Beowulf’s Metaphorical Monsters
Beowulf outlines turmoil between three opponents: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon. These separate discords each serve to fulfill different metaphoric purposes. Grendel’s character epitomizes the adverse persona of how an Anglo-Saxon warrior should not be. His mother represents everything that a woman during the time era should seldom be. Lastly, the Dragon embodies all the values that an Anglo-Saxon king should not dare retain. Without a doubt, the symbolic implications of the monsters in Beowulf bring the context to a new level of understanding.
Grendel represents everything that an Anglo-Saxon warrior should not be. As he is introduced into the story, he is characterized by having, “…no idea of the …show more content…
While Grendel may possess a brute strength, his lack of wit and logic is what ultimately leads to his downfall and demise. In Beowulf, the actions and character that of Beowulf, or an Epic Hero, define the perfect Anglo-Saxon warrior. Epic heroes are indicated by a variety of traits, including that they, “must look like a hero, they must be noble, famous, strong, courageous, humble, prideful, thick-skinned, self-sacrificing, faithful, focused, be a leader, and have a tragic flaw” (Jones 3). Unfortunately, aside from the ‘tragic flaw’ and ‘strong’ categories, Grendel’s character is antithetical to all characteristics of an Epic Hero. This makes him quite the villain, and a generally despicable character. “Suddenly then, / the God-cursed brute creating havoc: / greedy and grim, he grabbed thirty men” …show more content…
“A peace-weaver was a woman who would be married to a person from an enemy tribe in the hopes of ending a feud” (Yewdaev). The role of women in Anglo-Saxon culture was simple: to settle arguments through arranged marriage. However, Grendel’s mother did not follow similar principles. Instead of arriving at the mead hall ready to make amends and to settle Grendel’s dispute, she returns bloodthirsty and yearning for revenge. Another part that women in the Anglo-Saxon period undertook was that of a cupbearer. “So the Helming woman went on her rounds, / queenly and dignified, decked out in rings, / offering the goblet to all ranks, / treating the household” (Heaney 620-623). Cupbearers served the purpose of passing around cups of mead around to the men until they were all drunk and merry. Grendel’s mother’s independence and lack of subordination to men in the culture epitomizes the contrast she faces with other women in the era. Her attack is surprisingly more impactful than all of Grendel’s together, even though she only delivers a single fatality. Rather than taking out a random drunk guard, she goes straight for Hrothgar’s favorite advisor. “To Hrothgar, this man was the most beloved/ of the friends he trusted between the two seas” (1296-1297). Evidently, coincidence or not, her attack on his advisor was immensely powerful, and contradicts the passive,
In both works, Beowulf and Grendel, Grendel himself is generally given the same connotations. He is given kennings, called names, referred to as the evil spawn of Cain, and even viewed as a monster; but why? Why in both books is he a wicked, horrible, person who is harshly excluded from everyone? After stumbling upon John Gardner's book, it was halfway expected that some excuse would be made for Grendel; that he wasn't really the inexorable monster the thanes in Beowulf portrayed him as. But all it really did was make him worse. What is the message we are being sent about Grendel?
“Staring at his grotesquely muscled shoulders--stooped, naked despite the cold, sleek as the belly of a shark and as rippled with power as the shoulders of a horse--I found my mind wandering...He was dangerous” (155). Even from the first day Beowulf showed up at Hrothgar’s kingdom, Grendel knew he was dealing with something worse than a hero. Once they finally start to battle, the monster in Beowulf is fully revealed to Grendel and Grendel sees again the stupidity and meaninglessness in the human’s definition of a hero.“Grendel, Grendel! You make the world by whispers, second by second. Are you blind to that? Whether you make it a grave or a garden of roses is not the point. Feel the wall: is it not hard?...Hard, yes! Observe the hardness, write it down in careful runes. Now sing of walls! Sing!” (171). Beowulf forces Grendel to make a fool of himself and unlike Unferth who longs for a heroic death, Beowulf knows he is going to win and has no desire to die. His mindset of victory, groups him with monsters who have one goal, to kill and never be killed. This shatters the Anglo-Saxon ideals of heroism and in Grendel’s death, when he is surrounded by oblivious creatures who don’t have a purpose, the meaninglessness of it all, including the meaninglessness of heroic deeds becomes evident to the
Our first character, Grendel, is an exceptionally diverse character. It is implied that in both book and poem, Grendel is a blood-thirsty monster. All Grendel does is go through meadhalls and kill the drunk, often asleep people. But when narrated through the eyes of Grendel, the true nature of this beast is discovered. The author of Grendel entails that Grendel is a depressed and misunderstood monster, restrained to the confinements of his own underwater cave. He is a lot like the monster in the book Frankenstein. Both Grendel and Frankenstein are born with no real purpose to life, going off of what they hear other people say and taking it as the truth. Both monsters, knowing that everyone detests them for being unattractive and different, retaliate by way of murder and mayhem. From the perspective of the people in the stories itself, Grendel is exactly how the narrator in the poem Beowulf makes him out to be. The people, or the thanes, of Hrothgar’s kingdom see Grendel as a demon from hell, representing all that’s evil in the world. He’s a supernatural creature and in this time period anything supernatural that wasn’t human was considered a spirit, a god, evil or, in Grendel...
