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Grendel Essay

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Grendel Essay

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?

In Beowulf, we hardly know anything about Grendel. His name is barely mentioned and instead he is given an abundant amount of kennings. In Grendel, we learn everything about him; his life philosophy’s, his “family”, and even his childhood. But why is it that we get the genealogy for every important character in Beowulf except Grendel? The only outright thing we know about him is that he is the spawn of Cain. It is almost as if the Anglo-Saxon’s didn’t want you to know how Grendel became the way he did. If you don’t want people like that in your colony, why would you teach them about one; unless the story was dead-set on comitatus and heroism against this creature? They hammer this vision of Asgard and what you will get if you die in an act of bravery so that their people will idolize the great Beowulf and want to do heroic things such as he did. That is the only reason he was even mentioned at all.

However, in John Gardner’s book, we are given knowledge about Grendel, exposed to his existentialism, and provided many different examples of theories that the Anglo-Saxon’s would violently shriek upon hearing. Yet he still portrays him as a monster? One philosophy we are exposed to in Grendel is Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. In this philosophic viewpoint, a man is chained to the ground all of his life facing nothing but a cave wall. The only things he will ever see are the shadows of the objects people walk by the fire with. If a vase were to be held, how would he know what it was besides knowing what the shadow looked like? If he were let out into the real world he wouldn’t recognize anything because he would be ignorant to everything but shadows. In Gardner’s book, Grendel himself was kept in a cave representing ignorance for most of his childhood. When he finally came out he did nothing but terrorize and eat the people. Is ignorance really such a bad thing under certain circumstances?


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