Books I Love · Writing

How Not To Be Below Average

Don’t get stomped on by making yourself less than average. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch, “How Not To Be Seen?” I recently received a request on my blog that made me think of this. Here is the request that I didn’t actually approve because I don’t want to embarrass the person who made this comment on my Beowulf/Bilbo post and instead allow them to stay anonymous:

“What does Beowulf and Bilbo have in common in both stories? I need help for my English response… Can someone help me pleaaseee ?”


I have had to rewrite and edit today’s post more than usual to keep it from sounding condescending and mean-spirited. It was a challenge because the request posed was kind of over-the-top. A bit like Monty Python. 😉

I wrote a post last year about my thoughts on the Hobbit versus Beowulf and while I’m happy that it tends to be my most viewed post, I’ve often been worried that lazy students might use my words for their assignments. Indeed, all this anonymous person had to do was to actually read my post, and they would have found what they needed. But now I figure, that if they plagiarise me and don’t get caught, then their teacher needs to do a bit more legwork. I did when I taught.

The sad thing is, that those students who don’t get caught, begin to think that they will never get caught. And when their chance to learn, grow, and be great passes, they become just like Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont who didn’t have the sense to learn from the mistakes of the guy ahead of her.


Okay, so maybe they won’t get blown up or shot, but eventually they will get caught. If not for plagiarism, then for some other shady deal they’ve gotten themselves into. Plagiarism IS stealing.

Notice how I’ve titled today’s post. I didn’t say, “How not to be average.” Average is fine. Average can be hard work that you can be proud of because you did it yourself. But keeping yourself below average, when you are fully capable of doing the work… well, you’ve just set yourself up for failure in life.

Those who don’t learn to become independent will forever continue trying to live off others. This doesn’t fly in the real world. No one is going to earn your living for you, no matter how nice your pleaaseee is. Oh, you may get away with it a few times, but eventually, your luck will run out.

So instead, to this person, I’ll give you a gift. Pride. The feeling you get when you work really hard on something and get a good score and the score  belongs to YOU. It’s YOURS. Not the person who secretly did the work for you. If you have enough gumption to have something to actually turn in to your teacher then you can push yourself to do your own work. Just imagine Jillian Michaels hovering over you – “Come on! You CAN do it!” – as you plow through the material. 😀

I’m allowing this person to remain in anonymity in hopes that they’ll read this post instead and understand why I did not respond with “write this verbatim for your assignment…” Though somehow, I doubt that will happen :/ but at least I’ve had my say.

I won’t do your work for you. It’s YOUR responsibility. OWN it. Or you will never own anything.

Have you ever been mooched from? How did you handle it? Did you try to teach a life skill instead?

Books I Love · Harp

My thoughts on The Hobbit vs Beowulf

Reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Lyre

If you haven’t guessed already, I love the poem Beowulf. During that England/Ireland trip, I was very excited to see Sutton Hoo. Even several of you folks from England are asking, “What on earth is Sutton Hoo?” In short, it is a viking burial ship which dates back to the culture that brought us Beowulf.

On the ship, they found an instrument believed to be a lyre that the scop might have played while singing such epic poems. Fortunately, I happened to see the Sutton Hoo exhibit at the British Museum in London first because that was where the remnants of the instrument were displayed at the time.

Sutton Hoo Lyre fragments

So what does all that have to do with The Hobbit?

Well, since you’ve already dipped your toe into Lake Nerd by reading thus far, perhaps you like to wade out a bit farther with me? I promise it will be fun! 😀

Tolkien also enjoyed Beowulf and would begin his lectures on the poem with a dramatic recitation of the opening lines in Old English. (Oh! to have been in that room at that time!) For anyone who has read both The Hobbit and Beowulf, you can see how Bilbo Baggins is Beowulf.

To compare (spoiler alert for both Beowulf and The Hobbit):

We’ll start with Beowulf. In the poem, King Hrothgar’s men are being attacked by Grendel, who essentially is a violent, cantankerous neighbor who doesn’t like Hrothgar’s parties. He chases them all out of the mead-hall and for 12 years terrorizes the people.

“As [Hrothgar’s] woes became known widely and well,

Sad songs were sung by the sons of men” (Beowulf, lines 129 &130)

Songs! Hmm… I wonder who heard them? You guessed it! Beowulf, an outsider, comes to defeat this Grendel guy who couldn’t be pierced by any of the blades of Hrothgar’s men.

But Beowulf is different. He is a wrestler!