...st darkness" (l. 73) to restore peace and order. Wyrd works to bring disorder and doom to Beowulf and the warriors of Heorot, just as Grendel's mother wages her war of destruction and death on Hrothgar and his kingdom. Beowulf subdues Grendel's mother permanently by killing her, but Wyrd can only be avoided temporarily, not destroyed once and for all. This suggests that the struggle against female authority and uprising is timeless, and the only way to deal with this problem is on an individual basis.
In times before printed books were common, stories and poems were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. From such oral traditions come great epics such as England’s heroic epic, Beowulf. In Beowulf, the monster Grendel serves as the evil character acting against the poem’s hero, as shown by his unnatural strength, beast-like qualities, and alienation from society.
In both John Gardner’s Grendel, and the poem Beowulf, there are significant differences between characters, and the way they are portrayed in each of the tellings. The interpretation of a hero is usually altered in order to fit the audience, such as, Saddam Hussein in America is made out to be this monster whereas, in his home country Iraq, he is looked at as a hero and idolized by some. In each telling, Grendel and Beowulf have many similarities in how they are described in each writing, but each character is also shown in a different light in each of the writings.
Grendal is known as a monster and portrays one of the many villains in the poem. He is referred to as the "guardian of his sins". Grendal depicts a heathen the physical image of man estranged from God. Basically, Grendal reflects a physical monster, an ogre who is hostile to humanity. Grendal’s constant visits to Hrothgar’s mead hall for bloody feasts made him feel powerful over God’s humanity. Unfortunately, the night Beowulf lies in wait for him, he assumes that his bloody feasts will continue and Grendal gives no attention to his method of attack. Grendal is then killed.
An innocent, joyless, outcast lurks in the depths of the earth. He is feared by all due to his violent behavior and thirst for humans. Stories about this monster stretch across lands, intriguing the one and only Beowulf. In this notorious Epic, Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, Grendel is the Frankenstein of this poem, the Joker of this time period, the Lord Voldemort of this book. Basically, Grendel is the villain and when there’s a villain there’s a hero. Our hero today is Beowulf, who challenges Grendel and he trounced not only Grendel but Grendel’s mother as well. Not only are Grendel and his mother villains but they also played the role of being the outcast/scapegoat. Symbolically they play the role
There are three prominent monsters in the Beowulf text, Grendel, his mother, and the dragon. While the dragon proves to be the most fatale of foes for Beowulf, Grendel and his mother do not simply pose physical threats to the Germanic society; their roles in Beowulf are manifold. They challenge the perceptions of heroism, a sense of unrivalled perfection and superiority. Moreover, they allow the reader to reconsider the gender constructs upheld within the text; one cannot help but feel that the threat that these monsters present is directed towards the prevalent flaws in Beowulf’s world. Moreover, what makes these monsters is not their physical appearance; it is what they embody. Both Grendel and his mother have humanlike qualities yet their monstrous appearance arises from what their features and mannerisms represent. The challenge they pose to societal paradigms makes them far more terrifying to our heroes than any scaled flesh or clawing hand. These monsters provide the ‘most authoritative general criticism […] of the structure and conduct of the poem’. Their presence provides contrast and criticism of the brave society (Heaney 103).
