Grendel Vs. Beowulf Essay, Research Paper
One of the most compelling and highly developed characters in the novel Grendel, written by John Gardner, and the poem Beowulf, written by an anonymous poet, is the monster, Grendel. Even though these pieces show two different sides to Grendel they are similar in many ways. Grendel evokes sympathy toward the hideous monster by making him seem like the victim, while Beowulf portrays him as being the most loathsome of enemies. The reasons behind Grendel s being, his killing, and finally his death make him one of the most controversial and infamous monsters in literature. Grendel is the man-killing monster that Beowulf portrayed him as being, yet he is also the lonely victim of a judgmental world.
Grendel is a descendent of Cain and is forced to live with the inherited curse of being denied God s presence. Cain s lineage has been known to spawn monsters, trolls, giants, and other undesirable beings, all of which were rejected from society. Beowulf and Grendel both speak of Grendel s ancestor Cain, almost as if using it as an excuse for his rash and murderous actions. Beowulf told of a Grendel that mercilessly attacked Hrothgar s meadhall killing men without reason. Grendel also speaks of this evil monster, but in a more sympathetic and excusable manner. Grendel is thought of as the guardian of sins and is the physical equivalent to a man that has been shunned by God. He is described as a hideous bear like ogre in human like shape. Both literary pieces tell of his extraordinary strength and size and his similarities to the early ideas of Satan. The poet in Beowulf also mentions that despite his strength and magnitude, Grendel is not comparable to the devil despite his truly evil ideals. It is made clear that he has no other choice but to be this way, and there must be an evil force in all societies to distinguish the heroes from the cowardly thanes. This is made evident in Grendel when during the dragon s speech to Grendel he says, You are mankind, or man s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain. If you withdraw, you ll instantly be replaced. Brute existence, you know, are a dime a dozen. The dragon is saying that even if Grendel decides to change his course in life and never kill another man, nothing will change. Man will be forced to find a new monster to wage war against, for good can not exists without some evil. Beowulf also hints at this by referring to Beowulf s first battle with the nicors in his childhood swimming race against Brecca. Without his defeat of the nicors, Beowulf would not have become thought of as a hero and therefore would never have been sent to protect Hrothgar s men from Grendel.
Beowulf tells of Grendel s spontaneous attacks on the meadhall where he would kill and devour sleeping thanes until his thirst for blood was quenched. This description of Grendel shows his nature as an animal simply responding to his jealousy over human fellowship. As an animal Grendel s natural enemy is man, and mankind s natural enemy is the animal, Grendel. This epic poem tells of a monster that goes on killing sprees to overcome his envy of mankind. However Grendel portrays a monster that is innocent by nature. At first, Grendel kills as a sport, for fun. Then as time passes and Grendel s feelings toward mankind develop more fully he kills out of contempt. In the end, Grendel begins killing to protect himself from his own personal demise. Throughout the story however it is clear that every killing is Grendel s conscience choice of free will. Even though Grendel possesses a charm that protects him against weapons he is very suspicious of man. Nevertheless, Grendel feels like an almost godlike being that will continue on his killing sprees despite the crafty plans of the men.
Grendel s death is the surprising twist of events that end the novel Grendel, and the first climatic point in the poem Beowulf. In Grendel, the monster is severely injured by the warrior, Beowulf, and then retreats to his mere to die. Grendel was seen in this novel as a thinking and feeling individual whose intelligence is equivalent to many of the men. His death was not only from physical wounds but also from the fact that he would never be a man. Grendel was fascinated with the boasting revelry of the men and wanted to be accepted by them. On the contrary, in Beowulf Grendel died because he was an animal with no set purpose. In this poem he was not thought of as an equal, but as an animal. However, Grendel s mother avenged his death by going back to the meadhall. Grendel s mother shows a common animal trait by looking after her kind, which is also very common with man. This similarity shows how alike animals are to men, and how alike men are to animals.
The meaning of Grendel s character in Beowulf and Grendel varies widely and yet is very similar. Beowulf and his thanes may have destroyed Grendel s evil force but there is no stopping the evil that remains. This refers back to the dragon s speech when he said that evil will exists with or without Grendel. Grendel shows us how humane an animal can be, and yet how inhumane mankind can be. Beowulf gave us a look into Grendel s animal instincts, while Grendel showed him as being emotional and intelligent. Grendel was a very well developed character with a strong sense of determination and free will.