Grendel Essays

  • 1

    How does Gardner make the reader sympathetic toward Grendel?

    By adopting Grendel’s point of view, and by making the monster more an adolescent than a fully formed adult creature, Gardner draws the reader into Grendel’s personal quest for understanding his place in the universe. By depicting Grendel’s earliest encounters with the sunlit world as random acts of violence toward him, Gardner gives Grendel a motive for his anger and frustration toward humanity and the world in general.

  • 2

    In what way is Grendel’s quest for a place in the cosmos cyclical in nature?

    Grendel begins the novel reflecting that his twelve-year war is essentially the same year of conflict repeated over and over again. He begins the novel attempting to define his place in the universe as its creator—the universe is a product of his own imagination. By the end of the novel, Grendel has rejected alternative ideologies but is forced by the stranger to “create” the wall he has been rammed into so violently. Grendel ends the novel creating a world of pain for himself, just as he began.

  • 3

    How is religion portrayed in Grendel?

    Grendel’s observations about human religion tend to focus on the hypocritical nature of human interaction with divinities. The Shaper is a religious figure in many ways, but Grendel and the human audience both know the words he sings are not true, even as they believe them. The priests who accost Ork at the circle of gods also betray their hypocrisy. They cannot accept that Ork has actually interacted with the very gods they represent, even to the point of considering Ork’s fanaticism as possible problem for their reputations.

  • 4

    What does the dragon represent in the novel?

    The dragon espouses an existentialist philosophy to Grendel, but that philosophy is so incomprehensible to Grendel that his meaning is all but lost. The dragon identifies Grendel as an oppositional force to Hrothgar and humanity—but an oppositional force that pushes humanity toward progress. Although Grendel wishes to reject the dragon’s views, he eventually does exactly what the dragon says he will do, proving the dragon’s claim to know past, present, and future simultaneously.

  • 5

    What is the role of art in Grendel?

    Art is present in the novel in various forms. The Shaper is an artist who creates worlds with his words. The priests create religious art when they carve their gods from stone and wood. Ultimately, even Grendel is an artist. He has been the creative force behind Hrothgar’s rise to power, and in the end must devise an impromptu poem affirming the reality of material things. Art is a force that can deceive or enlighten, but ultimately the main purpose of art in Grendel is to be experienced and appreciated.

  • 6

    How is the theme of isolation presented in Grendel?

    Grendel is an outcast due to his physical appearance and his inability to communicate with human beings. Although he knows their speech and thus realizes he is connected to them, Grendel cannot make himself understood to any but a select few humans, who themselves become outcasts in the process. Unferth dialogues with Grendel and comes to understand him somewhat, but in the process, he loses his faith in the heroic ideal and the respect of his fellow men. Ork also has no difficulty understanding Grendel’s speech, but his interaction with his “god” separates him even further from his fellow priests. Even Hrothgar is isolated by the end of the novel; he sits alone on his throne, waiting for the day when Wealtheow will tire of him, or Hrothulf will replace him. Even the coming of the stranger only serves to accentuate Hrogthgar’s otherness, as he is merely an observer and host, while his warriors and queen interact with the fifteen heroes.

  • 7

    Describe Grendel’s relationship with his mother.

    Grendel mostly feels pity for his mother, but often covers it up with frustration and anger. He cannot understand her strange noises and takes them for imbecility. She is more animal than human, and thus is of a separate order from Grendel, who comprehends human speech, emotions, and motives. Nonetheless, Grendel sees her as his protector on a primal level: when he is being tortured at the oak tree, he calls out for his mother and she arrives. When he is mortally wounded by Beowulf, he cries for her again before stumbling away to bleed to death in her arms.

  • 8

    How does Grendel portray Hrothgar?

    Hrothgar begins the novel as Grendel's nemesis, a man of violence who seeks to destroy that which he does not understand. Later, he becomes a parallel to Grendel, creating politically what Grendel attempts to create philosophically. The two characters' lives continue running parallel, as Grendel becomes bored with his violent, random existence at the same time that Hrothgar wearies of his political role. Both Hrothgar and Grendel see their successor. For Hrothgar, it is Hrothulf, and for Grendel, it is Beowulf.