Beowulf is a hero who is constantly seeking fame and desires power. Though he has countless tales, the tale of Grendel and his mother are famous. Grendel and his mother were both monsters born of Cain and were very evil. Beowulf disarms Grendel, who dies from it after running and returning home, and beheads his mother, with Grendel’s mother giving him more of a challenge. During his battles with both Grendel and his mother, Beowulf shows that he grows stronger to meet the challenge and has a nature of seeking challenge to gain fame.
Grendel, as a character, has a much more complex identity than just a monster and a human. Some, such as Ruud, classify him as a mixture of three different characteristics, but alone, they tend to conflict with each other. By making the connection that Grendel represents immorality, the previous idea makes more sense, while simultaneously incorporating more aspects of the character into the analysis. In either case, Grendel represents much more than meets the eye, and provides a fascinating insight into
In the poem, Beowulf, Grendel is depicted as a monstrous, evil villain that possesses a few human-like qualities: such as the ability to walk on two feet. However, his most notable characteristic that occupies his mind and body in the poem is the constant mindset and actions of primitive human tendencies. This quote conveys Grendel’s primitive ways as the humans perceived it. “The monster’s thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws: he slipped through the door and there in the silence snatched up thirty men, smashed them unknowing in their beds and ran out with their bodies…” (Raffel 8). His lust for blood of the human race, alongside their Christian views, forced Beowulf and others to view
Grendel exhibits human feelings and characteristics in many ways. Although Grendel is a monster “forced into isolation by his bestial appearance and limited imagination” (Butts) he yearns to be a part of society; he craves companionship while he is isolated. With his “ear pressed tight against the timbers [of Hart]” (43), he watches and listens to the humans and what goes on in Hart, the meadhall of King Hrothgar, to feel like he is a part of civilization. He also has feelings in relation to specific humans. Just like the citizens of Denmark, he is extremely affected by the Shaper and his songs that are “aswim in ringing phrases, magnificent, golden, all of them, incredibly, lies” (43). Grendel is profoundly “moved by the power of the Shaper’s poetry” (Butts). Queen Wealtheow shows Grendel the feminine, sweet, and kind side of life. “She had secret wells of joy that overflowed to them all” and her peaceful effect on those around her is a main cause of Grendel’s almost obsessive fascination with her and in turn, drives Grendel to feelings of rage. Grendel’s humanlike feelings show that his personality is similar to that of a human, helping those who read his story to relate to him.
The story of Beowulf is a heroic epic chronicling the illustrious deeds of the great Geatish warrior Beowulf, who voyages across the seas to rid the Danes of an evil monster, Grendel, who has been wreaking havoc and terrorizing the kingdom. Beowulf is glorified for his heroic deeds of ridding the land of a fiendish monster and halting its scourge of evil while the monster is portrayed as a repugnant creature who deserves to die because of its evil actions. In the epic poem, Beowulf the authors portrays Grendel as a cold-hearted beast who thrives on the pain of others. Many have disagreed with such a simplistic and biased representation of Grendel and his role in the epic poem. John Gardner in his book, Grendel set out to change the reader’s perception of Grendel and his role in Beowulf by narrating the story through Grendel’s point of view. John Gardner transforms the perceived terrible evil fiend who is Grendel into a lonely but intelligent outcast who bears a striking resemblance to his human adversaries. In Grendel, John Gardner portrays Grendel as an intelligent being capable of rational thought as well as displaying outbursts of emotion. He portrays Grendel as a hurt individual and as a victim of oppression ostracized from civilization. The author of Beowulf portrays Grendel as the typical monster archetype as compared to John Gardner’s representation of Grendel as an outcast archetype.
Beowulf’s first accomplishment as an epic hero was his battle with Grendel. Grendel was a huge beast, a descendent of Cain, who ruthlessly murdered innocent Danes because he felt pity for himself. Upon hearing of the Dane’s problem, Beowulf set off to help the Danish without having been called upon. Even though Beowulf had men backing him, He drew battle with Grendel alone and without armor or weapons. Yet, Beowulf emerged victorious with the arm of Grendel as his trophy. Beowulf then went on to kill Grendel’s vengeful mother and a huge fire-breathing dragon who thought it had been done wrong by the Geats. Alas, the killing of the dragon would be Beowulf’s last great battle for the dragon took Beowulf’s life in the struggle for his own.