Like all people, I can usually make everything about me. When we hear a story or myth, our attention is drawn to the hero. It’s worth looking at the stories that have beasts as big as the hero to learn from them. It’s worth looking at our own Journey and ask, “Why this Beast?”
Several stories come to mind that feature prominent, named Beasts: Odysseus vs. Cyclops, Scylla, Charybdis, The Sirens, etc., Theseus and the Minotaur, La Belle et la Bête, and Beowulf, et al. Two fascinating aspects of each of these Beasts is each has a backstory that makes it a worthy adversary to a Hero’s Journey and each serves as a mirror of the Hero in the story and of humans overall.
The Beasts in Beowulf are really more interesting than the eponymous Hero, Beowulf. The first Beast is Grendel, who kills nearly all the soldiers in the celebratory hall of the new king. In the simplest terms, he just wanted peace and quiet and the soldiers caroused all night and killed off the local fauna. Grendel was there first; this was his home. Is it any wonder he attacks them? The second Beast is Grendel’s mother (no name… I guess because she was a woman… sigh). She enacted revenge on Beowulf because he killed her son. A reasonable response. And finally, The Dragon, who protects his property from someone who invaded his home and would take his treasure from him. Beowulf had a Journey from warrior through to leader. Why those Beasts for Beowulf? Overcoming those Beasts made him the ruler he became.
Real or fiction, the Beast in every story has to be what the Hero needs to overcome in herself or learn about herself. Have you already encountered a Beast on your Journey? Sure you have! Is it a family member who rolls their eyes when you talk about your passion? Is it a religious or spiritual leader whose message causes you to feel bad about yourself or your Journey? Is it that perfect-person high-school nemesis?
Who is attacking your dream? And, why is it this Beast? To find the answers, try this:
- Remind yourself that the Beast is a person with her own needs and desires — they just may not be the same as yours. Respect and appreciation are the key to overcoming the Beast. Make a mantra out of it, “I respect and appreciate —“. I know you can find something, no matter how small, to jump-start your compassion for that person.
- Find out why this is your Beast. Tick off all of the attributes you hate about your Beast. Then ask yourself, “How am I like this?” or “How do I do this?” or “How is she a reflection of me?” Don’t ask “why,” that will never help.
You won’t like the answers you get, but they are the answers you need to take to heart to get past your Beast and through your Journey.