Our professor assigned us a fanfic for class. I don’t know what else I can say, I feel like that speaks volumes about my experience as an English major at UCLA. Meaning that I constantly found myself in situations I didn’t expect for an English student. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my classes and really admired my professors, but I think I expected something more along the lines of seminars and dissecting Shakespeare’s soliloquies. Instead, and for the most part, I studied Fifty Shades of Grey, wrote an essay on why Lorelei from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes belonged in Slytherin and . . . you guessed it. Wrote fanfiction from the point of view of Beowulf’s sword.
When our professor first told us that he wanted us to come up with a fanfic, I waited for the punchline. After all, and to my great dismay, not many people respect fanfiction or see it as a kind of decent writing. I never agreed with that because I felt like fanfic worked as the perfect way to train yourself until you finally established a style you liked. Anyway, I digress. My point comes down to this; the fact that my highly-esteemed Old English professor told us to create a fanfic with the widest, most genuine smile ever, got me excited to start seeing things from the perspective of a blade.
The assignment, as I remember it, said to focus on Beowulf’s jewel-encrusted sword. I read Beowulf so many times throughout my studies that you would think I could remember exactly what happened to that blade. I think something bad, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. I thought writing this fanfiction would come easy. I wrote critical essays for weeks on end at that point, but fanfiction?
Piece of cake. Or so I thought.
I don’t think I ever struggled to write an essay like I struggled to write that fanfic. Not for the reasons you might think. I didn’t care about writing from the perspective of an object. Instead, my problem came because I thought too critically as I wrote. I kept working on the fanfic like I would with any analytical essay. Fanfiction comes down to creative writing, not critical analysis. Am I giving advice on writing fanfiction? I guess so.
Back to the actual piece I wrote. The fanfiction went as follows; the sword complains about the weather. The sword complains about the rust. The sword complains about all the blood. Even more complaints about the weather. I know, right? Sounds like I wrote very intense stuff. Pretty sure I got a good grade though, so I guess the professor didn’t expect too much emotion from a piece of steel.
Still, this sword, while fictional, counted as an ancient artifact, so I guess I did feel some pressure to tell its story properly.
You probably already know this—and if you don’t, then I guess you’ll learn something new—but nobody actually knows who wrote Beowulf. Passed down through so many hands and generations, the story carries an ambiguous beginning. Kind of like Merlin in that sense, huh? A supposed fictional story that could very well reveal itself as a true piece of history. In that case, I did want to write the sword’s story in accordance with the history of that time.
So, a lot of blood, war and death. Romantic, right?
Nonetheless, I don’t tell this story simply for the strange nature of it. I mean, did you ever go into class about ancient literature expecting to write one of the most modern versions of storytelling? I admired the clash of pure opposites, I should admit. Think about it for a second; fanfiction gets such a bad reputation because people consider it unoriginal writing. Yet, our professor asked us to create an original story based on something from an already-existing novel.
Any retelling of Beowulf, Merlin, Bigfoot or really any mythology comes down to just that; fanfiction. I guess this article steps in as a kind of defense of fanfiction. Pure originality comes aa a very rare thing. No one can create something out of absolutely nothing. Even Harry Potter stemmed from wizard mythology. Lord of the Rings took advantage of already existing elf and dwarf mythology. You can make up your own languages, your own spells, your own world, but nothing comes from nothing. I mean, if fanfiction can make its way into a UCLA classroom, then I carry some faith that it’ll last longer than some naysayers might want it to.