The Epitome Of Evil Essay, Research Paper
The Epitome of Evil.
The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is the most important work of Old English
literature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story of a hero, a
Geat prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, a descendant
of Cain. The storyteller uses many elements to build a certain kind of depth in the
characters, specifically Grendel. The storyteller uses specific passages in the poem to
help mold the readers? feelings about Grendel, show the reader what accounts for the
monster?s evil nature and also represents Grendel as ?evil.?
The storyteller starts off by explaining who Grendel is in the first section on page
21, lines 19-23. ? Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild marshes, and made his
home in a hell not hell but earth. He was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of
those monsters born of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever
for the crime of Abel?s death.? This first depiction of Grendel already gives the reader a
sense of corruption and immortality . The biblical character, Cain is always related to
evil because he murdered his own brother. Therefore the association of Cain with
Grendel gives us a hint that Grendel is evil. Also, there is a motif that shows the
difference between mankind?s ways, considered good, and evil?s wild natures ways,
considered evil. Grendel for one, is totally wild and is therefore shown as evil.
Portraying his home on page 21, lines 17- 19, Grendel is illustrated as a barbaric
character that lives in the moors in darkness. The darkness also symbolizes mystery
which also relates to evil. On the other hand, Beowulf is tamed and civilized, the
epitome of goodness and purity. As shown in his first battle with Grendel, Beowulf does
not fight evil in a wild manner. First off, Beowulf is pure and shows this before his battle
when he removes his armor and vows not to use a weapon to defeat Grendel. On page
25, lines 170-175, Beowulf explains ? Might think less of me if I let my sword go where
my feet are afraid to, if I hid behind some broad linen shield. My hands alone shall fight
for me, struggle for life against the monster. God must decide who will be given to
death?s cold grip.? Defeating Grendel, Beowulf shows that man, without armor and
weapons, can defeat evil in any form including that of his foe Grendel.
In connection with Grendel being referred to as ?evil,? the storyteller gives much
paragon to account for Grendel?s nature. First off, Grendel is a descendant of the evil
Cain; which represents that only evil is born from evil. Also in comparison to Beowulf
who is perceived as a hero, not only because he killed Grendel, but also because of his
hero – like qualities. Some of the qualities are that he has compassion for Hrothgar ,who
does not fight in battles and he swims next to Brecca; his childhood friend at sea even
though they challenged one another, as page 28 lines 274-276 denotes. Most evident,
Beowulf defeats Grendel and receives wealth from his companions and from the Danes?.
More importantly he earns honor which raises him to the level of an ideal hero. Grendel
on the other hand, has no honor and is infamous as an evil killer. Also the biblical
references on page 21, lines 21-22, state that Grendel was virtually banished by God.
The biblical references come into play, giving the reader an idea of the extent of
Grendel?s pure evil and gives a logical explanation for Grendel?s murderous behavior.
This example, not only shows the evil in Grendel?s nature, but also the torture in his
heart caused by his banishment from God. It serves to give the reader an idea of why
Grendel would kill the Danes for no reason other than their happiness. Since all evil
hates all happiness.
Furthermore with the biblical motif, Grendel can only represent one thing; evil.
As everyone knows, each story must have archetype of goodness and an archetype of
evil. In Beowulf, Beowulf represents the good and Grendel represents the evil.
Thus, considering that this epic poem was passed down orally by the
Anglo-Saxons, many of the biblical references are due to their culture and beliefs.
These Christian type themes are what give the character?s character definition and
depth. And that is what makes Beowulf an epic poem. The character, Grendel can only
be considered as the paragon