Grendel through the Centuries
Beowulf is a very influential text in our modern times. It is considered a unique
piece of ancient literature and an exceptional source to study Anglo-Saxonsociety. Recently,
John Gardner, an American author, wrote a parallel novel called Grendel, which consists of a
retelling of the epic poem Beowulf from the perspective of the antagonist, Grendel.However,
the character of Grendel is presented in a much different way in this piece of writing than it is in
Beowulf; not just personifying the exact opposite of what the Anglo-Saxons valued intheir
society, but also demonstrating he actually has feelings and just wants companionship and
First of all, in the epic poem Beowulf, Grendel displays nothing but the mostprimitive human qualities and animal attributes, as described in lines 121-126: “… the God-
cursed brute was creating havoc: greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men from their resting
places andrushed to his lair, flushed up and inflamed from the raid, blundering back with
butchered corpses”. He is also characterized with a grotesque and monstrous appearance with
evil manners, as shown inline 137: “Malignant by nature, he never showed remorse”, later
described as being descendent from the demon Cain, a violent and man-eating creature.
Regarding the values of the society of thetime, Grendel is presented upholding the opposite of
what Anglo-Saxons treasured. As seen throughout the text, Anglo-Saxons prized fate, gift-
giving, loyalty, vengeance, manliness and glory,while Grendel clearly does not present any of
On the other hand, John Gardner portrays the character of Grendel in a totally
opposite light than his namesake in Beowulf. He isfeatured as a moral and intelligent monster,
capable of feeling emotions both good and bad. Throughout the novel, the monster Grendel
observes the people gathered in the hall displaying strong...
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