Grendel through the centuries

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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

acceptance.

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

these qualities.

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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