One of Mark Reid’s poems deals with a topic that is not in any of the giant narratives in the Bible or other early Jewish writings. The topic is the extreme foetal dystocia which a mortal “daughter of man” must suffer when giving birth to a gigantic child fathered by an angelic “son of god”. I’ve not seen this mentioned in any of the studies on the birth of giants, either – but here it is in Mark Reid’s poem, “The Mother of Og”:
In his latest post, Roland (for we’re on first-name basis) discusses The Wordsmith, the scholar who vents their frustration at never becoming the novelist or poet they think they could be, by penning “literary flourishes in articles and books”. Like most of his other caricatures, my good friend Roland’s description of The Wordsmith is amusingly accurate – although, naturally, bearing no resemblance to any particular scholar living or dead. His description of The Wordsmith also reminded me of a curious feature in the comical, yet purportedly scholarly journal, Theology Today, known as the “Poetry” section. I sincerely recommend that section to any budding Wordsmith – as an antidote to their misguided desire to punctuate their scholarly prose with rhetorical flourishes and mellifluous sesquipedalianisms.
And to bring the discussion back to giants, here is one such poem, by “a retired college teacher and recently ordained Episcopal priest”, George Slanger (Theology Today 59.4 (January 2003): 620):
The Nephilim: Genesis 6:4
Just before the flood, the gods saw pretty
girls walking in the land, and summoned
them. And every pretty girl, thinking
mostly of what advantage she might give
her offspring, and not primarily of her own
pleasure (though not unaware of those hard
thighs and square pectorals), answered.
Of those deific couplings came
the mighty men that were of old,
the men of renown, the ones who went
bad in the usual sequence:
their imaginations first,
then thought, then finally their hearts.
When the rain had fallen thirty days,
and when those pretty girls, now grown old
and sheathed in cellulite, were weak
with paddling, they would not repent
but held hands and drowned in blissful
remembrance of what it was like
to be touched by a god in a private place.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, film production company Relativity Media are planning to bring the epic battle between David and Goliath to the big screen. The director will be Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still).
Relativity and the producers plan on taking the script, written by John D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and give it a modern vibe that harkens to the spirit of films such as 300 and The Bourne Identity.
When the fierce warrior Goliath is sent to track down the foretold king of the Israelites, the young shepherd David gets thrust into an epic chase and adventure fighting for his own life, and his loved ones, in a battle between the young man and the giant.
There are a few details in this brief synopsis which suggest some creative reworking of the biblical story narrated in 1 Samuel 17. The idea that it was ‘foretold’ that David would be king has some basis in the preceding 1 Samuel 16.1-13. That passage narrates that, while still a young boy, and while Saul still reigned as king, the prophet Samuel anointed David as king under the direction of the Israelite god, Yahweh. However, there is no indication that Goliath knows about this in 1 Samuel 17, nor that he particularly cares about it. In fact, 1 Sam. 17.42 implies that Goliath first knew about David only when David marched out to confront him in their duel.
Yet will the Hollywood version achieve a better build-up of tension than the original, and heighten David’s climactic decapitation of Goliath? Will the movie have to smooth out the inconsistencies of 1 Sam. 17? After all, viewers might get confused if the scenes alternate between David being an established member of King Saul’s court (e.g. 1 Sam. 16.21-22; 17.32-40) and David as a young, unknown shepherd boy (e.g. 1 Sam. 17.1-31, 55-58). Will the movie, as the synopsis suggests, invent a ‘pre-history’ of opposition between Goliath and David – a sort of Hollywood Midrash?
People often talk about an adaptation being ‘faithful’ to the original biblical story. But if the ‘original’ biblical story is itself merely a moment in a stream of creative invention, would it not be more ‘faithful’ to be as creative as possible with the film? Perhaps the necessary twist today in a retelling of the David and Goliath story should follow Charles Reznikoff’s lead, in his poem, I do not believe that David killed Goliath (1941). That is, Goliath should kill David, quashing the fantasy that the little guy can defeat the seemingly all-powerful system – a fantasy which in fact sustains that very system. However, enough fantasizing… this is a Hollywood production after all.