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Analysis of the Stories of Beowulf and Grendel

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Beowulf was written in 1000AD by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. Beowulf tells in a third person perspective of a warrior named Beowulf who assists a king named Hrothgar in ridding his kingdom of a monster Grendel who is terrorizing and killing his subjects. While the book Grendel by John Gardner tells in the perspective of Grendel and how he sees similar events through his eyes. One story tells of a hero who was showered with gold, glory and land through battle, saving but also killing people to get to where he is and feels like what he’s doing is right, while the other tells of a monster who was cast aside because of his monstrous looks kills and eats people just for the sake that he can. Both has killed but in their perspectives they feel differently on how their actions of killing was either right or wrong.

Both stories are perceived differently by how they are told; each event are related to each other but how either Grendel or the Dragon felt and saw of it are only how they felt towards the event. In Beowulf, the dragon is dedicated on not having his treasure touched after guarding it for over 300 years, until one day a slave ran away from his master to only stumble upon a cave. The cave was filled with treasure of all sorts and so without knowing who’s treasure it belonged to he decided to steal a gem studded cup to bring back to his master and unfortunately the dragon noticed and he was not happy because “the signs of its anger flickered and glowed in the darkness, visible for miles, tokens of its hate and its cruelty, spread like warning to the Geats”(pg 96 lls 2315-2317). The dragon is filled with rage and wants vengeance so he tries to follow the slave by tracking his footprints but after losing sight of the slave the dragon grew even angrier not sleeping waiting for his chance to take out his revenge.

At night that’s when he decided to wreak havoc on the village setting it on fire, to him he thought it was acceptable because of the slave stealing something that belongs to him it was only fair to set their village on fire. In Beowulf the dragons is portrayed as angry and uncontrollable because “as the flames rose up; the angry monster meant to leave nothing alive” (pg 96 lls 2314-2315). The dragon was childish to destroy and set fire to a village over a cup but for him his treasure means everything so by the slave stealing his treasure he felt the need to take revenge like a child who got their candy stolen from them by an older child. He was being sneaky by only attacking at night because the dragon knew the villagers would be sleep at that time so it was an easy access to come and attack and scare the villagers.

In Grendel, the dragon is described to be the complete opposite as the perspective in Beowulf. To Grendel he described the dragons’ voice as loud as an old man and “his eyes were heavy-lidded, minutely veined, wrinkled like an elderly mead-drinkers” (Gardner 58). Grendel talks about the dragon as if he was as wise as an old man instead of a creature, the dragon was not like the others at the mead-hall but treated Grendel as if he was human. While Grendel is shown to be scared of the dragon and tries not to interrupt or touch his treasure he actually respects the dragons input and sits and listens to what he has to say even if he doesn’t believe him or that what he is saying are all lies. He both fears and respects the dragon and no matter how many times he thinks that the dragon is lying to him or that he’s wrong he still tries to understand what the dragon is trying to tell him especially important information. The dragon is also seen as wise and knowledgeable, he explains to Grendel how he can see the future but can not do anything to change no matter what he tries to do. Grendel then asks about the Shaper and why his songs has such an effect on him, the dragon goes on to say that Shaper tells nothing, but illusions and goes on to explain the flaws of how a human thinks. The dragon tells on how the Shaper uses these illusions while reciting his song the dragon says “he knows no more than they do about total reality-less if anything” (Gardner 65) the shaper uses his song and stories to make the Danes believe that their systems, laws and beliefs are real, but only knowing as much as them about their society.

With the Shapers’ illusions the Danes feel comfort and pride in their systems and believes that their culture and the way they live is the only way and it is the highest of them all, the Shaper only repeats on what he already knows about their system filling the Danes with a sense of pride. The dragon chose to help Grendel out even after he made fun of Grendel for shaking like a rabbit when he first came into the cave, the dragon proofed to be helpful in more ways than one he gives Grendel valuable advice by saying “My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it” (Gardner 74) this advice for Grendel turned out to be very difficult for him to understand, but after the dragon told him that he started feeling the dragons presence everywhere he go, his feelings for the Shaper turned from admiration to hatred.Beowulf tells of a warrior named Beowulf who goes through countless battles from when he was young to when he gets old starting by first battling and defeating Grendel in the first part of his life.

The author describes Grendel as a ruthless monster and “no savage assault quench his lust for evil” (pg 8 lls 137-138) Grendel is a vicious beast that enjoys killing and terrorizing the people at the mead-hall. In Beowulf they tell how Grendel only attacks at night killing and eating the people at the mead-hall, they characterize Grendel as a murderer and a brute while glorifying Beowulf portraying him as a hero and showering him with treasure while he also killed people. Grendel enjoyed killing and scaring the people at the mead-hall because he was “conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever for the crime of Abel’s death” (pg 6 lls 105-108).

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Analysis of the Stories of Beowulf and Grendel. (2019, November 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2021, from
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