Character Depiction Differences of Grendel

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The story Grendel is a retelling of the first monster in the English poem Beowulf. Grendel was written by the author John Gardner in 1971. This story is in the point of view of the monster Grendel. Grendel tells the story of Grendel and his useless 12 year war against the Danes, but goes in depth about what Grendel is thinking. John Gardner’s Grendel examines the ways in which humans make meaning out of their lives. The novel shows that humans need a group or community to form a sense of morality.

In Beowulf Grendel was pictured more evil and ruthless. In Gardner’s novel, Grendel is intelligent and sees his war with the Danes as idiotic. Following Grendel makes him sometimes appear human and likeable. Throughout the novel Grendel tries to find purpose for himself, but he also still lives by instinct as well so he makes bad choices that make him seem evil. Gardner’s Grendel shows you that you need a community and your own identity. Grendel conversant with others because his mother is silent, like every other living thing in the cave he lives in.

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He doesn’t know where he learned to talk himself. He can’t form his identity and is a monster to the humans. He is an outsider and is forced to listen to their stories from afar. The only story he has himself is his experiences, this story. The shaper was a story teller in Hrothgar’s mead hall. Grendel knew the shapers stories of the Danes history were fake, since he watched the civilization grow.

He loved and hated the stories the shaper told so he went to the dragon for advice. The dragon says he knows everything of everything, and Grendel feels fear because of the dragon. The first thing the dragon showed Grendel was how to feel empathy, saying “Now you know how they feel when they see you” referring to how Grendel scares and eats the humans for fun. Reading Grendel’s mind and telling Grendel he is looking for someone to answer his questions about the Shaper. The dragon tells Grendel about human flaws and how they sometimes see how they live doesn’t make sense.

The shaper tells stories so the Danes will believe that how they think they live is amazing like his stories, but in reality the shaper is just lying and twisting the truth. After his talk with the dragon, Grendel feels like he has purpose. The dragon probably has less community than Grendel. He was most likely in a cave all alone before Grendel even came into this world. The dragon just wants to see destruction.

Grendel at least had his mother even though she couldn’t speak. The dragon goes on to tell another story and says “‘Know thyself,’ that’s my dictum. Know how much you’ve got, and beware of strangers” to justify being selfish.

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Character Depiction Differences of Grendel. (2020, November 02). WritingBros. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
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