April 06, 2005

Do Your Own Research, Fatboy!

Or, more from the "Death to Plagiarists" files, via The Cranky Professor...

I'd heard about this site before, which sets out specifically to tweak students too lazy to read Tolkein. Ahh, Pipsqueak. We hardly knew ye! And who could forget the army of tarantulas from Mordor who fought so bravely for Frodo and Sam? Hee!

I'm thinking it might be fun to do some "plot summaries" to help out our beleaguered (read: lazy) students. Here's my contribution:

Beowulf, by Anonymous

Beowulf is the epic Viking poem about a warrior, Beowulf, who sets out to help the Danes--a tribe of warlike Vikings who are being harrassed by an evil monster named Grendel.

The King of the Greats, Hygelac, sends Beowulf to kill Grendel so that Hygelac can marry the King of the Danes' daughter. Beowulf and his army arrive in Daneland and have a big feast during which the King of the Danes, Hagar the lord of the rings, promises everyone magic rings if they kill the beast. Unfortunately, everyone over-indulges in mead and passes out in the hall, allowing Grendel to come in.

A huge fight ensues, with everyone being killed except Beowulf, who chases Grendel all the way to his home at the bottom of a lake. There Beowulf encounters Grendel's mom, who is so angry at her son's inability to kill Beowulf that she rips off Grendel's arm and tries to beat Beowulf to death with it. Beowulf cuts off her head and takes it back to Hagar's palace to prove that the monsters are dead. The greatful Danes make Beowulf their new king.

Things are happy for a while until one day a dragon comes into the kingdom and steals all the gold. Beowulf, who is now about eighty years old, goes out to fight the dragon and is killed, leaving the kingdom to his son Wigwam. Wigwam defeats the dragon by using the magic ring that Hagar had given his father, and then gives his father a proper Viking burial by setting him on fire on a boat.

Beowulf is remembered as the most popular story from the Viking oral tradition. Families passed the story down over the generations to instruct their children in how to fight and live bravely.

The End

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 6, 2005 10:49 AM

If a course requires you to read Tolkein, drop the course.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 6, 2005 11:13 AM

Actually, one of my kinetics instructors (high school, I think) made an entire exam out of LOTR problems. Example: Legolas shoots an orc off of the top of the Tower at Isengard. If the tower is 1500 meters tall, how long does it take the 150 kilogram orc to hit the ground (neglecting both air resistance and terminal velocity)? So reading Tolkein was a way to get "in on the joke."

I have made similar exams - every question using a cartoon character (Tiny Toons or Animaniacs both worked well). I asked one question about finding the noise level at a certain distance from a speaker tower at a Spinal Tap concert....

Posted by: Joshua Sasmor at April 6, 2005 12:54 PM

Joshua: But Legolas was never on top of the Tower at Isengard. By the time he got there, the tower was surrounded by water and angry Ents.

Have you, BAW, read Eaters of the Dead? It's Crichton's retelling of "Beowulf". I didn't realize what it was when I began realizing it, and the truth slowly dawned, especially when I ran across "King Rothgar".

Posted by: Laura at April 6, 2005 08:40 PM

Funny you mentioned making up tests using characters and incidents from LOTR. I graduated many years ago and I can still remember an algebra professor who taught us that X and Y and not the only possiblities in quadratic equations. He made a test question of

(spaghetti + noodle) squared - and we were supposed to evaluate it. I was surprised how many people missed it because it was not X and Y.

I thought it was a good way to make the point myself and these questions from LOTR seem to me to be the same thing. The basics are the same regardless of how you phrase them.

Posted by: dick at April 9, 2005 12:28 AM

Beowulf isn't made king of the Danes, he travels home is made king of his own country. Other than that you have it right...mostly

Also, Beowulf does kill Grendel, and it is during the festival celebrating the victory that Grendels mom shows up and (literall) crashes the party.

And what brought the wrath of Grendel down? The presumption of the Danes to build a hall with a golden roof...pride.

If you like Beowulf, you might also like the epic of Gilgamesh....

Posted by: Zendo Den at April 9, 2005 11:21 PM

And Zendo Den wins the sucker/poseur award for the day! Geez, dude, "mostly right"? Shall we start with the frequent mention of VIKINGS in reference to an Anglo-Saxon poem, or the "magic rings"?

Great satire, quite amusing that you've already roped one sucker even when you *said* you meant to do so . . .


Posted by: pgepps at April 18, 2005 11:53 AM