  • 9

    What motivates Grendel to attack the Scyldings?

    Grendel begins his assault on the Scyldings' home Herot as an act of vengeance against their rejection of and attack upon him. His deeper motivation, however, is to prove his philosophical view that he, Grendel, is the center and creator of his universe. Grendel wants to demonstrate that the dragon's words are wrong, and that he is not merely a monster placed in the Scyldings' path to drive them toward progress.

  • 10

    Why is Grendel fascinated by the stranger from overseas?

    Grendel has never seen anyone like this strange man. He cannot help but notice that the man is built differently than any of the Scyldings; his muscles move in such a way as to belie their immense power. This stranger frightens Grendel, since he knows no weapon of the Scyldings can harm him but cannot account for the stranger’s sheer physical strength. In addition, Grendel may see in the stranger his own doom and a final act of self-destruction that he has long avoided.

  • Compare and Contrast Essay: Grendel in Beowulf and in the Novel by John Gardner

    Most people think of evil and mayhem when they think of Grendel the monster. Grendel is one of the antagonists in the epic poem Beowulf that was written sometime between the eighth and eleventh century A.D. There has been a lot of discussion about this particular monster, so much so that John Gardner wrote a parallel novel in 1971 called Grendel in which the story is told by the monster's point of view. After reviewing both these texts, we find that there are some sharp contrasts provided in the depiction of the same characters in each of the text. Where Beowulf describes Grendel as a vile monster with no compassion, Grendel delves more into the philosophical aspects of why the monster was behaving in such a manner. Both texts, however, denote the evil that lay in Grendel as it went on a killing rage in the area.

    There is a debate amongst scholars as to the exact description of Grendel in the original epic poem Beowulf. This is because the exact characteristics and physical description of Grendel never actually appears in any of the Old English texts that were written by the original poet. Many scholars, however, agree on the fact that Grendel was actually a descendent from Cain, Abel's brother and Adam's son. These scholars have defined Grendel as a monster who is somewhat human in shape but much larger. Other people who have translated the original text have written similar things, citing that Grendel's head was so large that it required more than a few men to carry it when Beowulf decapitated him in Grendel's mother's lair. Grendel's body is also defined to be extremely tough as none of the weapons that Beowulf or his men wielded were able to hurt him. When Beowulf tore Grendel's arm from the body, many of the people described the arm as having horn-type growths and being covered with impenetrable scales.

    In the novel Grendel, however, we find that Grendel's character to be much more sophisticated as before. Even though Grendel is still described as a monster having vile intentions, a lot more about his personality is investigated here. Grendel is shown to be intelligent, even articulate as he goes on about his killing sprees. Grendel is shown to have an immense grasp about his own existence as well as the existence of others. Throughout the novel, Grendel strives to find meaning in his life and the reasons for which he was created. He is always thinking about what he is meant to do in his life and strives to understand why he is what others think he is: a monster.

    One of the most interesting things about both the poem as well as the novel is that they present the readers with an insight into Grendel's mind by showing us his thoughts. This way, we are made to feel empathy towards the creature even though he is evil and vile. This is because the monster is depicted as a lonely outcast who has become enraged over his own deformity and his treatment by others.. However, these feelings of empathy are soon lost as we find out that Grendel is pure evil that enjoys killing humans for no reason. Where the whole of the country fears Grendel, we find that Grendel starts to fear Beowulf. Beowulf is strong and brave and he has been called to kill Grendel. And this causes Grendel to become fearful of Beowulf. This theme is followed in both the novel as well as the poem.

    So, we see even though both Grendel as well as Beowulf depict the same character of the monster Grendel, they both do them in each their different perspectives. Where Beowulf presents Grendel as an unreasonable monster, Grendel delves deeper into the psychology of the monster and attempts to describe his inner feelings and the motives behind his actions.


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