Reflection: Grappling with Complexity Beowulf Meets Crazy Horse - Section 4: Crazy Horse: A Sioux Hero


The pairing of Beowulf with Charles Eastman's stories of Crazy Horse didn't come naturally, indeed, I was a little reluctant to compare a mythological hero with an historical figure, one who has descendants living relatively close to me. However, I do think these texts speak to each other, because they do share similar purposes: namely, to preserve a record of what ideal boyhood and manhood represent for these two cultures.  And while Beowulf is obviously a fictional hero there are actions and traits that speak to a real man, or a collection of men who understood the importance of fighting for more than just gold and glory. In many ways the boasting, the hand-to-hand combat and the paying of tribute reflect an understanding that Beowulf would be nothing without his people. 

Similarly, Eastman's stories of Crazy Horse reflect a sense of community, not individual.  And while Crazy Horse's hunting boasts brought reproach from his parents who wanted to keep his hunting kill in the family, the overall lesson is that this was an action for community, not for self or even family. 

I find that these two texts have a lot to say to each other, but even more to say about masculinity, and cultural ideals of manhood.  That while there is overlap, a lot of the ideals we have about masculinity are culturally generated, and depending on the cultural are reachable ideals or mythological, heroic.


  Parallel Texts and Critical Thinking
  Grappling with Complexity: Parallel Texts and Critical Thinking
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Beowulf Meets Crazy Horse

Unit 5: Beowulf
Lesson 3 of 12

Objective: Students will be able to evaluate heroic qualities on display in the epic poem Beowulf as well as Native American stories; comparing and contrasting heroes as they work to identify universal traits. They will apply a variety of strategies toward interpretation and analysis

Big Idea: What constitutes literature? Why are some stories written down? Why do cultures create epics?

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10 teachers like this lesson
English / Language Arts, epic poem, alliteration, heroes, Kenning, Old English, Literary Analysis
  80 minutes
chief crazy horse
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