in Old English unless I head into the office. I've looked through the Heaney translation to see where Gaiman is getting this homoerotic Beowulf from, and the only thing I can figure is that it is his reading of when Beowulf removes his armor and vows to fight Grendel weaponless. I even did a little Google search on the terms "Beowulf" and "nude" and "naked," to see if there was some tradition about a nude Beowulf that had somehow passed me by, and the only thing I found was this Rockwell Kent illustration from the 1930s.
Off the top of my head, the only appropriate OE word I can think of is "nacod," from which we obviously get our Modern English word "naked." Where's Gaiman getting this idea from ... and what the heck did he think actually was going on in that meadhall most nights? Heck, I'm not even sure that Grendel was naked, since he's of the troll-type.
Regardless, it is disconcerting how often the words "nude" and "naked" are being associated with this new Beowulf movie. If Hollywood is that desperate to have nudity in a canonical work of medieval literature, they might pick something out of the Decameron -- it gives lots of options.
h/t Old English in New York
*The First Commandment of Medieval Blogging being "Thou shalt not show insufficient zeal in thy praise of Tolkien."