After watching Grendel eat one of his own soldiers, Beowulf gives Grendel… a handshake? Well, his grip breaks Grendel’s fingers and rips off his arm. So much for attempting friendship.

Anyway, Grendel slinks off to his lair and dies of his wounds. Yay Beowulf!

Now for The Hobbit. We’ve got Thorin (Hrothgar) whose people were driven out of their mountain (mead-hall) by the dragon Smaug (Grendel). I know, I know. Beowulf has a treasure hoarding dragon/worm creature too. There are a lot of blending of symbols in The Hobbit. I’m simply going over my favorites. Then, there is Bilbo (Beowulf). He too is an outsider who does not use weapons.

But Bilbo is different. He is a burglar!

Much like Beowulf has a natural strength to defeat Grendel when no one else could, Bilbo has the natural ability of stealth. This not only helps them to defeat Smaug, but many other foes along their journey.

But what inspires Bilbo to help the dwarves? Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:

“They came back…with Thorin’s harp wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.”

What was that? Was that music? A harp even? Whether Bilbo likes it or not, he has already started his journey with the dwarves when he first heard the song describing their sad history.

*deep breath* Okay I should probably stop now because I’m entering the realm of what really inspires me, but may bore you guys. 😉 Maybe soon I’ll post my thoughts on the new Hobbit movie 😀

Have you read either of these works? Have they inspired you in any way? Have you ever seen Sutton Hoo?

Glutened Goals update: (a letter)

Dear Rocks In My Belly,

I get it. I’m not supposed to injest gluten of any size. It was a complete accident and happened a month ago. Please stop punishing me! It makes it very difficult to get anything done.

Thank you,

Hasn’t Written Much Of Anything

Books I Love · Harp

Beowulf Blues

Image attributed to Ganainm

At the risk of sounding like I didn’t enjoy myself when I went to England and Ireland in 2005 (which is far from the truth) I’m going to post another regret from that trip. This one was my own fault.

When I was in Dublin, I went on a pub crawl – one of those touristy things (I’d gone on another fantastic one in Scotland which covered Burns and Stevenson). It was guided by 2 musicians who explained all about Irish music and the history of it.

During the tour, they talked about how you may find yourself at an impromptu session of music making at any pub and it’s possible you may be asked to contribute. The lead fellow on the tour explained (tongue in cheek) that it would be highly offensive to refuse. If you aren’t any good, the musicians would be happy to give you tips to get better, and if you are very good, they still will give you tips to get better.

Since I still had the rest of the week to go on my stay in Ireland, I was already dreaming of how nice it would be to find myself one of these musical sessions, but it would be a shame that there probably wouldn’t be a harp around for me to play. As it was there was no harp at this tour, and when it came to the end of it, the guides requested us to contribute something.

Only 2 other guests got up and during their performances, my heart started hammering because the thought crossed my mind that I could contribute after all. Neither one played an instrument; a lady recited a poem about fairies and a fellow sang a song about Boston a capella.

“Beowulf! You can sing Beowulf!” A voice in my head was screaming at me. Another voice was saying, “Eh, don’t bother, you don’t have your harp with you anyway.”

It would have fit in nicely. Beowulf originally passed along by oral tradition before it was written down, much like the traditional Irish tunes. It was originally sung by a person called a scop (I believe it’s pronounced “shope”), who would play the tune on a lyre. I had learned the first 11 lines in Old English and set them to the tune of “The Grenadier and the Lady” because I’m not that good at making up my own tunes. I did it for a project in one of my classes at USF and enjoyed the creative and historical aspect of it. I’ve never forgotten how to sing Beowulf, though now I’d have to practice again to play it on the harp.

In the end, I chickened out. At the time, I made the excuse to the first voice in my head that I didn’t have my harp, so there. But as we were all walking out of the door of the last pub, part of me wanted to gather everyone back in there so I could sing it a capella like the guy from Boston.

I know it wasn’t that big a deal, but I was really kicking myself that I was going home with a regret instead of what could have been a fun story. If I ever get the chance to do something like that again, I hope that I can push myself out of my comfort zone. Doing this blog thing helps, I think. 😉

Have you ever had an opportunity like that pass by? Do you regret it, or are you happy you didn’t jump on it?

Glutened Goal update: I haven’t been able to get any writing done the past 2 days because of illness and gluten. But on the plus side, I came up with another creative analogy to what gluten sometimes feels like: Don Quixote is riding around on Rosinante in my belly and for reasons only known to him, he’ll suddenly wield his sword and swipe my innards. These are the times when I have to just stop what I’m doing and let the jabbing pain pass. lol My writing today was finishing this blog post.