My first memory is of tearing the monster's arm off. I had crossed the sea to the hall of these warriors who were being terrorized by a nocturnal beast, boasted over mead that only I could slay it, pretended to sleep until the monster crept in to devour a warrior—and when it came to seize me I leapt up, seized its massive arm in my grip of steel, and held on as we battled through the hall, smashing the wooden walls with our fury, until at last in desperation it tore itself loose of its own limb and fled, bleeding and screaming, mortally wounded to its lair in the fens.
Quite a feat for a five-year-old.
When I was old enough to go to kindergarten, my mother went back to college to get her teaching credential. She hadn't had a lot of high culture in her own upbringing and she made sure that I was more fortunate: she tacked prints from the Metropolitan Museum to all the walls in the house and read classic literature to me at bedtime. She tried Stevenson's poems, Gulliver's Travels, Chaucer's Reynard. It all rolled off me. If I hadn't asked her about all this decades later, I'd never have known. The only one I remembered was Beowulf, with its pagan, barbarian monster-slayer of a hero.
He was a terrible role model. He didn't do any of the things we want our children's heroes to teach: didn't discuss solutions with the group, didn't think first of the safety of others, didn't try to catch the